Friday, February 9, 2018

18.) Blame It On My Youth

Number 18 is Blame It On My Youth by Oscar Levant and Edward Heyman.  This one really goes back to the origin of the project in a couple ways.

This recording is the project's tribute to Keith Jarrett.  It didn't start out that way however.  I was familiar with many of Keith's recordings of the song, but I went about my usual business of finding some vocal recordings to check out.  The one I latched onto most was Frank Sinatra from the album Close To You.  That album and Bill Carrothers' album After Hours where kind of the inspiration for the whole 24 Standards Project.  I was listening to them a lot when I came with the idea.  Ironically, Bill is one of the pianists who improvises arrangements.  But the stuff he was doing was so inspiring.  I knew I wouldn't be able to improvise arrangements on that level, so I began working on writing some out, which is how it all began.

The other way that it goes back to the origin is with Keith Jarrett.  Plainly stated, he is my favorite musician.  He's one of the first jazz pianist I got into.  And it was his Standards Trio records that I heard first and grew to love.  A little side story:  I remember buying the Keith Jarrett Trio Complete Live at the Blue Note 6 CD box set at Best Buy.  I think I was senior in high school.  I brought home and began listening, only to find that one of the discs was missing!  How tragic.  My girlfriend at the time convinced Best Buy to let me return it.  Eventually I picked it up again at the Electric Fetus - a cool independent record store in Minneapolis.  I loved buying CDs there because of how they smelled.  They packed them with incense sticks or something.  And their box sets contain all the discs!

Anyway, as I've mentioned before, Keith Jarrett is also one of those pianists that improvises his arrangements - pulling them out of the air.   You can hear it, and I've also read several interviews of him explaining it.  I was influenced by that early on, and was trying to do that same whenever I played standards.  And it hadn't really occurred to me early on how arranging was such an important part of the jazz piano tradition.  So in a way, this project is a response to my trying to imitate Keith for so many years.  So here we are.  

This arrangement started as the others.  I was thinking vocally when I figured out how I'd do the melody.  But a couple of melodic embellishments popped into my head as I got to the second half of the tune.  I didn't think anything of them at first, but after a while they started sounding a lot like Keith.  So I went and listened to his recording of the tune on the album The Melody at Night With You, and sure enough one of my embellishements was almost an exact copy of what Keith played.  At first I thought shouldn't do it.  But then I thought, eh, why not - this is an educational project.  No harm in quoting my favorite pianist.

Jazz is basically imitation.  You copy your heroes.  Usually though you want to combine enough of your jazz heroes together, plus the other styles of music you like, and your own life experience, so that any one influence is somewhat hidden, or at least the lines are blurred.  I don't want to remake a Keith record.  We already have his.

But this was just one phrase.   So I went ahead and left it in.  However, listening to The Melody At Night With You recording infected me with a vamp ending.  When I started practicing my arrangement, I just had to go to that vamp.  At that point it became some pretty straight up Keith imitation.  A little more than I really feel comfortable putting out in the world.  But at the same time, I'm really interested in honesty, and I'm interested in sharing the "alone in the practice room" version of my music.  Not that I want to share my practicing, but rather I want to share how, when the feeling is right, I really let myself go when I'm alone.  And how yes, sometimes at home I'll play a vamps just like Keith's for a long time.  And damn it feels good - serious nourishment!

Nourishment from playing music is something I believe in.  Sometimes it feels nourishing to play a concert.  But my most nourishing musical moments have happened at home by myself.  And those moments are the best.  The ability to have such moments is what I hope to pass on to all my piano students.

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