Happy New Millenium everyone. I'm glad you survived Y2K and the end of the world. I hope you're all looking forward to the 2000's as much as I am, lots of music to play new compositions to write and plenty of articles to compose. As I stand here looking forward to the future I want to take a pause to remember some of the great people and experiences in music that I've been blessed to have in my past.
Special thanks to:
My mom for moving that old Lakeside piano into the kitchen from my grandparents so I could start taking lessons and practice while she was cooking some classic Wisconsin casseroles.
Fredrick Schulte, my first piano teacher, who pushed me way beyond my years.
Mr. Rogers my 8th grade German teacher at Washington Jr. High School who believed that listening to jazz recordings everyday before class at 8:00 in the morning was the best way to wake up (or maybe he was just distracting us from the mice and rats running between our legs).
Heinz Lutz, who took over when Mr. Schulte died and showed me how to improvise at age 13 and for giving me my first gig (playing polkas).
Chris DeRose, a fellow Horlick High School student and great guitarist, who taught me all the jazz theory I needed to know.
Betty Hansen, my high school jazz piano teacher, for teaching me the importance and excitement of jazz music by jumping up and down enthusiastically after every lesson and for her continued friendship and encouragement to this very day.
Jay Mattes, drummer/percussionist, for helping me come to my senses and turn down that teaching gig after graduating from the University of Wisconsin to play music full time.
Jay Epstein, Minneapolis drummer, for believing in me and pointing me in the direction of openness in music.
Anthony Cox phenomenal bassist for opening my ears to the entire diverse world of jazz and for helping me get my first important gigs in New York with Stan Getz and with Fred Wesley.
Taro Okamoto underrated New York drummer for his great musical gifts and deep understanding and for introducing me to the Japanese jazz scene.
Kiyoto Fujiwara, amazing New York bassist for showing me the importance of having the courage to go against the grain and simply do it your own way, no matter what.
Stan Getz who gave me courage by whispering something positive in my ear after almost every solo I took while playing with him (like my favorite, "you ate that one up like a dog and spit it out") and for teaching me to play every note like it would be my last.
Kenny Garrett for showing me the importance of being humble by always asking questions to find out something new.
Peter Herbert, virtuoso Austrian bassist/composer, for his supreme musical depth and for his search for ways to expand beyond the limited jazz world.
Fred Wesley for his honesty, loyalty and humor and for his belief that white folks can be funky too.
Stanley Turrentine for showing me that it ain't how many notes you play but how you play them that counts.
Benny Golson for his great stories and positive energy.
Dwayne Dolphin, great Pittsburgh bassist for teaching me what brotherhood is all about.
Matt Wilson, supreme drummer, for reminding me of the power of humor in music.
Fred Ho baritone saxophonist/composer for keeping political jazz alive.
Thomas Chapin, who I think about every day since his death over one year ago, for showing me the width and depth of creative music at the highest quality level possible on this planet (and others).
Everyone else I've been fortunate to have been touched by and unfortunately don't have space here to mention (you know who you are!).
See you next month jazz fans and if you want to contact me feel free to send me e-mail.
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.