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Sage Wisdom

"Good improvisation communicates harmonic progression melodically. Effective melodies manipulate harmonic content through the use of guide tones and preparatory gravity notes, masterfully woven in systematic tension, release, and transparent harmonic definition."

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May 15, 2014 | May 2014; Mr. P.C.'s Guide to Jazz Etiquette

We like to pop in on the Facebook page of Seattle musician and "All About Jazz" humorist Bill Anschell with his offbeat take on the club jazz scene. His May 2014 installment aptly does not disappoint:

Dear Mr. P.C.:
Philosophical question for you: How can I be more like myself than I am?

I was at a rehearsal before a high-profile gig, and the bandleader took me aside to tell me I was playing fine, but needed to "play more like Ted."

Is this even possible?

Dear Ted:

Of course it is -- you just need to start copping your own licks! Listen to all your recordings of yourself and pick out your best lines. Transcribe them, learn them in all 12 keys, and you'll be playing more like yourself in no time.

Unfortunately if you sound too much like yourself you may wind up stealing your own gigs, which can cause resentment and self-loathing. That, of course, is what disguises are for.

Dear Mr. P.C.:
Why do pianists do so much more with their right hands than their left hands?

Dear Leftist:

It's a gesture of cultural understanding. In some eastern cultures the left hand is considered "dirty" because it washes the posterior after evacuation. For that reason, it can't be used to eat food, shake hands, or play piano.

It's hardly fair for western jazz pianists -- just because they have the luxury of toilet paper--to play with their left hands. But, at the same time, the urge to play left hand chords can't be completely ignored; after all, what does a piano have to offer if not polyphony? Jazz pianists are constantly pulled in both directions, which is one of many reasons they tend to be emotionally unstable.

The compromise most reach is to focus exclusively on their right hand when they practice, rendering their neglected left hand largely inoperable in performance. Still, occasionally an essential chord simply can't be resisted, and even left hands that have lain fallow are up to the task of plopping down on the keys here and there. These chords are followed by intense self-recrimination, and are the best explanation for the current migration of pianists to the melodica.

Read complete May 2014 entry

Like Bill's Facebook Page: Mr. P.C.'s Guide to Jazz Etiquette and Bandstand Decorum

Posted by Ted at May 15, 2014 11:06 AM

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