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Interviews

Bill Carrothers: See the Piano, Play the Piano

By Published: May 25, 2010

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"I just [made] a solo piano recording last summer [2009], of all-original music, and most of it was spontaneously recorded in a studio," says Carrothers. "[I] just played a bunch of two, three and four minute vignettes, just off the top of my head, and about four or five of the tunes—I think there's fourteen or fifteen tunes on the album—are things I had written before, original things of mine. Then there's one standard on there, "Harbor Lights." I think Pirouet's talking about buying that off of me and putting it out. So that would be coming out; also, Pirouet recorded my European Trio (with bassist Nicolas Thys and drummer Dre Pallemaerts) when we played at the Vanguard last summer [July 14-19, 2009]. We played a week at the Vanguard and we played a bunch of things, some of my music and some Clifford Brown and some standards; just played the stuff we like to play for a week there, and they recorded three nights of that. I think they're gonna do something with that at some point.

"And then I'm working on something that's like the Armistice [1918] recording," Carrothers continues. I went to like seven labels with that recording and no one wanted it, and I'm having the same difficulty with this new one. I've taken it to a bunch of people and nobody's interested. It's a recording with washboard and banjo, like an old, old Dixieland recording [but] with modern harmony, with that feel to it, and with tuba. And with a brass band with piano, too. I've interested Bill Stewart in playing washboards, which he's never really done. He said he'd think about it; he said he'd try it. I haven't worked out anybody else, but I can't find a label that's interested. It's a strange project, but Armistice [1918] was a strange project, too, and nobody wanted to touch that, but it worked out."

See the Piano, Play the Piano

Carrothers is a big baseball fan. He's originally from Excelsior, Minnesota, about forty minutes west of Minneapolis, and his team is the Minnesota Twins. Comparing hitting in baseball to playing the piano, Carrothers says: "You remember Kent Hrbek, first baseman with the Twins (1981-1994). They asked him, 'What's your philosophy of hitting?' He said, 'See the ball, hit the ball.' Now Tony Gwynn [San Diego Padres, 1982-2001, right fielder, multiple batting Championships], he studied everybody. He studied stances; he studied his own stance; he filmed himself; he filmed every pitcher. He had video on his laptop, at the end of his career, of every pitcher he ever faced, so every day he would look at everybody and how he did. On the piano, I'm more Kent Hrbek.

"I don't think much about the piano now," Carrothers continues. "I just did some solo concerts. I played at the Gilmore Keyboard Festival. It's really fun now to just sit down now and play the piano. That's actually the easiest part of my day. That's the fun part. It's the rest of life that's complicated and weird and difficult. But the piano is kind of the constant that kind of never leaves. It's just kind of there, and I don't think about it that much. I really love music, I listen to a lot of music, and I guess I try to study music when I listen to it, like 'Wow, what are they doing; how does it work?' and just enjoying it too; but I try not to make too much out of it. For me there's a danger in making the whole thing too heavy. Music's just music. I'm certainly not curing cancer or anything. It's just music. It's supposed to be fun. You're supposed to just play and then go on with your day."

When it's noted that, in listening to his music and watching him on YouTube, there is an obvious joy in his artistry, Carrothers responds: "I like to play. Come on, what's not to like. It's fun. You know, I've poured concrete, and that sucks. You pour concrete for a living, now that's a frickin' job. So playing the piano, what's not to be happy about? As jobs go, you can get paid to dream shit up. It's nice work if you can get it."

Selected Discography

Bill Carrothers, Joy Spring (Pirouet Records, 2010)
Robin Verheyen, Starbound (Pirouet Records, 2009)
Bill Carrothers, Home Row (Pirouet Records, 2008)
Bill Carrothers, Keep Your Sunny Side Up (Pirouet Records, 2007)
Marc Copland

Marc Copland
Marc Copland
b.1948
piano
/Bill Carrothers, No Choice (Minimum Music, 2006)
Bill Carrothers, Shine Ball (Fresh Sound, New Talent, 2005)
Bill Carrothers, I Love Paris (Pirouet Records, 2005)
Bill Carrothers, Armistice 1918 (Sketch Records, 2004)
Bill Carrothers/Bill Stewart, Duets with Bill Stewart (Dreyfus Records, 2002)
Bill Carrothers, The Electric Bill (Dreyfus Records, 2002)
Peg Carrothers, Blue Skies (Bridge Boy Music, 2001)
Bill Carrothers, After Hours, Vol. 4 (Go Jazz, 1999)
Bill Carrothers, Blues and the Greys (Bridge Boy Music, 1998)

Photo Credits

Page 1: Scott Friedlander

Page 2: Jos L. Knaepen



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