Before returning to the unpleasantness which is contemporary Israel, a musical interlude prompted by a track by James Booker which I heard for the first time the other night, and who was clearly one of the giants of the New Orleans piano tradition.

Listening also invited the question as to whether the piano is a percussion or a stringed instrument.

Answer: a percussion instrument if one ignores the European classical tradition.

Answer: a percussion instrument if one ignores the European classical tradition.

Back to James Booker who clearly led a troubled life on many fronts, and that is not to be celebrated at the expense of his mind-bending keyboard technique.

So lets do a quick tour of some piano greats, all of whom recorded in glorious analogue with one exception. Somehow digital technologies destroy some of the defining qualities of the saxophone and piano. We also often ignore the fact that listening is a active and rather than a passive activity, involving a productive or labouring subject to employ some basic Marxist concepts.

Perhaps the Reader will recall a very well played LP that looms large in their pantheon of favourite sounds: the ear works to filter our many of the bumps and hisses resulting from stylus-vinyl collisions and general wear and tare. In addition, there are those rudimentary recording techniques made worse by many plays over the years. Yet, by virtue of the filtering process performed by our ears, we can capture the original sound which enraptured listeners then and now.

Where to begin?

Lennie Tristano, who was a pall bearer at Charlie Parker’s funeral, produced a body of work which is not exactly easy listening, and I am only familiar with three of his LPs.
Very early Tristano.

Not being any jazz expert, I take for granted the line wicki draws from Tristano to Cecil Taylor, who I had the great fortune to see live. Great shards of percussive sound with the sound board protesting under the strain. An extended version of Jitney which virtually left his piano in a heap of thousands of pieces. The perfect adjective would be coruscating in the strong shimmering, glittery sense.

Silent Tongues – Live at Montreux is a killer intro to a pianist who wrings you dry and leaves you in an exhausted heap.

Back to an earlier period, we had Art Tatum and Bud Powell.

Randy Weston is recommended if you are undertaking a deep exploration of jazz piano, and this clip has the added attraction of some tremendous abstract imagery.

It is impossible to ignore Keith Jarrett who has produced a massive body of work, much of which leaves me cold, but his solo works are just brilliant.

Live at La Scala is probably his final statement as a solo performer before he reduced his tour schedule, and it is a tour de force of the first order.

If that captured your imagination, go back to his 1973 three LP box set of solos concerts performed in Bremen and Lausanne. I think I paid $8 for mine in a second record shop in Sydney.

I know! I know! Where is Thelonious Monk? Simply couldn’t locate a great clip, so we have to settle for a great photograph.
he is

Trust me. He is in there in what was probably the most famous photo ever taken in old Harlem. Rumour has it that he deliberately arrived late for the group photo, so as not to be outdone in the sartorial stakes.

End Note.

I failed to conclude this post properly and do justice to Art Kane’s photo taken in 1958, so here is a better one plus an identifier.

who was who

01 – Hilton Jefferson, 02 – Benny Golson, 03 – Art Farmer, 04 – Wilbur Ware, 05 – Art Blakey, 06 – Chubby Jackson, 07 – Johnny Griffin, 08 – Dickie Wells, 09 – Buck Clayton, 10 – Taft Jordan, 11 – Zutty Singleton, 12 – Red Allen, 13 – Tyree Glenn, 14 – Miff Molo, 15 – Sonny Greer, 16 – Jay C. Higginbotham, 17 – Jimmy Jones, 18 – Charles Mingus, 19 – Jo Jones, 20 – Gene Krupa, 21 – Max Kaminsky, 22 – George Wettling, 23 – Bud Freeman, 24 – Pee Wee Russell, 25 – Ernie Wilkins, 26 – Buster Bailey, 27 – Osie Johnson, 28 – Gigi Gryce, 29 – Hank Jones, 30 – Eddie Locke, 31 – Horace Silver, 32 – Luckey Roberts, 33 – Maxine Sullivan, 34 – Jimmy Rushing, 35 – Joe Thomas, 36 – Scoville Browne, 37 – Stuff Smith, 38 – Bill Crump, 39 – Coleman Hawkins, 40 – Rudy Powell, 41 – Oscar Pettiford, 42 – Sahib Shihab, 43 – Marian McPartland, 44 – Sonny Rollins, 45 – Lawrence Brown, 46 – Mary Lou Williams, 47 – Emmett Berry, 48 – Thelonius Monk, 49 – Vic Dickenson, 50 – Milt Hinton, 51 – Lester Young, 52 – Rex Stewart, 53 – J.C. Heard, 54 – Gerry Mulligan, 55 – Roy Eldgridge, 56 – Dizzy Gillespie, 57 – Count Basie. [Source: DannyChestnut.com]

Here is one reference and here is the full background provided by wicki.

My bad.

And since Miles Davis missed the photo shoot, some serious trumpet within an almost funk setting.

Turn up the volume, Brothers and Sisters.

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4 Responses to “Piano.”

  1. foarp Says:

    Hey KT, sorry bout nixing your last comment. I read the first line and figured it was a CDE comment, and then only afterwards realised my mistake.

    Best not to mention CDE anyway, it just encourages him.

  2. kingtubby1 Says:

    Thanks Joshua. Apol for the delay.

  3. P'i-kou Says:

    All very nice, but while the ‘piano as a percussion instrument’ as a statement might be associated with what at the time was at the fringe of the ‘classical tradition’ (the locus classicus is something Bartók wrote in the 20s, but see what Cowell was doing in 1916), the idea is much older and, if you ask me, just as valid for the harpsichord as for the piano… Witness Louis Couperin in the 1650s, Frescobaldi’s ‘Battaglia’ decades earlier, Byrd…

  4. kingtubby1 Says:


    Apol for taking so long in clearing your most welcome comment.
    The WordPress dashboard is now getting beyond my minimal skills, thus the months of silence.

    I was viewing the piano as a percussion instrument within the jazz and African musical context and in contrast to Western Classical music. ie dead European parlour music.

    To be honest my knowledge of the European tradition if next to nil, although I have a sneaking regard for Schoenberg and Satie.

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