Archive for Piano

Pianissimo!

Posted in Biographical, Music with tags , , on January 27, 2021 by telescoper

Not a lot of people know that I acquired a second-hand piano when I bought my house in Maynooth. I’ve been having a go on it from time since then. Fortunately it’s a detached house so that doesn’t cause the neighbours to suffer too much. I wish I’d got it tuned before the lockdown though. It’s a little bit flat in the middle range and gets worse as the notes get lower. Still, I’m such a terrible player that doesn’t make too much difference!

I can read music but am used to single note instruments and find piano parts difficult to read especially if there are complicated chords – or even simple ones, for that matter. I find having the notes squashed together like in the bass part here makes it difficult to disentangle them.

Fortunately I have a basic knowledge of harmony and can cope with chord symbols so I generally don’t try to read the bass parts but instead fill in chords according to the symbols. If the chords aren’t written on the music like the above example I add them myself.

Even for an oldie like me it’s quite easy to get used to playing basic chordal accompaninents. Most standard progressions involve only three or four chords. You can start playing block triads like in the example above just to get the idea. Adding, for example, the odd 7th here and there helps to explore the sound produced by different harmonic ingredients. After that you can play left-hand figures based on the chords to make it more interesting.

I know you’re all thinking that I’m way too old to be trying to teach myself how to play the piano. One of these days I think I’ll put up a YouTube video to prove that you are right.

Hampton Hawes – The Trio, Vol. 1

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , on March 25, 2014 by telescoper

The old blog has been generating far too much traffic over the last couple of weeks so I thought I’d try to calm things down by posting something about Jazz (which usually scares the traffic away). I was listening this album the other day and thought I’d write about it because the pianist concerned Hampton Hawes is so underrated.

The Trio – Vol. 1  was Hawes’s first LP under his own name and it proved to be the start of a long and successful association with Contemporary Records. Hawes’s playing has been described as a more-or-less literal keyboard transcription of Charlie Parker and indeed his lines do sound more like Parker than those of Bud Powell, the archetypal bebop pianist. Indeed Hawes stated that Powell had never really been influence, or at least not as much of an influence as he had been on the rest of his generation of jazz pianists. Like Charlie Parker, Hawes had a great gift for playing the blues and even when not actually playing standard 12-bar blues material he somehow managed to make almost everything he played sound like the blues; a great example from this album is the ballad Easy Livin’ which Hawes augments by inserting some blues phrases into the melody. There are three “orthodox” blues tracks on the album, although one of them Feelin’ Fine is based on an altered chord progression.

Fast tempi gave Hawes very few problems. On the album he seems completely comfortable maintaining the logic and continuity of his improvisations even while playing at about 80 bars to the minute.  I Got Rhythm is taken at a very brisk pace but Hawes is always master of the situation. The track I’ve picked from Youtube, the great Jerome Kern standard All The Things You Are, the chords of which lurk underneath a great many bebop tunes, is very different, with an out-of-tempo introduction picking up into the jaunty medium pace “bounce” that’s very characteristic of the bebop era.

Throughout the 50s and 60s, Hampton Hawes was head and shoulders above most of his competitors. Red Mitchell (bass) and Chuck Thompson (drums) remained his colleagues for years, which is no doubt why their playing is so together.

 

 

Spiegel im Spiegel

Posted in Biographical, Music with tags , , , on February 11, 2013 by telescoper

I’ve been so busy this last week that I really needed to unwind a bit on Sunday morning, for which purpose I picked this beautifully spare and sublimely contemplative piece by the great Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. This music always makes me think of the first line of the Desiderata

Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence

..except of course that it’s not silent.

Nora the Piano Cat

Posted in Music with tags , , , on March 19, 2012 by telescoper

A busy day, filled with meetings meetings and more meetings. Time to relax with some music. This is a complete performance of a work by Mindaugas Piecaitis, featuring Nora the Piano Cat….