several of the heavyweights on this forum are, to use an obscure british cricketing term, all-rounders.  that is, they teach, play cocktail piano and accompany singers.  they’re comfortable in a big band or a country rock group, or a salsa outfit, or even performing a little liszt for select discerning audiences.  they can handle the teddy wilson role in a swing group or the joey caldarazzo role in one of those terrifying in-your-face new york-style contemporary bands.  i haven’t seen  much evidence here of interest in electronica or crossover to hip-hop and drum and bass, but i expect they can do all that too.  well, jeff at least.

but what if you can’t, or don’t want to, do all this?  does it mean there’s a fatal flaw in  your musicianship?  i ask this in all seriousness, because this weekend i had another experience like several others over the years, when i found out i can do certain jazz-type things with some kind of competence, but my limits are narrow and there are so many quite simple things that just defeat me.  i got a call to be a substitute for a band’s regular keyboardist in two days of back-to-back gigs where i did a few hours of background trio/quartet jazz during the afternoon and then laboured in the rhythm section of a 16-piece swing/cabaret/show band for hours more in the night.

well, the afternoon part was ok and, even if i say so myself, i thought we made a nice job of running through the bread-and-butter jazz stuff (bernie’s tune, corcavado, blue bossa, you get the idea).  but the night work was torture.  i hate the keyboard pad in band arrangements.  i hate the way they’re written and the fact they have to be opened out to about a metre wide.  i can generally handle chord changes at sight, but i’m a crap dot-reader even with time to work on the part.  furthermore, 16 musicians plus four singers of assorted genders means almost infitinte scope for disagreements, fights, tears, temperament and  general showbiz bullshit.  by the time i got home at 3:30 last night, i’d come to one of those life decisions: no more swing bands, no more cabaret, no more shows.  i can’t do it, i haven’t the musicianship or the personality to handle the demands.  i’ll just stick to what i can manage, steer clear of neurosis and ego issues, avoid sight-reading written keyboard scores and try to get to bed early.

i’d be interested to know if any you real musicians have had this experience of crossing some kind of boundary between what is possible and interesting into the land of what-am-i-doing-this-for-and-when-will-it-end?  does the fact that i can’t handle sight-reading the transcription of the piano part of “in the mood” mean that my  very nicely crafted solo on “long ago and far away” is, to use another old british expression, just a load of old flannel?

excuse this long and rambling post.  you can tell i’ve had a kind of rite-of-passage experience, and i need to obey professor freud and get it out in the open.

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Volume 1 of this educational jazz piano book contains 15 jazz piano exercises, tricks, and other interesting jazz piano techniques, voicings, grooves, and ideas Scot Ranney enjoys playing.

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