Performer, teacher and student for life of jazz piano

I couldn’t bear to be without a piano for two whole weeks..no teaching, no studying or creating..Catastrophe! So I spent many a happy, sometimes, frustrating hour with my wonderful wife replacing all the bridle straps – the little straps that pull the hammers back in place ready for the note to be played again.

Before:

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After:

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Phew!!

Yesterday, I thought I would help a friend here in Hastings by cleaning up his lovely old Pohlmann upright piano. The sustain pedal wasn’t working and Eb 4 was sustaining without the pedal. An inch of dust revealed a marble stuck under the pedal mechanism and I vacuum cleaned the whole instrument. So far so good. The next phase was a bit traumatic. The vacuum cleaner started popping of the bridle straps (little straps with tabs that reset the hammers after the notes were played). At present I have ten notes not working! I have managed to order new straps and am avidly studying the YouTubes. It doesn’t look easy but the straps arrive today and I have another ten days to ride the learning curve! Never shy away for accumulating new skills!

Much neglected, I have started my journey through the minor 2 5 1s through all the keys.

I have developed the following voicings which I like. (I’m sure they are not original!)

On the 2: b5 – 7 – 1 – 11 (so Dm7/b5 = Ab C D and G)

On the 5: #9 – 3 – #5 – 7 (So GAlt = Bb B Eb F)

On the 1: 6 (or7) – 9 – b3 – 5 (so Cm9 or 6/9 = A (or Bb) D Eb G

I like to call these B voicings as they are quite bunched together. I am running (slowly!) through all the keys, playing the chords with my left hand and the scales with my right:

  • Locrian over the m7/b5
  • Altered over the 5
  • Dorian or Aeolian over the the 1

I hope the suffering is worth it!

I asked one of my dear pupils which part of this Gene Harris version of Blue Bossa he would like to learn – and he chose this incredible chordal run you will find 1m57s in from this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p71daII9_ds. I transcribed the right hand by ear and added a deepening counter-movement to spread my hands out across the whole keyboard. I have been practising this every day for ages. It’s just about ready to show off! Message me if you would like the transcription!

Some Day My Prince Will Come is one of my favourites. I love the chord sequence and that beautiful flowing soloing by Wynton Kelly. I have played around with different time signatures. 11/8 (to tease our dear drummer) – but it wasn’t really suitable. 5/4 sounds pretty good!

A few scales always work up an appetite before breakfast. Today I focused on the diminished scales – nine-note scales, sometimes known as half-whole scales. Like the diminished chords, there are only three on your keyboard. I tend to play a favourite chord (usually a diminished or a 13th/b9), play the scale a few times and try out a couple of nice fun phrases around the scale. Woah.. Gimme some caffeine!

During my past years as, “Yer local town pianist”, I have been playing a lot of my songs in keys that my fingers were used to – so today I have been grabbing the Real Book and playing them in their original keys. Today – that wonderful song, Misty by Errol Garner. You can find it played in different styles here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQ7v7mdzK08. I have downloaded the PDF – but it’s rubbish – so I am transcribing bits of it into Musescore. Let me know if you would like a copy! (and the preferred format. It’s FOC!)

It’s not in the Real Book – at least not in my 6th edition – but that old WW2 classic, A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, was crying out to be transposed into Eb – so I did and enjoyed the refrain when it changed to G. Joy!