Saturday, December 09, 2006

Back when I was 17 or so (mid-late 1970's) my trumpet (no comments please) teacher asked me if I had ever heard Art Tatum. When I responded no, he sternly "advised" me that if I had any thought of being a jazz pianist, I had to deal with Art Tatum. Dutifully I proceeded to the record store and bought the LP; "Piano Starts Here", that included his first (solo) professional recordings from 1933. After I picked my jaw up off of the floor, I concluded that my whole musical pursuit was now pointless, and I purposed not to play the piano anymore. It lasted a week (my response was not unique, among others, Oscar Peterson claimed not to have played for a month after his initial encounter). I often state that artistic growth and spiritual growth (as I understand it) are the same in essence; including the increasing realization of how "small" we are in relation to that which we have become aware. This encounter was one of those growth opportunities. Since that event, I have settled in, increasingly aware of great players, and where I fit in (in terms of my own contribution). Working in my little "corner of the room", I can deal with (and, most importantly, learn from) those who are, were, and will remain, way "beyond" me. Fast forward to now. It has happened again, but this time (hopefully standing in a more mature place), I am humbled not to shrug, or to despair or disinterest, but to wonder. It's not that I've never heard Keith Jarrett before, but perhaps that I am now ready to. I watch other (great) players perform now, and sometimes see a "see what I can do" display. With KJ it is a connection, and never a contrivance. And, more so than any time previous, the fact that I don't (academically) understand much of it, doesn't stop me from "getting" it. "Concepts create idols. Only wonder understands" - Gregory of Nyssa


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