Wednesday, December 04, 2013

If I don't have this all worked out, still I'm getting closer

The announcement that Billy Joel would be the first "music franchise" at Madison Square Garden brought back a flood of childhood musical memories. I clearly remember hearing 52nd Street for the first time when I was three years old, and obsessively listening to it in my formative years. I credit that record with my interest in music and in the piano. What I never realized, until far too recently, is that the trumpet solo on "Zanzibar" was by none other than Freddie Hubbard. (To my embarrassment, I have to admit that for a long while I assumed it was Billy playing trumpet because he was posing on the cover with a horn. After I realized it couldn't possibly be him, I never really investigated the liner notes.)

In hindsight, I'm sure having Freddie Hubbard on loop as a toddler irrevocably rewired my brain. I've long credited Dave Brubeck's Time Out - which I discovered through Joel's mention of the artwork in the Shades of Grey video - as the watershed moment when I realized I wanted to be a jazz pianist. It was - I still remember the visceral reaction to "Strange Meadowlark" when it first came over my speakers: "I don't know what this is, but this is what I want to do."

The third, and most recent, life-changing track was my first real exposure to Brazilian music. Like the Brubeck, the first time Djavan's "Tem boi na linha" entered my headphones, I wondered where this music - whatever it was - had been all my life. It was a synthesis of everything I had ever loved musically - jazz harmonies, intricate arrangement, the directness of a great melody, and that rhythmic mix of swingue with R&B and American pop, unlike anything I had ever heard before.

No comments: