Thursday, February 14, 2019

23.) Moon River

Hello there.   The penultimate recording for the 24 Standards project is of the song Moon River by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer.  I've always liked this song, but never really learned it before now.

I had this arrangement finished for awhile, had it learned, but got really busy and had to set it aside for awhile.  Ah, life.  But I am fresh back from two weeks of a residency in the Swiss Alps.  I had plenty of time to practice it, and I was performing for three hours every evening.  It really makes a difference.  Despite its flaws (I'll probably never reach my ideal standard of a performance/recording), this recording was far easier to finish after playing that much for a couple weeks.  My ear to hand connection is much better when I've been playing a lot.

One thing I was thinking about as I edited the video is the display of emotion that a performer does or does not show.   As you'll see, my big balding head moves around a lot when I play, and is only exacerbated by my camera angle.  I'm almost completely unaware of these movements when I play.   Some performers, such as Keith Jarrett, show a lot of emotion through movements, facial expressions, and vocalizations.  Others are dead still, and show only complete relaxation of the face - classical pianist Frederic Chiu has many moments of stillness.  And I think both are very effective.  I'd love to be still sometimes, but, at least nowadays, I'm a bobbler and a scowler, and a sometimes sing-along-er.  Somehow I think these idiosyncrasies help me get out what I'm trying to get out.  I remember seeing one or two videos by Hal Galper (pianist and jazz educator) who is insistent that students show no emotional reactions, in the form of movements, facial expressions, and vocalizations, to their playing.   I think that my own emotional responses cause me to flub notes sometimes.  There are some moments where I hit the cracks in the solo on Moon River, which probably could be avoided with some checks on my emotional response.  But it would be a real challenge for me to be still - as I mentioned above, I'm only mildly aware of my movements while playing.  And I'm not sure it's worth it.  I tend to like seeing emotional reactions, especially in improvisors.

This arrangement makes some significant nods to one of the primary influences of this project, pianist Bill Carrothers.  You could say my introduction, filled with augmented and diminished chords, is directly influenced by Bill's treatment of In The Wee Small Hours, from his After Hours record.  Augmented and diminished chords are rather moon-like aren't they?

Anyway, I hope you enjoy Moon River and are not too distracted by my big dumb head.

One more to go!!!