Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Memorable Quote: Lee Konitz

"They used to write that I played flat...Are you kidding me?...I could tell that they weren't listening...I play sharp!" -Lee Konitz, a few weeks ago at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, on some jazz writers.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

10/13/1962: Sonny Rollins' Letter to Coleman Hawkins

I wanted to share with you all this fascinating letter I recently came across. Written on October 13, 1962, it is a letter of gratitude from Sonny Rollins to his idol Coleman Hawkins.

"My Dear Mr. Hawkins,
Your recent performance at the 'Village Gate' was magnificent!! Quite aside from the fact that you have maintained a position of dominance and leadership in the highly competitive field of 'Jazz' for the time that you have, there remains the more significant fact that such tested and tried musical achievement denotes and is subsidiary to personal character and integrity of being.

There have been many young men of high potential and have demonstrated ability who have unfortunately not been 'MEN' in their personal and off stage practices and who soon found themselves devoid of the ability to create music. Perhaps these chaps were unable to understand why their musical powers left them so suddenly. Or perhaps they knew what actions were constructive as opposed to destructive but were too weak and not men enough to command the course of their lives. But certain it is that character, knowledge and virtue are superior to 'music' as such. And that 'success' is relative to the evolution of those qualities within us all. That is has been positive and lasting for you Coleman is to the honor and credit of us, your colleagues, as well as to your own credit. For you have 'lit the flame' of aspiration within so many of us and you have epitomized the superiority of 'excellence of endeavor' and you stand today as a clear living picture and example for us to learn from.

It has always been a task to explain in words these things which in nature are the most profound and meaningful. Now you have shown me why I thought so much of you for so long. Godspeed in your travels may i be fortunate enough to hear you play the tenor saxophone again in person.

Yours truly,
Sonny Rollins"

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Memorable Meetings: Diana Krall

A few years ago, a friend and I waited outside of Diana Krall's dressing room door after a concert of hers in hopes of taking a picture with her.

She finally came out, surrounded by a large, fast-walking entourage of (what seemed to be) her staff.

When they passed us, I yelled out, "Mrs. Krall, Is there any way to take a quick picture with you?"

One of the members of her party gave my friend and I a very dirty look and yelled, "No pictures!"

Upon hearing this, Mrs. Krall immediately stopped, forcing the entourage to stop with her. She gave that man a very dirty look, shook her head at him, and then turned to my friend and I and smiled. "I would love to take a picture with you," she said.

I felt that, at that moment, Mrs. Krall felt connected to us, remembering what it was like for her, not so long ago, to approach her own musical heroes - ones who may not have been so kind to her as she had been to us.

For her to stop, scold her staff, and so kindly take a photo with my friend and I was an extremely heart warming experience. It will always serve as a reminder to never forget or forsake from where it is you come.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Memorable Quote: Bill Clinton

"I'm here representing the past 120 years of musicians who just weren't quite good enough to play here." - Former President Bill Clinton, also a saxophone player, earlier tonight at Carnegie Hall's 120th Anniversary James Taylor Concert.

He continued by saying that he used to walk by Carnegie Hall when he was younger, thinking to himself, "If only I were a little bit better..."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Memorable Meetings: Harold Mabern

After reading pianist George Colligan's excellent blog post on the kindness and generosity of the legendary pianist Harold Mabern (A Short Story About Harold Mabern), I was reminded of an encounter I had with him a few years ago at a Herbie Hancock concert at Carnegie Hall.

It was after the show and I was standing outside of the hall next to the dressing room door where Herbie would eventually exit to get in the waiting car. There were a whole lot of fans doing the same, wanting to meet Herbie and the rest of the band too. Standing there, I noticed a man who looked very familiar. I knew it was Harold Mabern, but it took me a minute to believe it; I figured such a legend would certainly be backstage with Herbie instead of waiting outside of the dressing room with all of us fans.

I was 17 at the time and wasn't too familiar with Mabern, but I did know a few of the recordings I'd heard of him with Wes Montgomery and Lee Morgan. I introduced myself to him, saying that I was a pianist and that the recordings I had heard of him had been very inspiring. He thanked me and he began to start up a conversation, which surprised me; I never figured that a legend like that would be the one continuing the conversation.

He began to speak to me very excitedly about how much he had enjoyed and been inspired by the show. He said that after a show like that he knew what'd be in store for him when he got home. "I'll be practicing all night," he said.

He reminded me of myself and other young musician friends of mine; speaking so fast and excitedly about how pumped up that concert made him, how he hoped that one day he could do the things that Herbie had done that night.

After a few minutes, he said that he'd really wanted to say hello to his friend Herbie, but that he had to get home to practice. He told me that when I did get to meet Herbie to please send say hello for him.

It was so exciting to see such an accomplished musician, a true legend, not only waiting outside like a fan to express his gratitude to Herbie Hancock, but to also see someone like that so inspired and excited to go home and practice, that after a while, he couldn't wait any longer; he had to get home and practice.

It was very inspiring to see the forever-student side of a true jazz legend. I can only hope to go through life with such continued excitement for my passions. My encounter with the great Harold Mabern has and will continue to give me hope and inspiration that I can.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Memorable Moments: Gerald Wilson

At the 2011 NEA Jazz Masters Awards & Ceremony Panel Discussion with the then soon-to-be named Jazz Masters, a lady in the audience -during the audience Q&A- rambles on and on for five or so minutes about how people today are quickly forgetting or have already forgotten the great music and musicians of the past, and finally, in an almost-fury, yells out, "I mean how many of you know who Jimmie Lunceford is?"

Sitting a few rows in front of her is the great Gerald Wilson, one of Lunceford's former trumpeters and arrangers (he joined Lunceford in 1939!), and, amongst a room full of raised hands, Wilson smiles and raises his too.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Memorable Meetings: Michel Legrand

I recently saw the great Michel Legrand perform at the Blue Note. After the show, he was greeting fans and well-wishers in his dressing room. I waited in a short line before it was my turn to say hello.

I introduced myself to him as a pianist, wanting to say next that he has been a long-time inspiration to me. However, before I could tell him what a inspiration he has been -in fact, as soon as I said that I was a pianist-, Legrand stopped me mid-sentence and said, "Let me see your hands." I laid them out in front of him, spreading my fingers wide. He grabbed my hands, looked at them, and was quiet for about five or six seconds, obviously in deep thought.

Finally, he broke the silence. "Okay," he said, nodding his head. "You have good hands for the piano."