Monday, January 28, 2013

Ribbon in the Skype

Do you Skype?(By that, I mean USE Skype the software, but Skype is now a verb, wise guy.) If you don't, you are probably still living in 1996. Skype is a program which allows you to talk free WITH VIDEO to other Skype users through the internet. You can also make calls to land lines for incredibly cheap prices. If you have a good connection, it's almost like being there. (Make sure you are dressed before you answer a Skype, unless, well, it's THAT kind of party. Well, that's up to you, it's a free country.) I Skype my family often from the road so my son can see me(although he'll probably just keep playing with his BRIO trains and look up every now and then and say "Daddy, can you buy me more BRIO?"), or I use it to avoid astronomical cell phone charges. ( I think calling from Russia is about 58 Dollars a minute.) If you don't Skype, you should. Do you even have a computer? Come on!

As my regular readers know, I've been working with Jack DeJohnette's group. Because I live on the West Coast, and DeJohnette is so busy, it's hard to organize rehearsals. Before we did the Newport festival last summer, DeJohnette and I arranged to have a Skype rehearsal. He was in a hotel in the south of France, and I was in my office in Portland. The connection was so good, we were having really nice jam session.(Jack played his keyboard and I played bass. And no, this wasn't the configuration for the Newport gig…)

I had been hearing that some musicians had been teaching via Skype. I have to admit, I was a little……SKYPTICAL. ( Cue the rim shot.) But after that rehearsal, I figured that this sort of thing, while obviously somewhat lacking in the live human feel of a private music lesson, would save people so much time and money that those shortcomings would pale in comparison to the benefits. Think about it: I can teach anybody who has a computer in the comfort of my home, and they can study with me in the comfort of theirs! It's kind of a miracle.

I posted on Facebook that I was offering Skype lessons, and two students hit me up. Since I haven't been teaching private students that much at PSU, it felt great to connect one on one, especially with serious piano students. (Actually, the students I refer to are professional. Which makes it all the more an honor that professionals would seek me out for advice.) One of them had an audio glitch; however, I could still hear him play and it was really productive, in my view.

Since I already have a full time teaching position, I don't plan on spending a ton of time doing Skype lessons. However, I would like  folks to be aware if they so desire to try it.So hit me up with a private message on Facebook, or email  me through my website ( My Skype rates are affordable-especially considering the fact that you don't even need to leave your house! I think as audio, video, and internet quality improves, even the most SKYPTIC ( groan) of teachers will consider this method.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Sus Chords?

One of my advanced students asked me a question recently, via the electronic mail:

Dear Great and Magnanimous Professor and Exalted Wise Master, Seer of All Things Jazz Related, Knower of All Things Jazz Edumacational:

I was wondering - do you have alternative ways of approaching sus chords other than the obvious?
-your most humble saxophone student

Dear humble saxophonist,

Please! No need for such pomp and circumstance. "O Great One" is all that's necessary.....or simply, "My Lord"......

I don't know, approaching them sideways? Or just get right in their face.......

So we are talking about how to improvise jazz lines over sus chords. The thing about "sus" is that it implies a 4th in the chord(sus stands for suspended....). So that
would lead one to believe that you can never play the third. It
actually can make the third sound like an extension. If it's just a
Sus, Like

You can play E and it's cool.

But I would think that the "sus" implication would depend a lot on the
types of voicings played by the pianist or guitarist. If the pianist
is playing

C F Bb(straight fourths)

then you might lean towards 4ths or some pentatonics or some McCoy stuff.

If the pianist plays

C in the bass  Bb D F A(like Bbmaj7 over C)

Then maybe you might play Mixolydian or bebop(think Gminor 7, which is
probably what Herbie Hancock would do.....)

However, all of that being said, I think at this stage of the game for
you, you need to go past conventional thinking for this type of thing.
For example, Sus chords voiced in 4ths imply what I said above. Why
not find something more chromatic just to take it in another
direction? And if it's voiced in thirds, why not find a 4 note scale that
uses some unexpected notes?

(For example: C7sus4-which I would
probably write as C7sus11-but sometimes Sibelius gets weird when I do
that-Why not play C EF A Bb? something like that. I was surprised that
Steve Coleman actually used a lot of things like that. THAT combined
with stark chromaticism might yield some interesting results.)

(Hopefully, we(or you at home reading this) can look at some of Gary Thomas' stuff and you might
find that simply ONE of his licks will open up your mind in terms of
possibilities. You should look at his intro solo on Angel Eyes. I have
most of it on paper, and somebody else did a transcription. Maybe at
least listen to it.)

Did we talk about triad pairings? Sometimes I like to use three
triads. For example, over F7sus4(there it is again) McCoy will do F Eb
on and on. But what if you add a D triad to that? what if you added a
B triad to that? Or Ab minor triad? That could open up an entire world
of experimentation.

I think the problem with being in a program where most of the
students, and even some of the professionals, are thinking
"Here's some chord-scales that work. Ta Da!" Which is totally fine. But the MUSIC is beyond
that. At least I think so. If we are all playing the same chord scales
and so forth then at a certain point all of this stuff starts to sound
the same. This is why coming up with your own ideas is so important.

That's why you need to compose-so you can sit down and say: "A bunch
of stuff has been done. What HASN'T been done?" And you do that, and
even if it has been done, at least you are using your noggin- rather then letting
Jamey Aebersold tell you how to play. Or even let ME tell you how to

Why don't you write a tune with sus chords and then make it somehow


 Lord Colligan, Esq.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

"It has to feel good......"

Mulgrew Miller has always been one of my favorite jazz pianists. I've heard him in so many settings: trio, quartet, with singers. I've heard him with musicians who were very traditional, and musicians who very very modern. Miller seems to always approach every situation in a tasteful way; he fits right in, and somehow finds just the right amount of energy to make the music complete. I saw this video on Facebook and had to post it.

It's fascinating to me because everything Miller says is actually pretty obvious. However, it's easier said than done. Many things in our world are obvious, and yet how many of us ignore the obvious every day for our entire lives? (For example: I want to lose weight= diet and obvious, and yet how many of us don't do it? And the list goes on and on....) I wish I had more chances to work with students on comping, and I mean beyond the nuts and bolts of form and voicings. That stuff is important as well. But beyond that, much of it is philosophical.

Mulgrew Miller is one of the best examples of legendary-musician-turned-jazz-educator. Because of his vast experience, everything he says comes from the real world of jazz. It's not merely theoretical. My inclination is that comping has to be developed by playing with people. It's interesting that Miller is saying that you should actually practice it abstractly-on your own- before you get to the gig. I think this makes a ton of sense. The idea is that you should have a base of "laying it down" so that it swings, or whatever you are trying to do, and it "feels good". I think having a good "feel", whether comping or soloing, is one of the most important things you should have as a jazz musician. This might mean the difference between work and no work. I believe that my initial success as a pianist was not because of my technique( I had little) or repertoire( I had even less). It was because I had a knack for making it "feel" like jazz.

The big question is, HOW do you make it feel good? Well, for starters, listen to the great compers: Wynton Kelly, Red Garland, Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Kenny Kirkland, Mulgrew Miller, Hank Jones, Tommy Flanagan, Cedar Walton, Horace Silver. Listen to how they provide harmony and create rhythm, and where do they leave space and how do they fill in the spaces. How do they help the soloist without getting in the way. Maybe play along with them on recordings.

The next step is to find what works for you. And that depends on your taste, and it also depends on who your are playing with. Some people want, or may actually NEED, for you to lay it down in a strong way. Others might want you to play very little. Some maybe not at all. Piano can be omnipresent or superfluous, or everything in between. It's a constant journey to find the right balance. It's a combination of trying to read the mind of the soloist, and "make them feel comfortable", as Professor Miller said, and using your own judgement.

I remember when I realized how important comping is to a pianist's career. I went down from Baltimore to Washington D.C. to sit in with saxophonist Paul Carr at a club called Takoma Station. I sat in on a rhythm changes tune. I guess I was in a listening mood, because I felt I should listen before I played. Carr played a lot of notes, but when he left a space, I played one chord, let it ring, and then listened again. I barely comped at all. Carr came up to me after the tune and exclaimed, "Wow, I LOVE your comping!" He then hired me for a bunch of gigs. Well, they say "less is more." But you have to figure it out for yourself. I'm still trying to figure it out as well. That's the great thing about this music; you are never done learning.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

JEN Conference Part II, Electric Boogaloo

I'm safely back in Portland after a whirlwind trip to Atlanta for the Jazz Education Network Conference. Although half of the time I was not in the best physical or mental condition; I flew through the night from PDX, arrived in Atlanta at 6:30 AM with no sleep, couldn't get into my room at the Hyatt until 10 AM, and then really didn't get a chance to nap because I didn't want to miss the conference. ( I think I'm still not 100 percent recovered!)

In a previous post, I compared the JEN conference to the IAJE (International Association of Jazz Educators), and lamented that attending the IAJE always seemed like an overwhelming shmooze-a-thon. Every musician you talk to would always be looking over your shoulder, checking to see if there is someone in the industry who can help you with your career! Well, this was much less of that. I actually had focused conversations with everyone that I saw. It's always nice to see old friends and to make new ones.

It's impossible to go to every event at a convention such as this. They seemed to have 4 or 5 different seminars or performances every hour. You either have to pick one or run around the hotel like a madman to all the different rooms. I didn't get to see as much as I would have liked. I did see enough to be inspired; I think Jazz Education is still alive and well. It was nice to see a lot of young, enthusiastic young players.

In fact, the first thing I heard after I finished my breakfast was the American Music Program, which is a jazz band based in Oregon for middle, high, and some college students. The program is led by Thara Memory, who has received accolades for mentoring jazz star Esperanza Spalding. I heard them play some Duke Ellington and Thad Jones charts; boy, were they swinging! (I found out later that the drummer is only in middle school!) I was impressed not only because they played all of the charts from memory, but also because they somehow had the money for an entire big band to fly from Portland to Atlanta!

I snuck into a few clinics; one was giving by a guy named Matt Falker called "Jazz Piano Voicings for Beginners." Another clinic led by Matthew Pivec was called "It's Not Just Scales and Chords: Equipping Your Beginning Improvisors with Tools of Expression." Pivic demonstrated some easy concepts, taken from the jazz solos of major artists, which beginners could use right away to make creative solos. It's always nice to see other other educators are approaching the teaching of jazz.

Now it was 10 AM, and I was now able to get into my room. Instead of going to sleep, like a normal person, I went down to the Exhibitor's hall to look at merchandise. After spending a great deal of my own money on the trip to Atlanta, I had very little intention of making any purchases. However, it's always fun to browse. I tried a nice Roy Benson pocket trumpet. I stopped by the Chuck Sher booth, and had a nice conversation with both Sher and the great pianist and educator Mark Levine.
Mark Levine

During the two days I was in Atlanta, I saw two really great clinics. One was given by trumpeter and educator Michael Mossman, entitled "Get Your (Ensemble's) Groove On!" Mossman talked about clave, and tips on how to get young rhythm sections to play latin grooves in a more authentic fashion. Drummer Carl Allen gave a wonderful clinic about how important the ride cymbal is to jazz. Allen played recorded examples of different jazz drumming legends( in a sort of blindfold test fashion....I guessed pretty well...) and talked about the subtle differences in their approach to the ride cymbal beat. It was cool to see drumming legend Joe Chambers(who has an AMAZING ride cymbal beat) sitting in on the clinic.

Earl MacDonald, David Valdez, and I gave a panel discussion  called "Blogging With A Purpose." We had a decent turnout, although Dave Liebman was giving a clinic at exactly the same time, so I'm sure that was where most people ended up. However, our presentation went well. In fact, I actually learned much about the technical aspects of blogging from MacDonald and Valdez. Saxophonist and historical expert Loren Schoenberg happened to attend the panel discussion, and he gave me some great feedback.

Antonio Hart
I heard some nice groups; I heard Antonio Hart play with a wonderful student group from Chicago High School of the Arts. I also heard the University of Manitoba faculty ensemble (I used to teach there) which featured bassist Steve Kirby, guitarist Larry Roy, trumpeter Derrick Gardner, saxophonist Craig Bailey, pianist Will Bonness, Quincy Davis on drums, and vocalist Anna-Lisa Kirby. I was extremely impressed with the overall  sound of the band. The U of M band, billed as the Northern Alternative, has the luxury of performing at a jam session(they called it the Wednesday Night Hang when I was there) every week; there is no substitute for this regularity. Furthermore, I was especially enthralled by Will Bonness' virtuosic abilities.

I wish I had gotten to hear more music. I also wish I had gotten to PLAY! (It's quite odd for me to travel somewhere and not touch an instrument of any kind.) I had some nice conversations with friends new and old; I met Bobby Brown, one of my favorite guitar players. We ended up talking about our kids, mostly. And I spoke at length with Davey Yarborough, saxophonist and beloved educator from Washington D.C. ( He was there to accept the John LaPorta Jazz Educator Of The Year Award.)

I had a really great time at JEN. I think it's a welcome replacement to the IAJE Convention. I still think that these things tend to be too expensive, especially when you consider how much flights and hotels cost these days. Still, I think I would go in the future. Hopefully I'll get to play as well as present next time....

Sunday, January 6, 2013

And Jack DeJohnette is…?

This was written two months ago for a jazz magazine published in Oregon. I recently recorded a trio record with Jack DeJohnette and bassist  Larry Grenadier. While listening to the rough mixes, I remembered this article and thought it might be worth reprinting here.

A few years ago, a classical musician asked me about my professional activities beyond teaching. I proudly mentioned that I had recently been touring with drummer Jack DeJohnette. "And he is…?" was the reply. I was slightly caught off guard; Jack DeJohnette, at least to jazz musicians, is as known as almost any other major figure in jazz. Indeed, he's a direct link to jazz history; From Baby Dodds to Sid Catlett to "Papa" Jo Jones to Max Roach to "Philly" Joe Jones to Tony Williams to Elvin Jones, Jack DeJohnette is the next logical name on the list. If you say "Jack" to a jazz drummer, he knows exactly what you are talking about.

I thought for a moment and answered; "Jack DeJohnette is …uh....the Yo-Yo Ma of jazz drumming." "Ah! I see," responded my classical comrade. At least, for the moment, I impressed someone with my affiliation. Now that I think about it, I think comparing Jack DeJohnette to Yo-Yo Ma actually falls short. If you were to draw a correlation between jazz instrumentalists and classical musicians, you would have to think bigger. I would say that DeJohnette should be compared to one of the great composers, like Debussy, or Stravinsky. I justify this by saying that DeJohnette truly has his own "language" of drumming. Yo Yo Ma, while one of the great performers on the cello, still, at the end of the day, plays other people's notes and rhythms and dynamics. DeJohnette, with his through composed, constantly evolving, conversational, interpretive drumming, has created a new way to play music that transcends drums.

Jack DeJohnette's drumming style is in some ways enigmatic, because his sound is immediately identifiable;
 and yet, there are few DeJohnette "clones." This is because DeJohnette's entire conception of music is very spontaneous. You can hear many young drummers play these days and you can say, "Oh, he's playing a "Philly" Joe Jones lick," or "That's an Elvin Jones lick." DeJohnette's playing is more of a philosophy with few preconceived notions. And yet I insist that he has influenced a generation of drummers as well as non-drummers. Again, if you say to a jazz drummer, “play like Jack,” you will get them to play a certain way.

Part of the trick is that Jack DeJohnette began his musical career as a jazz pianist; in fact, we was already doing gigs on piano in Chicago when he decided to switch to drums as his main instrument. (DeJohnette is well documented as a pianist on a recording entitled “ The Jack DeJohnette Piano Album”, which I had on vinyl years ago.) I believe that jazz drumming is perhaps different from other types of drumming because there is so much more of a need for the drummer to “shape” the music as well as keep time. Therefore, the more a jazz drummer knows about melody, form, harmony, and musical emotion, the better they can “shape” the performance. DeJohnette is always listening to what people are playing and supporting soloists and band members with relevant musical commentary. (I remember years ago, saxophonist Gary Thomas told me why he loved playing with Jack so much. “He never lets you down.” Another way of saying this would be that he follows a soloists intensity with complete dedication, as if it were his own solo that he was accompanying.)

As I write this, I am waiting at the gate of my flight from Heathrow to New York City (the second of three legs back to Portland. I started this morning in Tbilisi, flew 5 hours to London, found out my flight was cancelled, and resigned myself to a later flight and a 24 hour layover in New York as my only option), as we just finished a two week tour which was mostly in the U.K., but also included Poland and Georgia. I’m thinking back to some of the great musical moments we had as a band. But it’s also interesting to observe DeJohnette off the bandstand as well as on. Jack is extremely fit for a 70 year old man; occasionally I find myself lengthening my stride to keep up with him as we walk through airport terminals. Jack is intellectually agile as well; on the road in Europe, he’s rarely without a copy of the International Herald Tribune. We talk politics as much as music.Of course, when it comes to music, Jack is into anything and everything from European classical to Indian to Blues to Bebop. He knows a lot of songs from a wide variety genres; you might catch him singing Beatles tunes or Motown classics during a sound check. Furthermore, Jack always seems to be genuinely curious about new music and younger players(which is probably how I got in the band…)

I see this energy and open minded awareness manifesting itself on the bandstand every gig. DeJohnette is pretty easy going as a person, but as soon as he sits at the drums, you know something important is about to happen. You know that when the music starts, he won’t “let you down.” And the nifty thing is that DeJohnette can be really super intense without being overly loud. (One of the many unique things about DeJohnette’s approach is his use of “dry” ride cymbals. His ride cymbals don’t have what we call a “washy” sound, where even after the cymbal is struck, there is still a lot of ringing tone. This actually cuts the onstage volume by a huge margin, and it actually makes it easier forDeJohnette, as well as the other musicians onstage, to hear the music without everything getting washed out.

As a bandleader, DeJohnette leads much like Miles Davis and other Miles alumni who became bandleaders: hire great musicians and let them play how they play. DeJohnette rarely gives musical direction. If jazz musicians are already playing on a high level, why not let them play? Obviously, this approach won’t work for every situation. But think about it; why would Miles Davis tell Wanye Shorter how to play? I believe that the less that’s spoken, the more comfortable musicians will feel; therefore, you’ll get the most out of them.

Since I started playing in DeJohnette’s band, many musicians have asked me, “what does it feel like to play with Jack?” I think it’s a great question, because how music “feels” really gets to the heart of the matter. It’s also possibly the most intangible part of music and art. DeJohnette has a time feel which is very consistent, yet also flexible. He’s got one of the deepest pockets, and yet it’s not metronomic or predictable. How would I teach a student drummer to play this way? I haven’t figured that out yet. ( I remember when I was teaching the drum students at the University of Manitoba. I was assigning them the Alan Dawson Rudiment Ritual and page 38 of the Ted Reed book. Then I played a week with DeJohnette at Birdland. I remember thinking that I needed to completely revamp my approach to teaching drums.

But getting back to the question: what does it feel like to play with JackDeJohnette? It feels like magic. It feels extraordinary. It feels like you are floating on air. It feels like you can play anything. It feels like the walls of musical limitation have dissapeared. It feels like you want to sing and clap and dance. It feels like a runner’s high, or maybe some other type of high. If you were tired before you got onstage, you suddenly have energy. It feels like you’re on top of the world.

We played in Cambridge last week. Backstage, right before the show, Jackmade a comment that we should “try to take shorter solos.” I jokingly said, “ Why don’t you try to play worse?” I got a good laugh with that, but it’s true. Time flies when you are having fun, or playing with great musicians. When we play concerts, 2 hours feels like 10 minutes. You never want to stop.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

JEN Conference 2013 Part 1

Some of you probably remember the IAJE, otherwise known as the International Association of Jazz Educators. They put on a convention every year in various locations around the U.S. I performed and participated in many of them throughout the years. Unfortunately, the IAJE as an organization went belly up due to some controversial mismanagement( or so I heard). Something has popped up to replace it: JEN, or Jazz Education Network. I'm heading down to their convention, a 4 day affair at the Atlanta Hyatt Regency. It appears to be more education oriented than the IAJE, which was a nice mix of education and performance related events.

My memories of the IAJE in New York, which was probably the last time I attended, my biggest impression was that it was a real shmooze-fest. It seemed like a networking bonanza; it was hard to focus on any one person, because within seconds, someone you hadn't seen in years would pop into your field of vision. What in one sense could be like being a jazz kid in a jazz candy store could easily after a few hours become a sensory overload. (At least for me, I'm more of an introvert. I'm sure some people feast on the social explosion like a smorgasbord....)

I'll be part of a panel on Jazz Blogging, joined by Earl MacDonald and David Valdez, both equally formidable bloggers. Hopefully, it will make for an interesting discussion. I'm curious to see what motivates others to blog. I think I mostly do it for myself, but admittedly, it is cool to know that I have regular readers. I'm trying to keep this thing going, despite the distractions of full time University teaching, touring, and parenting.

We'll be there in The Learning Center at 1pm on Saturday. I hope to see you there! And I'm excited to report on my observations of the JEN Conference 2013. Here is a link to the schedule:

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Marvin Sewell Interview Part 2

GC: Would you say that playing with Cassandra is probably your most steady, high-profile gig?

MS: Yeah, and I got a lot of mileage out of that gig.

GC: This was over ten years, right?

MS: Yeah. I first did a gig with her in 1995. I subbed for Brandon Ross and then in 1996 I did my first tour with her. But prior to that I did a couple of record compilations with her. And then it just kind of went on, on and off, for the next 10-15 years. I learned a lot of stuff playing with her - I developed a lot of stuff. My slide playing, playing in alternate tunings with her, accompanying, more different styles of music from playing with her. Using different sounds, textures, and effects, because she was always open to experimenting and trying new things. One of the great things about her is that she was always open to that and, like Jack, didn’t want the same thing every night. She was looking for something different, and even off the tour I was always investigating new sounds. What new sounds are happening, what can I develop? So it was good. All of that stuff with the tunings, and the slide guitar - I had been working on, but Cassandra’s gig was the vehicle for me to develop it. I remember this saxophone player in Chicago met John Coltrane, and he asked Coltrane what he could do to improve his playing and Coltrane simply said “get a gig.” (laughs) Get you a gig!

GC: That is so true.

MS: I found no matter how much I practice, which is good, there’s still something about playing, when you interact with people and the tempo is swirling around, you get into real time instead of metronomic time. Things change, and you have to make the adjustment. It puts up your chops a little bit, if you’re open to listen.

GC: I think about it sometimes, I compare musical interaction to if you go to a party or something. Or you’re having dinner conversation. How can you practice going to a party?

MS: Exactly.

GC: That’s really interesting. So to my knowledge, you have one record as a leader. Do you have aspirations to do more as a leader, so that we know more about you?

MS: Yeah I would like to, it’s just a matter of time and leader. One of the problems of being a journeyman is time. Your fellow colleagues are journeymen too, and you’re trying to get them together and in the studio. And writing takes up a lot of time, you have to kind of be in it. Sometimes I come up with ideas on the road, and I develop it, and other times tunes write themselves. So I plan on trying to put out a few more things. I have enough music to put out two or three more records. The tunes aren’t necessarily great, but I’m constantly writing and trying to work stuff out. I never even envisioned myself having a band until somebody asks me what my music sounds like. So I started writing, and Jerome Harris has been in my band since it started, and it’s a great ensemble. Joe Barbato, Rachelle Garniez, Satoshi Takeishi, and Jerome Harris. I love that group. And it’s an ensemble. I didn’t want to do the whole Concerto concept, it’s definitely a group with a particular sound. So yeah, hopefully something else can happen, we can go into the studio and record again. We haven’t explored all the possibilities. All the people in the band can do so many different things and it needs to be on wax or mp3, or whatever you call it.

GC: So your next project would be that band. Do you have any inclination to do something kind of orchestrated, more compositional - I had to say classical, but more composed?

MS: Maybe. I’ve always felt myself doing the more composed stuff, because I always wanted to do soundtrack stuff. Or if I was commissioned to write something like that. But yeah, maybe. The more music I learn, I begin to start hearing things, and if I want more specific parts, like a string quartet or string section then yeah, it’s possible. Sure.

GC: And you want to start playing more piano?

MS: Yeah, for a long time I’ve been using piano more as a device to steal ideas. To me I can just very well not play piano and just go to the store and get a record and check out what someone did, but it’s something different when you’re actually playing that music and you can manipulate it. What if I play this? What if I take the middle voicings, and make them louder than the high voices? And you start to hear new things, the little tricks the composers use. A friend of mine suggested that maybe I start doing some accompanying. Classical accompanying, but I want to get into the jazz playing, more jazz piano. I’ve been hanging out with Barry Harris every now and then, and checking out other people’s approaches, trying to get the whole background and history. I know chords and stuff, but I need to know not just these chords but the scales that go with these chords, how they move. The voice leading, not getting lost and finger-tied. I know what to play, I just need to learn how to play it.

GC: That’s interesting because the stuff you play classically is, to me, as much or more technique than you would need to play jazz. That’s about as much chops as I have, to play that Debussy.

MS: I don’t know about that! You know what it is? To me it’s kind of like - I keep making these analogies - it’s kind of like baseball. When a baseball player gets into a slump, people say “man somebody needs to say a particular thing to him to have him get a different appraoch when he steps up to the plate.” And sometimes that’s all it is, you have to change your way of looking at stuff. Maybe I need to do that with piano technique. Because now I work out fingerings and learn these etudes. I have the speed and the agility that I could do the jazz stuff, but there are other things. I just have to figure out, figure out a different way of looking at it. I watch Jack play piano and I think “oh, this is how he moves his hand over” and stuff. So I think I need to hang out with you, just watch piano players do their thing and then that would probably give me more of an idea on how to get around that.

GC: Probably what you should do is get a gig.


MS: Yeah exactly! There it is!

GC: That’s how I learned!

MS: Dig that. Can you recommend me?

GC: (laughs) I’ll see what I can do. It’s interesting because you talk about baseball. I haven’t followed baseball in many years but when I was a kid I was an Orioles fan, living near Baltimore. My father was one of those diehard Yankees fans. I used to go out in a little field on my street and pretend to play by myself. I was on the Little League team. That’s interesting that you said you were left-handed. What did you want to do, pitch?

MS: Well I wanted to be, like every other kid when I growing up, an outfielder. I liked playing shortstop but I’m left-handed. To me it was an exciting position. What ended my dreams of playing baseball was when I didn’t make the high school team. And guess what that coach said? “If Marvin had tried out as a pitcher, he would have been on my team.” That was the thing that I was good at, I was a good pitcher, but I hated it! And part of the problem is that no one was teaching me how to throw the ball. I was throwing the ball with my arm, my elbow was getting messed up. Nobody was telling me how to throw it. I remember the Chicago Cubs pitcher Ray Burris on one of those programs saying “if you’re a fifteen-year-old kid, you shouldn’t be throwing curveballs, you should be throwing fastballs and change-ups. He said “your arm isn’t developed enough to be throwing that stuff.” And one of the best pitches in baseball is the change-up. If you have a good change-up, that scares the hell out of the batter. If somebody has a good change-up, that’s scary. If somebody would have taught me the basics of pitching instead of just throwing a ball and using my body, maybe I would have been doing something else. Because I was good at it, but I hated pitching. I hated it!

GC: What a shame. I tried to be a pitcher, I think there was just one game where I hit a bunch of batters. I think I had pretty good speed, but I would just choke. I was a catcher for a while but it was hard to find a left-handed catcher’s mitt. So we’d have to drive to New York and look around for one. I sort of just got into different things. But yeah when I was kid I thought maybe I’d play baseball. That’s interesting.

MS: Yeah, the Orioles beat the Sox in ‘83. That was a good team.

GC: Well that was the last time - when was the last time the Orioles were good? The 80’s?

MS: Yeah in ‘83 they took everything I think...I can’t remember. I know they beat the White Sox 3-1.

GC: That was when Earl Weaver was manager, and you had Eddie Murray, Mark Belanger, Jim Palmer.

MS: Eddie Murray man...I would just cringe every time he came up to bat. I was like “aw, shit.”

GC: Since then I haven’t been to the new stadium...Camden Yards? But I used to go to Memorial Stadium a lot, see double headers, but then I just fell out of it, got into a different thing. Alright, I can’t think of any final questions, but this is plenty!

MS: Cool.