Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

262

Laszlo Gardony: You Can't Take Your Ax On The Road

Laszlo Gardony By

Sign in to view read count
The reality of a pianist's life is that you have to make a connection with many instruments and quickly find a way to express yourself on them.
I love my piano. It stands in the middle of my living room. Every time I play it, it feels like I am connecting to an external part of me. There is a bond that is special and fragile. Last December when I spent a lot of time writing music on my piano, an acquaintance came by and played on my instrument in an insensitive, fearful and disrespectful way. I felt that the vibe around my piano and the bond and trust between me and my instrument was violated and that I needed to rebuild my connection with it.

So if you develop such a connection with your instrument how does it feel to not be able to take it with you on the road?

The reality of a pianist's life is that you have to make a connection with many instruments and quickly find a way to express yourself on them. Your sound has to come through and you have to find a way to be at ease technically on the instrument. A considerable amount of my music was improvised or written on pianos I had just 'met' or barely known. The instruments we play on stage or in the studio are not our own, we can't lower the bridge, get new skins or change the frets to make the instrument fit us better. The solely personal space for our music is only within us, the instrument is already in the outside world waiting to speak in our voice. It is a beautiful symbol of how the best outcome of your life is what your spirit will do with your circumstances.

There are a million ways to touch a piano and you can practice that but even more you learn about it on the road. If our desire is to speak through and with the instrument, inspiration teaches us those million ways and our touch and technique can adjust to get our sound out of any instrument. It, of course, starts with listening to the piano, how it responds and what it is willing to do. That's what I do during sound checks (which are sometimes very short). Even those few who insist and have the privilege to request a certain piano for their concerts have to get to know the instrument. We have to welcome a new partner every time we open ourselves up to tell our most intimate stories and quickly form a bond with it so we can do it together. It is often a lesson in humility but more often than not it is a pleasant experience that serves our music well.

There are near horror stories, of course: like my recent solo piano appearance as a headliner of a small festival where the pedal of the piano fell apart during the second tune. Together with Randall Horton (a pianist and once close associate of Duke Ellington who happened to be in the audience and offered to help) we had to come up with a makeshift solution involving a roll of duct tape so I'd be able to go on with the concert and make it a musical success. We pianists are not the only ones who have to or are able to sound like ourselves on anything we find on stage. But we do it all the time. And since we are expected to deal with it we rarely get credit for it unless the story is a memorable one like the one I mentioned above. Bob Moses was telling me a drummer's story about Philly Joe Jones who came to a jam session Bob also went to. Bob, who was a teenager at the time, tried the drum set and found it terrible, practically unplayable. Then Philly Joe Jones walked in, sat down at the drums, quickly adjusted them and immediately sounded like Philly Joe. Bassist John Lockwood told me his story about the time he played with Gary Burton and the presenters forgot to get a bass for him. The band went to a college party the night before the concert and John found a coat rack there—an old stripped down bass. He borrowed it, put strings and a bridge on and played it the following night.

Personally, for concerts, I draw the line at the following: the piano's action has to be well regulated, also not too light, the piano has to be in tune, the pedal needs to work and the instrument had to be built by a reputable piano builder. When it comes to recording I am extremely particular about the piano since I have the chance to choose which studio I go to. Our latest trio CD Natural Instinct was recorded in a small New Jersey studio that has a 9-foot very well maintained Steinway.

There is a great photo of Art Tatum enraptured in music playing a very questionable-looking old piano with glass rings on it. It is a reminder that jazz piano music was put on the map by early jazz greats playing often poorly maintained instruments. We must find inspiration in their ability to transcend their circumstances and also realize our own fortune to be able to play on mostly good instruments. When occasionally a heroic effort is needed to compensate for an instrument's shortcomings, it, so to speak, separates the men from the boys. But the quality of a performance really comes down to our reason for playing, whether we have something to tell. If our stories are strong they will find a way to be heard.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Serious Play

Serious Play

Laszlo Gardony
Serious Play

Bourbon Street Boogie

Bourbon Street Boogie

Laszlo Gardony
Life In Real Time

Album Reviews
Megaphone
Album Reviews
Read more articles
Serious Play

Serious Play

Sunnyside Records
2017

buy
Life In Real Time

Life In Real Time

Sunnyside Records
2015

buy
Clarity

Clarity

Sunnyside Records
2013

buy
Signature Time

Signature Time

Sunnyside Records
2011

buy
Dig Deep

Dig Deep

Sunnyside Records
2008

buy
Natural Instinct

Natural Instinct

Sunnyside Records
2006

buy

Upcoming Shows

Related Articles

Megaphone
The Creative Music Studio Goes To College!
By Karl Berger
September 10, 2015
Megaphone
Wein, June & Jazz
By AAJ Staff
June 13, 2010
Megaphone
Clean Feed Records: Looking Outwards
By Pedro Costa
May 16, 2010
Megaphone
Discoveries Along The Pitch Continuum
By Amir ElSaffar
April 11, 2010
Megaphone
Either/Or (No More)
By Darcy James Argue
February 28, 2010
Megaphone
The Power in Music
By Steve Colson
February 3, 2010
Megaphone
Latin Jazz: A Legitimate American Music
By AAJ Staff
January 20, 2010