Archive | June, 2012

Clarification: jazz musician vs. jazz piano player

24 Jun

There’s a big difference.  I’d like to take a few minutes here to present my impressions of the difference between a jazz musician and a jazz piano player.  First of all, in my mind, a musician performs on an instrument (voice included) in a skillful and disciplined manner in order to perform what is called “music.”  Andrew is a friend of our daughter Pauline, and he plays violin with the London Philharmonic Orchestra — now HE is a musician.  He is a brilliant sight-reader and can make his violin do anything he wants… yes, he is a musician.

Now, put the word “jazz” in front of musician and you have what people call a “jazz musician” — they are very rare. They can read music at amazing speeds and have complete control over their instrument. They can play well in ANY of the twelve keys and can improvise well in most of them.

Then we come to “jazz piano player” — that’s me.  A piano player is not necessarily a musician. Basically they are artists who “create” (or re-arrange… we can’t create) their art with a musical instrument.  For instance, I really can’t read music — I know the basics, but I can’t sit down and sight-read music.  But, I can play the piano, so I consider myself a piano player, not a musician.

I learned how to play “by ear” from a teacher in Hollywood.  He gave me one exercise that has enabled me to play what I play “by ear”… no music (notes) in front of me.  We had books called “fake books” that we used on the job to back up the horn players and singers. They had the melody note written out and a chord symbol above the notes — there was a series of patterns that many songs followed, so when you learned one, you could apply that pattern to the next song.

I think of myself primarily as an artist, not a musician.  I “make” my art with the piano keyboard. For instance, every selection I did on my two albums (’61 and ’63) was played “out of my head”… nothing written down… no music, no written arrangements — every note was assembled in my mind and transferred to my fingers (and foot on the sustain pedal).

While I’m on the subject of jazz — I don’t really like jazz… it’s pretty boring, unless you know what the player is doing — then it can be exciting.  But, to the untrained ear, I’m sure jazz is very boring and has no appeal… just ask my wife… she can’t stand the stuff.  I don’t blame her.

The only jazz I like is what was played in the 40s and 50s — I was a working jazz player from ’55 to ’64,  and in 1964 I quit playing because the jazz “sound” was changing and it was so boring that I had to get out.  I went into graphics and made (and am still making) my living in the graphics field.

By the way, my favorite music to listen to was written during the Baroque Era — music written between 1600 and 1750.  Bach, Vivaldi, Handel and others.  I subscribe to Pandora (pandora.com) and listen exclusively to music from the Baroque era.

Here’s a selection played in 1948 by Art Tatum, who was the greatest jazz piano player of all time. There are two groups of jazz piano player slash musicians in the world: (1) Art Tatum, and (2) everyone else.  Over the Rainbow: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1dqJsX0AhM. By the way, Tatum was blind. He’s playing all these notes and he can’t see the keyboard — how is that possible?  Amazing.

Also… speaking of art.  I’m not a “creative” artist — I’ve never written any songs. In the graphics field — I don’t do any illustration — I can’t draw, I can’t paint… not what you would call an “artist.”  I’m an assembler. I take components that I like and put them together to form or render something. For instance, my Route 66 prints are based on existing graphics, in the form of old postcards.  I take what’s there, make a few changes and then present that as my “art.”

Here are a couple images from my collection:

Route 66 – Texaco station

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Route 66 in Bloomington, Illinois – 50s

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Route 66 – Albuquerque, New Mexico – 50s

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One other thing — Steve and I are going to go back into the sign business for awhile. He’s working on another album, but while waiting for that to get done, we’re going to go back to what we know. It’ll be a part-time venture, but it’ll bring in a few bob.

That’s it for today —

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brez

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Trip to New York…

20 Jun

It’s gettin hot here… summertime in Escondido.  We’re twenty miles inland, so it heats up in the summer months on through until October.  September’s one of the hottest months of the year.   So, I’m planning to take off for Brooklyn in late August.  I’ve never been there during the summer months… it wouldn’t be any hotter than this place, right?  I’ll check it out…

I’ll be spending about ten days with son Johnny and family. They left San Diego in March of 2009 and set up shop in Brooklyn.  He and his wife both have good jobs there.  I’ve been there a few times and really like the energy of New York City.  I was raised in LA, so I guess I’m a big city boy.  I like the peace and quiet of a small town, which Escondido was when we arrived thirty-five years ago. It’s no longer a small town — it has more than doubled in size since we arrived in 1977.  But, it’s still a small town.

I’m looking forward to the time in New York — to spend some time with son Johnny and family and also to get to a couple jazz piano workshops, and look up an old friend from high school days.  Her name is now Pat Vega, but I knew her as Pat Schumacher.  Her former husband and I were best buddies in high school… a lot of history there.  Interesting thing… her daughter went into the music business at a young age, and is doing very well these days:  Suzanne Vega (http://www.suzannevega.com/).

I’m planning to attend two workshops conducted by Barry Harris.  Who’s Barry Harris? He’s one of the last great jazz pianists of the bebop era… he’s in his early 80s now and is still working and teaching (http://barryharris.com/).  A couple years ago I posted two of my primary exercises on YouTube and I sent a link to him.  He liked what he heard and, believe it or not, called me one Saturday morning — I couldn’t believe it… me talking with Barry Harris about piano playing. That would be the equivalent of Sylvia having a phone conversation with Lance Armstrong.  Quite exciting.

I’m going to learn some movement routines from him that will revolutionize my playing. And, I’ll ask Johnny to take a photo of the two of us, which I’ll post here.  I met Dave Brubeck in LA in the late 50s; saw both Bud Powell and Chet Baker in a small club in Paris; met Diana Krall here in Escondido in 2001 and now I’ll get to spend some time with one of the great jazz pianists of all time.

And, the story’s not over yet. One of my goals for the future is to play a set at Ronnie Scott’s in London (http://www.ronniescotts.co.uk/).  This is probably the most famous jazz club in London and was started by an English tenor sax player in 1959.  They like the American players there, so I hope to get a chance to play someday.  I’d also like to play in New York at some point — that’s something I’ll be looking into during this trip.

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Speaking of Route 66, here’s one of my recent postcard images — I’m currently posting on Facebook, but I have a site in the works that will have all 200+ images posted…

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Route 66 going through downtown Winslow, Arizona in the 40s

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Here’s one of Route 66 going through Ash Fork, Arizona

The long lonely road — passing through Ash Fork, Arizona

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All for now…

brez

…………………………

47 years…

12 Jun

June 12, 1965 — two young kids get married at Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Pacific Palisades, California.  June 12, 2012 — 47 years later.  Five kids.  Five grandchildren.  Still married.  Still chasin’ the buck… can’t afford to retire.  I’d like to see Sylvia “retire” (from work), but until I can bring in ex number of dollars a month, she will need to continue on with that job.  I’m workin on it.  I was self-employed for 38 years and occasionally had  some significant income … I’ve done it before … I can do it again.

Regarding marriage, here’s the book I’m currently pluggin… http://www.amazon.com/Seven-Principles-Making-Marriage-Work/dp/0609805797/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

Check it out — and read the reviews (or some of them).  Here’s some interesting info…

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For example, about 60% of the conflicts that happily married couples have are unresolvable (perpetual).

Dr Gottman found that happy couples accept that these problems are unresolvable and can learn to live with them without damaging their relationship. As an analogy he points out that people with bad elbows can live very rich and rewarding lives as long as they don’t make playing tennis a central part of their lives.

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Here are the lyrics to my favorite song that relates to our history together…

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My Life’s Been A Pleasure

Recorded by Willie Nelson
Written by Jesse Ashlock

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I still love you as I did in yesterday
     D7                                             G
Many years have gone by though it seems just like a day

It's no wonder that I love you  you have been so kind and true
           D7                                      G
There will never be another it will always be just you

             D7                   C
We've come a long way together to prove our love is true
A7                            D7
My life's been a pleasure and it's all because of you
G
And to me you'll always be just as sweet as flowers in May
    D7                                    G
And I'll still love you as I did in yesterday

             D7                   C
We've come a long way together to prove our love is true
A7                            D7
My life's been a pleasure and it's all because of you
G
And to me you'll always be just as sweet as flowers in May
    D7                                    G
And I'll still love you as I did in yesterday
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off and running… a good ride, so far

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Here’s my favorite recording of “My Life’s Been A Pleasure” — by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard — one of the selections on the album Pancho & Lefty: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0000DG00G/ref=dm_dp_cdp?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1339491929&sr=301-1.

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That’s it for now…

brez

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Coming up on 41,000 views…

5 Jun

As of Friday morning, June 8th, my 2-5-1 jazz piano exercise has received over 25,700 views on YouTube, and my 7-9-11-13 exercise has gone past 15,100.  Coming up on 41,000 views for two exercises I did in July of 2010 to demonstrate how these exercises should sound. I was teaching jazz piano to a few people at the time and I wanted them to be able to hear what the exercise should sound like. They already knew how to do the exercises, but when you’re learning something new, it’s very helpful to hear how it should sound.

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I took a semester of “classical” piano from Dr. Bullock at Arizona State University in the fall of 1960. I had already been playing jazz piano for six years and I wanted to “go back to basics” and re-learn some of the skills that I had studied as a younger player.

I was learning a Mozart piece at one point.  I came to a difficult passage — how the heck do you play that?  Yer kiddin me (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGeKSiCQkPw)… that’s impossible… I can’t play that.  Then, after struggling with it for a few days, I had a lesson with Dr. Bullock. I tried to play the piece — came to the difficult part and stumbled through it.  Obviously, he noticed that I didn’t get it right, so he played it.  A minute later I played it exactly the same way he did — I knew what notes to play, but my reading skills were not sufficiently good enough to know how to play it correctly. I had to hear what it was supposed to sound like when played as written.

It’s amazing what a little sound can do for the learning process.  Here’s a good article related to sound and learning: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2923391/.  Here’s a blog entry directly related to learning difficult passages (for you piano players out there:  http://howtoplaythepiano.org/mastering-difficult-passages/).

I learned an important lesson that day — for piano students who struggle with reading skills, you need to make a YouTube video for them to view so they’ll be able to hear the sound of the passage or exercise you’re teaching.

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On to other things… have you heard of Dr. Carolyn Dean, MD, ND…?  My high school buddy George Neidorf highly recommends her for answers to health issues. Why is Neidorf’s recommendation of significance?  He’s a very smart guy and has studied health-related subjects all his life — he had a health food store for many years and is very knowledgeable.

Check her out… http://drcarolyndean.com.  One of her main areas of interest is all things related to magnesium. The lack of sufficient magnesium in your body is the cause of many ailments.  One of her most popular books is “The Magnesium Miracle” (http://www.amazon.com/The-Magnesium-Miracle-Carolyn-Dean/dp/034549458X).

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How about mountain biking?  Any interest in that?  I’ve been riding bikes for nine years – three to five days a week — out for 30 minutes or so. Longest ride I did was for almost four hours, but it takes up too much time. Thirty minutes is all you need. So, after riding a road bike for the last seven years, I’m going back to the trails — no traffic and no stop signs.

I bought an old Schwinn mountain bike for $60.  Took it to Hidden Valley Bike and they took it apart and gave me the frame. I painted it and cleaned all the parts. Gave it back to them and they put together what I consider to be a new bike.  So, back to the Lake Hodges bike trails — great environment out there.

Yellow bike matches Sylvia’s yellow VW

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Sylvia’s VW – purchased in the spring of 2006

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That Volvo behind Sylvia’s car was one of my favorites. That was my second Volvo station wagon. But, it wouldn’t pass smog, so I couldn’t keep it and I couldn’t sell it — so I gave it to Father Joe (https://my.neighbor.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=395).  It wouldn’t pass smog and it was going to cost hundreds to fix it — didn’t have the bread, so I couldn’t keep it.  So now, I’m car-less.  I use Sylvia’s VW now and then, but she’s very busy and is always on the go. So, I get to do a lot of walking… which is good.

Steve (our youngest) moved back to the pad for now — he got laid off late last fall  from his sign job in Newbury Park, which is just south of Camarillo.  Camarillo is up there past LA on the way to Ventura.  Anyhow — he couldn’t afford to live there and is now back on Overlook.  And, we’re glad to have his company — very easy to live with.  No drama.  No noise. Great sense of humor. Very helpful and considerate.

We have a recording studio upstairs in the garage, and he is now working on a new album. He’s a great guitar player, singer and composer. Once he gets this album done, he may move to New York for a little while, to stay with his brother John in Brooklyn.  If you want to get somewhere in the music business, you have to live in New York for awhile… that’s almost a prerequisite for success in the music business. Obviously, you can have success without moving to New York, but the New York move accelerates everything —  you can find out quickly if it’s going to work.

I cannot think of nothing else to talk about on top of this moment, so I shall get on this old horse and mosey on down the trail… maybe I’ll run into Hoppy along the way — he’s a cool guy.

later

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brez

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Pacific Palisades… in the 50s

1 Jun

We moved from West Hollywood to Pacific Palisades during the summer of 1948 — about a 25 minute drive from the old pad to the new. I have many memories from my early years on Dorrington.  I remember as far back as sleeping in a crib because I thought there were wolves under it and I wouldn’t get out (when my grandmother was babysitting that’s how she kept me in the crib — cruel bugger).  I remember her telling me (when I was at her house on one occasion) not to go outside or else the wolves would get me… no wonder my mother had emotional problems.

I have a lot of vivid memories of those early years (I was eight when we moved).  I had a girl friend at that early age — Loretta Campbell — we had a lot of fun together and I enjoyed her company. We kept in touch over the years and I attended her wedding in the Palisades. I was quite surprised several years later to find out that she had switched teams.

Here’s the map…

1948: family moved from West Hollywood to the Palisades

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In 1946 my dad bought a building on Sawtelle Blvd. in West LA. The war was over and he was anxious get back to his sign business. During the war he was a foreman at a plastics manufacturing plant on Robertson Blvd. in Beverly Hills (It was called Encke Plastics — but, I’m not sure of the spelling — my brother can help me out on that one… he has a great memory).  They made airplane parts — he enjoyed the work, so he said, but he wanted to get back to graphics and make some money.  His timing was perfect because he made real estate signs and the west side of LA was just beginning to take off — all kinds of building and real estate activity after the war.

So, he drove from the Palisades to West LA every day — no freeways in those days.  It was a bit of a drive for him, but he wanted to live in the Palisades — that was a big deal for him.  And, I’m glad he moved us there because I had an IDEAL environment there. If you were to design the ideal set of circumstances for your youth — say eight years old to twenty-one, you could not have improved on the situation I had there.  That is why I moved our family from Santa Monica to Escondido in 1977.

Our eldest daughter was scheduled to attend John Adams Junior High School in Santa Monica. Why leave beautiful Santa Monica, you say?  Because the blacks and the Mexicans were having gang wars at John Adams and there’s no way my kids are going to be exposed to that stress.  So, we moved to fantastic Escondido — population 65,000.  Thirty-five years ago Escondido was the Pacific Palisades of that time.  Ideal. Moral of the story — raise your kids in the best environment you can find and can afford, even if you have to disappoint your parents to do it (my parents wanted us to stay in Santa Monica).

Anyhow… back to the Palisades… here are some photos of various locations in the “village” as it was called in those days…

Coming north on the Pacific Coast Highway (from West LA), you take a right on Chautauqua Blvd — up the hill to the Palisades…

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Sunset Blvd. went through the center of town

That’s me standing on the left there — talking to my girl-friend Joyce while waiting for the light to change (just kidding). But, I actually crossed the street there many times — that shot was taken from the front of the Bay Theater.  I went to Saturday matinees every Saturday for years (that’s where I saw dozens of Hopalong Cassidy films — he was my main man (that’s a pretty old phrase, isn’t it).

I still enjoy William Boyd as HopalongCassidy — I have all 66 of his films (on VHS). He started that series in 1935 and finished in 1948.  About half of the films were shot in the Lone Pine area, which is in the vicinity 0f Mt. Whitney in Central California.

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Looking south on Sunset Blvd — from Via de la Paz — the “village” stopped at Via.

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This is the elementary school I attended from 1948 until 1951.

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Donna Everett — the most popular girl in school (elementary school)

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We called that large building “The Center” — drug store, bank, market, you name it… all there.

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Standard Oil gas station in front of “The Center”

I got my first car when I was sixteen and that gas station on the left was my favorite.  In those days I could get about four gallons of gas for a dollar.  Now we get one gallon for four dollars … times have changed a bit.

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Famous guy who lived in the Palisades in those days…

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So there’s a quick overview of my situation in the late 40s and into the early 50s. I went to Emerson Jr. High in West LA and then to University High (Uni Hi) — graduating in June of 1957. Then to Santa Monica City College and finally to Arizona State University in January of 1960.  Joined the Army in August of ’61.  Got married in June of ’65.  We had five kids between ’66 and ’77.

And, so it goes… it’s still going… we’re celebrating our 47th anniversary in a few days (June 12th).  Kids all have interesting lives — I’m writing an autobiography that I expect to publish by May of 2015, in time for our 50th anniversary (I’m assuming I’ll last that long — once you get to your 70s, it’s a day-to-day affair.  I don’t buy green bananas…).

In the autobiography I’ll go into detail about all the kids, but some of those details may not get published due to privacy concerns. Everybody’s paranoid these days, so I might have to leave a lot of stuff out.  I’m not sure how to handle that… I’m reading “You Don’t Have To Be Famous — How to Write Your Life Story” by Steve Zousmer.  He covers all these sensitive issues… what to do, what not to do.

Until next time… wiedersehen…

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brez

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