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Stephen Rich Merriman

My Jazz Story

Hello, out there in Jazz-Land!! I play jazz piano, and I compose music—mostly jazz: set pieces, and compositions that can work as stand-alone offerings, and also serve as vehicles for jazz improvisation and exploration. I was called to piano at age 7, over six decades ago now. The keyboard, and the universe contained within it, have been my true, most constant friends and companions throughout this lifetime. Originally, playing the piano was a means to preserve my sanity during childhood—to express and offload emotions that dared not be put into words in an abusive, ignorant, addiction-ridden household. Knowledge about harmony and musical composition, and the desire to develop improvisational proficiency, took root. They accompanied me, developing at their own, unhurried pace as I grew older and encountered the challenges of how to live in the world and be comfortable in my own skin. In any setting where I play, I always “come to play.” Sometimes I play quite well; other times I play not so well. Although my compositional gifts are my stronger suit and have come more naturally to me, I still love and appreciate my playing skills equally, and I’m grateful to have both capabilities. Here’s what I can promise you, should you choose to wade into my compositions and my playing: There is no hustle, no hype, no slick promotion, no cheap charisma nor pandering, no cult of personality, no cultivating the folklore of the “suffering artist” or exulting in a self-indulgent, eccentric lifestyle, no bragging rights, no sense of being in competition with anything, or anyone. There is only the movement of soul from one moment to the next, ever sampling the richness of the palate of existence—daring, at the insistence of the Muse, to transform some of its wonders (from all directions) into musical expression. Creating, via composing, playing set pieces, or “hanging out” on—risking—the unforeseen, high-wire surprises (both + and -) of jazz improvisation and exploration, is daunting: sometimes joyous, sometimes fun, sometimes exhilarating, often exhausting, sometimes heart-wrenching, sometimes serene, and everything in between. Whatever the experience that, in any given moment, finds itself revealed—either through a composition or within an improvised chorus (or both)—the music, and the motivation behind it, are soul-based. In their conception and presentation, they are pure. Yours, with (I'm sure) a shared love and devotion for this remarkable, expressive art form, Stephen Rich Merriman

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