Thursday, September 01, 2005

Piano Greatness

It is such a relief when you for a while you think you are the best at something, and then you find someone who is sincerely better than you.

I had a friend in high school who must have been the best jazz piano player that I have ever seen. His playing was completely by ear, and he understood the music in a way that baffled me. Most, if not all of what I play, I learned from him.

The last time I saw him was in 1996. He would teach me techniques, and I would practice them feverishly until I understood them and mimicked them adequately. He left me with a few things to practice almost nine years ago, and I have been practicing since. Over the years I have become proficient in my playing, and I have amazed many people with my -- his -- playing.

A few months ago I searched him out, and after many weeks of phone tag, this week I called him; we met up tonight at his house.

I warned him when he sat me down to hear me play that I was like a time capsule of his playing as it was ten years ago. When I sat down and started to play, he stumbled back in disbelief. Stunned, he told me, "I've never heard my music played back to me like that. If anyone heard you playing, they would think it was me." I was overjoyed with the compliment.

He listened to me play, and then he jammed with me on the right side of the piano -- this was some of the most exciting music I had ever heard. There was power behind the keys, and synergy in our playing.

When he sat down to play, he showed me what he'd learned over the last ten years. I was not only amazed, I was humbled. I confided in him how good it felt to hear someone play who was better than me. After all, I did learn everything I knew from him, but since my time learning from him, I have not had a teacher that could even get close to his caliber. So, since we last saw each other, I have been practicing regularly trying to experiment and improve my methods, and so far I have never found anyone who could come close to match my (his) playing style and technique to teach me what to do next; hearing my friend play the same music tonight using the same keys as I used, but being magnitudes beyond what I can even imagine playing, warmed me with humility.

We literally spent hours playing the piano tonight. I couldn't get enough, and I'm sure he enjoyed it too because nobody has ever come close to playing at his past level as I have. He taught me a few new techniques to raise the sophistication of my playing, [infra], and I plan to get to work on these right away.

I am warmed to be privy to talent such as his.

[For my notes: Work on playing two new leading tunes on the left hand (C,E,G,A,A#), (C&G,C&A), and in a C chord blues reverse progression (C,G,B-flat), if I replace the third C chord with E-flat,D,C (don't forget the pinky at G; replace C with pinky), it will sound better. Also, when I play an F blues chord progression, replace the F with the C below it, and do that for other chord progressions for a cooler sound. Also, learn to play with my eyes closed because then I can soften my playing of the notes and feel the music, adjust my playing to a beat rather than hitting the keys methodically; C&G, D&E are good keys to play in. Play around also with E-flat and especially B-flat.]

1 comment:

Rowan said...

I haven't played the violin in so long, I fear I won't be able to at all now :( I had no idea you were so talented! I miss hearing my mother play. She taught for many years. Would you record a sampling and post for us? I am interested in hearing what this "style" you are talking about is!