I had been using this blog as a way to put updates out to friends and family, but now I'm going to start using it as an actual blog. Thanks to the amazing Jenn Casey and her wonderful ideas, I now have an actual direction to go with these blogs. I'm basically going to rant about my musical ideas, shows that we've seen, new music, my piano techniques, arranging, etc, etc. And I'm going to try and make it a weekly thing, so please make sure to check it out.
Now I'm a huge fan of bluesy, gospel, rock type piano playing. If you know me, you know it's how I play and it's what I listen to as well. My main influences are obvious: Elton John and Billy Joel. I'm also influenced by jazz players like Horace Silver and Gene Harris. If you've never listened to them, do it now, especially Gene Harris! In fact, here's a link to check out:
Gene Harris - Summertime:
Another one of my influences is a guy named Jason Robert Brown. I've been playing piano in the musical theatre world for years now and when I heard Jason Robert Brown's music and the way he uses the piano in his shows I was instantly a fan. In a lot of musical theatre shows the piano is just playing in the background; your typical boom-chick pattern. But JRB, being an extraordinary pianist, brought it to the forefront and lets the player rock out. For a taste of what I'm talking about, check out this clip of "Real Big News" from Parade: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWIuLb-iOHg
That opening piano part is one of my favorites from the show. In fact the entire show has nothing but amazing, and somewhat difficult, piano parts. At the end of the blog I'll list a couple songs of JRB's to check out for great piano parts.
The reason I bring up Jason Robert Brown is because yesterday I was reading his blog and he put up a recording of outtakes from his CD "Wearing Someone Else's Clothes." In the blog he talks about the song "Getting Out" and how he went about recording the piano solo break in the middle of the song. Unfortunately I couldn't find a YouTube clip of the song so you'll have to take my word for it that it's awesome. You can find it on iTunes though and it's a great CD! Basically though, it's a rock song with some latin flavor to it in places and right after the guitar solo the entire band cuts out and the piano solos alone before everything kicks back in. I can only imagine the pressure to record something that will forever be written in stone on CD. When it's live in performance, you just play whatever comes to you at that moment. But for a CD, you want to make sure you nail the improv-ed piano solo. So Jason talks about how he took different takes but could never really find the one he wanted. For the entire blog you can go here: Jason Robert Brown's Blog
At the end of the blog he basically issues a challenge of sorts to everyone out there to take a shot at playing their own version of the piano solo from "Getting Out" and then post it to his blog for him to check out. I, knowing this song and loving that piano solo, decided immediately that I wanted to try it. And who wouldn't want the chance to play piano for Jason Robert Brown??? So I sat down at the piano, played through some things and finally was able to get a good take of my version of the solo. So for your listening pleasure, here it is:
So I posted it to his website and waited for the verdict. Here is what he had to say:
[FROM JRB: Awesome! And an "Old Red Hills" quote too!]
Needless to say, I'm very happy about that. And I'm actually really pleased with what I played. As I listen to it more and more I realize that this one video has given me lots of ideas for topics to blog about. So in the coming weeks, I'll be breaking my solo down and possibly even sharing some of my piano licks with you. And please feel free to comment and tell me what you think. If you're interested in taking your own shot at it, check out JRB's blog. I think about 5 or so people have posted videos on his site so far. It's a fun idea and I'm excited to write about my thoughts and ideas on improvisation in the coming weeks. When I was working at Howl at the Moon, I used to get asked how I played certain runs and now I have a way to share them. I hope everyone has a great weekend. Thanks for reading and make sure to check back soon for more!
Songs to check out:
Jason Robert Brown
- "Getting Out" from Wearing Someone Else's Clothes
- "Moving Too Fast" from The Last 5 Years
- "Shiksa Godess" from The Last 5 Years
- "She Cries" from Songs for a New World
- "King of the World" from Songs for a New World
- "Big News" from the Original Cast Recording of Parade
- "Real Big News" from Parade