An insight from Herbie Hancock

Hey everyone!

Thanks to all of you have started my 10-week Skype Intensive “Mastering The Modes” mini-course. We’ve begun with exploring the difference in sound and musical uses of the Ionian and Lydian modes and already some of you have emailed me to say how you’re experiencing the Lydian mode in a whole new way. Mission accomplished, and now on to the Mixolydian! (If you’re interested, it’s not too late to get started. Just reply to this email and we’ll set up a time for our first session of 30 minutes.)

Lots of stuff going on here, and for starters, I’ve begun binge-listening to Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz radio show which ran on NPR for many years. I started with her very first show, from 1979, where she interviewed my own jazz piano teacher, Billy Taylor. It was wonderful to hear Billy speak like he did in our conversations together, and I was a little surprised to hear him be more “outspoken” in his opinions than he was with me. But perhaps this isn’t so surprising after all, since he and McPartland went “way back” and had decades of shared history together.

After listening to the Billy Taylor episode, I began skipping around, choosing the pianists I wanted to check out first. There was a great moment during McPartland’s show with Herbie Hancock that I’d like to share with you.

McPartland was older and more experienced than Hancock, but he was already a living legend when the show was recorded, in 1979. After playing a gorgeous solo piano rendition of the ballad “It Never Entered My Mind,” Marian expressed how nervous she was, playing for Herbie Hancock.

Herbie’s response was priceless. He told her that he had simply been listening, with his eyes closed, and that he had no idea what she had played.

In other words, all that nervousness was in her mind! He wasn’t judging her, or even analyzing her piano playing. He was just a fellow human being who was enjoying the beautiful sounds coming out of the piano.

I love this because this is what I tell my own students all the time! (And the more we deeply realize this, the more we’ll enjoy playing the piano for others.)

The entire episode features jazz piano-playing at the highest level, and is well worth listening to in full. Here it is:

Herbie Hancock on Piano Jazz

Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”

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