Go out and listen to something…

March 28, 2006

Chopin and the piano today

Filed under: music — burnett @ 7:47 am

I was reviewing the Chopin Etudes this morning, and was vividly struck by the complexity of these pieces, the intuitive velocity of his musical mind and physical capability.� I have been playing them now for 35 years or so, and as anyone knows who works on them, there is always plenty of work to be done.�

But let’s talk about the development of Jazz Piano.� In the 20’s and 30’s, there was a ferocious school of piano playing in Harlem, that seemed to fizzle with the advent of the Big Band and the smaller jazz groups thereafter.� The stride style lost its usefulness when there was a rhythm section on stage, and otherwise brilliant pianists like Bill Evans and Herbie Hancock acquired a relatively benign piano method.� (If you track Count Basie’s piano playing from 1930 with the Moten band to 1950 with his own, there is a huge simplification:� there� just wasn’t the need anymore for the virtuoso stride player, even in the Basie Band.)

If you were to compile a compendium of jazz piano “technics”, as I am sure somebody is doing, most of the jazz pianists are missing 200 years of piano development, i.e. the contrapuntal skills exhibited by every self-respecting keyboardist of the early 18th century, to the Chopin/Liszt virtuosity of the 19th century.� Not only that, but the skills of Jelly Roll, Fats, and Tatum are not considered de rigueur for the modern jazz piano student.� I have been pondering this fact for years.� Every “classical” piano student, as narrowly trained as they may be, must master the variegated techniques and performance styles of 250 years of piano playing.� Why not the jazz players?� Why do they dumb themselves down?

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