Friday, April 3, 2009

Ups and Downs

As we kick off Jazz Appreciation Month...

The past week has been filled with a series of ups and downs. Monday night was big band rehearsal, and our drummer was absent. This allowed us to hear the band in a completely different light, and the fact that I wasn't playing very well at all really came out. On one of the songs, I was even play a completely wrong chord, pretty much altering the whole progression of the song. Although I arrived at rehearsal full of confidence after a productive weekend of practicing, by the end of rehearsal, I was starting to feel like an accident that put my hand into some kind of cast for the next three weeks would not be completely unwelcome.

Due to the emotional strain of putting down our eighteen year old cat on Tuesday (a story that I won't go into other than to say that after spending 18 years together with any sort of living thing, it has to be the hardest decision in the world to decide to end that being's life), I didn't practice very much on Tuesday, so I showed up for band practice on Wednesday, pretty much looking forward to the drummer being back and covering up my mediocre, uninspiring sound.

Unfortunately, the drummer wasn't there yesterday either.

So I did what any other jazz pianist with my lack of skills would do: I created space. I played sparser chords more sparingly, played fewer notes, played less on the beat, and even got a section taken away from me where we changed how we play the solos. I was fine with all those decisions, and I think they were made for the betterment of the music. Plus my overall sound was more interesting because I stopped doubling the left hand with the right.

Jazz ensemble actually went pretty well from start to finish. I picked up some good pointers on soloing and was able to implement them right away. At my piano lesson, we worked on some chord voicings for one of the songs I've been having trouble with in big band. The end result was, my confidence is back, my willingness and desire to practice is back, and my sound is better.

That's what I'm going to school to learn, anyway, so it's good to know we are at least accomplishing that.

There was a quote in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, that John Coltrane once said, "This (jazz) music is a serious as life itself." I'm not sure I buy that on its face, but I will say, if you had to pick something to take seriously while pursuing it, jazz would be a good selection.

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