Letting go of the piano

I have a major conflict coming up in April, between my theatre gig with Shaer Productions and my recording session with Don’s big band.  I cannot, not, not, miss a show performance because I’m not only in the band, but am on stage and in costume and all that. So I’m trying to see if I can just not do the recording session live, but punch in my piano part later. So in the last few rehearsals with Don’s band, I’ve been backing off on the piano, playing quietly or not at all, trying to hear if there are any real gaps where I’d be missed if I weren’t there.  And, you know, it should have been obvious to me all along that with a few exceptions where the piano is actually featured, it really makes no difference whether I’m there or not. There is rarely a note in my part that isn’t in the horn section or bass line, and the places where I do make a special contribution are often just improvisations or window dressing, that can easily be added later.

It’s been a mind-opening experience pulling back in this way from my usual intense playing on piano. I know about the via negativa and the value of  letting go and letting be, and it’s a pleasure to actually experience it, and to hear it. Especially now that I have made a lot of progress in technique in the past few months. In a limited sense, I am letting go of virtuosity from virtuosity. Like Basie or Duke, I am learning to be comfortable not filling all the space in the music with my fills and flourishes, but only adding my voice when my impulses and the needs of the musical space coincide. I imagine this is something like a Society of Friends meeting. Anyway, into the mystic.

Gig blog

I’m winding down after another great Royals gig. Thanks, dancers, thanks to our great sax front-line, thanks Dave and Bob for filling out the rhythm section in Eric and Ken’s absence (and Bob’s son for doing such a great job on percussion). And THANK-YOU TANYA for not only singing so beautifully but also researching all the songs and being the emcee all evening. And that smokin’ gown! Woo!

I know the pay sux. But still, there’s almost nothing I’d rather do than set sail on song after song, giving it all to deliver a performance that is at the same time rock-solid and fluid as air. The more deeply comfortable you are with a chart, the more you can let your inner artist fly, knowing that you won’t have to endure a bumpy landing. There is simply nothing like the experience of sailing along in a groove, and just on the spur of the moment creating a little capsule  rhapsody, even just a couple of bars, of something that is just right and perfectly in the moment.