Mellow Out and Maybe Shout on a Friday Night A bumper to bumper car ride on a congested Los Angeles freeway ended in a welcoming atmosphere of musical satisfaction at Parkway Grill in Pasadena on Friday, April 18th, 2008. The dinner crowd waited patiently for seating in a designated area, adjacent to a cozy lounge softly beckoning patrons. All the anticipating guests, ready for a meal, a drink, a moment to reflect and perhaps enjoy a serenade of jazz and swing tunes had been drawn to the right space. David Arnaya musician who just happens to play piano, teased an ardent audience unwinding from the toil of the week's 9 to 5. We were delighted and enchanted all evening with his creative chops at the piano. As we sat back in our seats, whisked away to a land of blues, swing, calypso and untainted jazz, the rejuvenation began. Cedar Walton's "Bolivia" was a sizzling starter tune. The pianist's chord progressions and melodies were not only soothing but tantalizing to the ear, soul, and entire body. Nedra Wheeler, bassist, joined David, and as hand and glove go together in cold weather, her skillful playing only added to the music massage. It was a love affair in the artistry of music making. The attentive audience of eager participants fell in love with Wheeler as she caressed the strings of her bass as well as the strings of our souls. Tunes like "What's New" and "Lush Life" took us aboard the standards train. The bebop favorite, "Groovin' High" offered us a flight on a different kind of plane. And 'groovin' we were after only minutes of the performance. A toddler eased from her seat and got into her own groove, dancing with the beat as her family smiled with approval. Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo" was performed with soul, complexity and serenity. Arnay's original tribute to pianist Dollar Brand and calypso singer Mighty Sparrow, "The Mighty Dollar" was a treat to experience. The fusion between Wheeler and Arnay was a remedy for any stress or tiredness, providing a serene balm for any heartache, heartbreak, ailment or wailing. Their interpretation of each piece performed was lovingly constructed. The pair collectively and individually expressed beauty that was euphoric, on their respective instruments, from their hearts.
Parkway Grill is not merely a restaurant and bar with music available six nights a week (the duo plays every Friday) but a refuge for a musical adventure. You will find David Arnay there each Friday with an exciting bassist and equally exciting array of music.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.