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Ron's Blog on piano improv and the role of music in our lives

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The Real Book for jazz pianists

Well… if I can do it, you can do it too. It would seem overwhelming if someone came up to me and asked me to make 94 videos of jazz standards and post them on YouTube. But I’ve learned that if you start with one tune, and them go to another, and another, then before you know it you’ve reached number 94! As most of you know, I’m doing this with my Journey Through The Real Book and it’s true that you can do something like this too. The secret is to do it at your own level, which is [...]

By |February 1st, 2019|general|0 Comments

Boogie Woogie: One of the most fun piano styles!

Have you ever played any boogie woogie piano? The amazing thing about boogie woogie, aside from how much fun it is to play, is that the material can be re-used in countless ways, so you can apply what you know to many other songs without even having to alter it that much. The individuality comes out in our rhythms, our musical feel, and in the way we develop the material. Here's the boogie woogie pioneer, Meade Lux Lewis, playing his classic "Honky Tonk Train Blues." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDuLezFRMNU This was recorded in 1940, which places it right at the the transition between [...]

By |January 30th, 2019|general|0 Comments

Stretching out like our musical heroes

You might be surprised by the number of rock and pop musicians who love jazz and improvisation and wish they could stretch out musically in their public performances. But they’re often boxed in stylistically by the commercial forces at play in today’s music world. Here’s a wonderful video in which David Bowie and his band begin playing their big hit “Let’s Dance” with a jazz Spanish-style feel. It’s very improvisatory and they’re clearly enjoying themselves. They use the tension created by the juxtaposition of this Spanish-style groove against the audiences expectation of the usual funk groove to build to an [...]

By |January 27th, 2019|general|0 Comments

Michel Legrand

R.I.P Michel Legrand. The legendary composer/arranger passed away early this morning at his Paris home. He was 86 years old and had lived a full musical life. Here’s an obituary that lists his many musical milestones. https://variety.com/2019/film/news/michel-legrand-dies-dead-oscar-winning-composer-1203119247/ I used the word “milestones” on purpose, because of Legrand’s deep friendship and musical partnership with Miles Davis. Here’s an interview where Legrand recalls their collaborations and speaks about Miles: Michel Legrand interview http://downbeat.com/news/detail/miles-ahead-legrand-recalls-collabortions-with-davis Here’s a YouTube video with side one of Legrand’s 1958 album “Legrand Jazz” which features Davis on trumpet. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDMUqzYP8mk If you’re interested, also check out Legrand’s wonderful recording “I [...]

By |January 26th, 2019|general|0 Comments

Practicing in 2 directions at once

To fully develop as a musician, it's important to practice in 2 directions at once: 1. Fully enjoying the way you can play them now, and working to grow from within this. and 2. Diving into a completely different concept that perhaps feels unfamiliar at first, but will feel more natural at some point in the future. Eventually, these 2 directions will merge.

By |January 22nd, 2019|general|0 Comments

Sophie and her amazing memory

I remember the first time I walked into the cafeteria in Buckley Hall, which was my college dorm at The University of Connecticut. Upon entering the dining hall, I immediately found myself waiting in a short line to "check in." This was in 1982, before computerization had wended its way into these places, and there was an employee named Sophie whose job it was to make sure only Buckley Hall residents dined in that particular cafeteria for each meal. Sophie appeared to be about 60-65 years old and clearly loved her job. She greeted me with a big smile and [...]

By |January 21st, 2019|general|0 Comments

Is “Dizzy Atmosphere” the most intriguing tune in the Real Book?

Is Dizzy Gillespie’s “Dizzy Atmosphere” the most intriguing tune in the Real Book? Check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLG1zElAvgc Learn the 5 Essential Left Hand Techniques with my free ebook: Left Hand Techniques for Jazz Piano You'll also get my weekly jazz newsletter with practice tips and inspiration

By |January 20th, 2019|general|0 Comments

5 big stylistic influences on Elton John

Art isn’t created in a vacuum, and like every other great musician, Elton John was influenced by the music he heard around him. Perhaps one mark of a truly great artist is how they are able to incorporate and ultimately transcend these diverse influences and use them to express something unique and individual. Elton grew up playing classical music and says that he still loves it. One reason why he stopped pursuing a classical career as a teenager is because his hands aren’t large, and he found it difficult to reach the kind of stretches that Chopin and the other [...]

By |January 19th, 2019|general|0 Comments

“Paying it forward” with your piano practicing

Even though the phrase was probably coined way back in 1916, the concept of "paying it forward" still occasionally appears in the news. It means that when someone does something nice for you, you in turn pass it along by doing something nice for someone else. It forms a chain of good deeds from person to person. Music is like this in many ways. We learn a particular technique from one person and teach it to someone else. We absorb the rhythmic beat from a great player we've jammed with and a year later, a younger player absorbs it from [...]

By |January 16th, 2019|general|0 Comments

A fascinating fact about The Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby

For years, when interviewers asked Paul McCartney how he came up with the name Eleanor Rigby for the song of the same name, he told the true story of how he knew someone named Eleanor and knew the name Rigby from somewhere else and put them together. Now… if I told you that in the cemetery of the churchyard where McCartney and John Lennon first met as teenagers, there are a tombstone with the name Eleanor Rigby on it, would you believe me? Yes – it’s true! And Paul McCartney knows it as well. At some point, someone pointed out [...]

By |January 15th, 2019|general|0 Comments