Every new artist is a reflection of those before them as well as a development out of their own unique experiences. Although every post on here has been about an individual, it would be amiss if we didn’t at times tell you about something we feel is worthwhile reading and learning, so here it is – we would like to point to one book that is so hard to put down, it is simply called “The Music Lesson.” This book was written by Victor L. Wooten, a bass player virtuoso. But, note, this book isn’t addressed to bass players, it is addressed to everyone. Notice I didn’t say to every musician, but really anyone, as long as they want to reach within themselves and find the musician inside.
In a comedy skit years ago, Steve Martin was saying that he had been in college studying the great artists of the past, like Leonardo da Vinci and Michael Angelo. These men were so brilliant, they sculpted, painted, invented and Steve Martin felt so humbled learning about these men. He too wanted to do something amazing and worthwhile and that’s why he explained “I took up juggling.” Of course this is inane humor, but there are some people in jazz that make everyone else feel just so average and left wondering what they’ve done with their life; Such a man to make everyone wonder was Mel Tormé. Continue reading
Art Tatum was born was born on Oct 13, 1909 and died Nov 5, 1956. Teddy Wilson said: “Maybe this will explain Art Tatum. If you put a piano in a room, just a bare piano. Then you get all the finest jazz pianists in the world and let them play in the presence of Art Tatum. Then let Art Tatum play…everyone there will sound like an amateur.
Pianists with regular styles will sound like beginners. Art Tatum played with such superiority that he was above style. It is almost like a golfer who can hit a hole in one every time he picks up the iron. It was a special kind of ability he had. If I had to choose an all ‘round instrumentalist’, in a classical vein, or in a more modern vein, I’d choose Art Tatum.”
Art had so many ways to harmonize in his head that Charlie Parker worked in a club for two weeks washing dishes just so he could listen to Art. Some say that it was after listening to Art, that Parker was able to connect some of the dots that improved his harmonic ideas. Art’s jazz solos were so brilliant, he was able take a simple song like “Tea for Two” and turn it into a jazz standard that was challenging.
Art’s abilities were legendary, so much so that it was not unusual to see Vladamir Horowitz, Leopold Stokowski or George Gershwin in the audience.
Art would readily credit that he learned a great deal from Fats Waller; but even Waller himself once alerted his audience to Tatum’s presence by saying, “I just play the piano, but God is in the house tonight.”
There are many musicians that would hesitate to share their knowledge, but Art was generous. Other fine musicians such as Les Paul and Eddie Durham took advantage of Tatum’s willingness to share his ideas. Art was willing to teach anyone, he just asked that they supply the beer.
As a kid, there was always some great music playing on the radio and I got to appreciate a lot of jazz and commit those melodies to memory even more than my parents. I followed the trends in music and became interested in only rock music for a number of years, but when someone played for me Coltrane’s “Favorite Things”, it rekindled an appreciation for Jazz music. It also helped that one of my favorite singers, Joni Mitchell stopped just singing folk and light rock and entered the
world of jazz.
Some roads to success are stranger and more twisted than others. Some artists start out in such poor conditions that they become so determined to improve their lives nothing can stop them; but Louis Armstrong’s story is a bit different. His opportunities for success opened up only after he committed a misdemeanor.
In 1913, specifically December 31, New Year’s Eve, a young Louis Armstrong was celebrating that evening and fired a gun in the air. He was a kid that got into trouble there and again, and this was one time it was felt that Louis should stay in the Colored Waif’s Home For Boys and he was there for 2 years. Continue reading
In 1998 about 30 of jazz’s premier guitarists gathered together to pay tribute to jazz legend Herb Ellis. Throughout the evening guitarists stepped out accompanied by either another guitarist, or as part of a trio to play one or two tunes. Everyone playing that night was an excellent player, not a clunker in the bunch, but only one person chose to play alone and that was Martin Taylor.
Throughout the audience as people were looking at the schedule of players, many were saying “Who’s this guy, Martin Taylor, did you ever hear of him?” Martin a Scottish guitarist that had grown up in England was not as well known as many of the guitarists there that night. So, for many in attendance, this was going to be a first impression. Continue reading
Thomas Waller loved music as a small boy; his mother Adeline was an excellent pianist and introduced her son to classical music. Young Thomas was an eager learner and he took her lessons to heart. He also wished to please his father Edward that was a minister of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City. He played a Harmonium (which was basically a foot pedaled pipe organ used in small churches) for his father’s services as early as 10 years old.
Thomas Waller had a ravenous appetite and so the name ‘Fats’ was given him and it forever stuck. Fats loved the jazz music that was being created all around him and he learned the tunes by watching how piano rolls affected the keys on the piano. He would imitate what he saw. Because he was able to play quite well in his mid-teens he eventually began to play at large movie houses, where his other gifts developed as well. He was able to develop his sense of timing for humor as well. Continue reading
One of Jazz’s most prolific writers, arrangers and musicians.
Possibly, the most prolific writer and arranger in Jazz’s 100 year history, Edward Kennedy ‘Duke’ Ellington emerges as one that could swing with the best of them, as well as provide a lush array of musical portraits.
Duke excelled in many ways; He was an excellent pianist, a superb arranger, an inexhaustible writer and an excellent band leader and showman.