Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Getting Schooled

Just listened to a terrific 2002 interview and performance by Russell Malone on Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz. You can hear the entire archived show here. Stories of young players getting humiliated-- "schooled"--by veterans is one of the most durable tropes in jazz oral history. Malone's version involves the great organist Jimmy Smith and the tune "Laura." Invited on stage by the great Hammond B3 player a cocky 21-year old Malone struts everything he's got on a blues. Then Smith calls a ballad, Laura. As the guitarist struggles through the tune, Smith messes with the time and the changes. A chastened Malone slips off stage. But it all turns out well--Smith hires Malone for his group soon after.

Even though I've read and heard these stories many times over, I still find them completely gripping and satisfying. Even the best struggled. Everyone had to practice. Cliches, I know, but still inspiring. I've never been in anything close to what Malone describes, but I have sat in at jam sessions and struggled through a tune, unable to string a coherent melody together or remember chords to comp. At least when it happened to me, I didn't have to face Jimmy Smith pointing a finger in my chest chastising my overconfident attitude.

1 comment:

  1. Andrew,
    I've been working with the Barry Harris method and found your blog useful. Just curious where you today in your jazz guitar quest and what approaches you've found most helpful.