Tracks of the Day

Not quite every I’ll be posting a track from my archives with a little blog post that tells either the story behind the track or what the music brings to mind. You’ll find a pretty even mix of solo piano, songs, and larger ensembles here—reflecting, I guess, my output in general.

The Song in Between

The Song in Between

Lyrical Improvisation The song in between what? In between all of the other non-song stuff that happens?  That can't be it because I really think of all my improvisations as extended songs—tunes that go beyond standard song form to be sure, but are fundamentally still songs at heart. Heart. That's the key to creating lyrical improvisation that aren't stupid. Staying in touch with one's heart. Musically speaking, that's never been a problem for me.About the Track: The track emanates from a new...

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Hello, Keith Jarrett

Hello, Keith Jarrett

was with either my ex-girlfriend or my dad when I first went to a Keith Jarrett concert. Either way, she was there, which may be the reason why it was also the last.  I should go again. I was 15—beginning my sophomore year in high school—and had several of Jarrett’s records in my collection: The Köln Concert (solo), a few with his classic quartet (Dewey Redman on sax), and another with his more avant-garde experimental works for various ensembles. In general, I loved his...

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Anatomy of a Badass Bob Dylan Cover

Anatomy of a Badass Bob Dylan Cover

Or Why Most Covers Don't Uncover Anything New   This is my badass cover of the Bob Dylan classic, Blowing In The Wind. The original idea for the groove and pedal-point in the bass came when I was playing with my son Emanuel (5 at the time.) He was playing his toy bongos. I was on the somewhat-in-tune Acrosonic spinnet in the living room.  And as usual, when it was playtime with the kids, I was trying to not-so-surreptitiously sneak in a little "me time." In this case composing, or, more...

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08/01/2020: Not by Danny Elfman

08/01/2020: Not by Danny Elfman

Not by Danny Elfman This track is not by Danny Elfman. You remember Danny Elfman. He wrote several dark noirish movie scores for Batman films and the like back in the 1990s. Also Spiderman 2, and others. Like me, he’s also a singer-songwriter. But the composition that makes some think that this composition NOT by Danny Elfman actually sounds like it is, is his theme song from “The Simpsons,” which has probably made Danny very rich. To be clear, “Spooky Freaky Music” has not made me rich. It...

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07/31/2020: To Compose or Improvise?

07/31/2020: To Compose or Improvise?

To compose or improvise. That's the question? Composing and improvising are often thought of as two sides of the same coin. Composition, we say, is written down improvisation. Improvisation is spontaneous composition. (Preferable to spontaneous combustion for sure.) In an episode of my podcast late last year, pianist/composer Jean Michel Pilc and I discussed these ideas extensively. Jean Michel is convinced that there is really no difference. And I have always striven to make my improvisations...

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07/29/2020: Trippy 1980s Vibe

07/29/2020: Trippy 1980s Vibe

My son, Emanuel, loves the trippy 1980s vibe of this tune. And indeed, when I recorded it back in 1988, that's what I was going for. Well, not so much the 1980s part as the trippy part. I do love creating the illusion that I was taking LSD, but no, I never did. Music-induced trippiness is safer and more interesting—at least musically. Though there have been cases of drug-induced musical trippiness that worked quite well: Hector Berlioz's Symphony Fantastique and the Beatles' Strawberry Fields...

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7/28/20: Long-Form Free Improvisations that Feel Short

7/28/20: Long-Form Free Improvisations that Feel Short

Long-form free improvisations tend to...wander, losing their direction like a lost soul blowing with the wind, this way and that. But this improv is focussed. Or at least I say it is. As with the shorter free improv from the 7/24/20 TOTD entry, this comes from an earlier Piano Diaries Album (actually, the first.) It works for the same reason as the shorter one. And it's simple. It states a theme and develops it incessantly. Too incessantly? Maybe so, but you can follow the thread. It makes...

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7/27/20: Short Songs that Feel Complete

7/27/20: Short Songs that Feel Complete

Short songs that feel complete, that don't feel like a prelude or set up to something longer are a challenge. Does this one, from my album One Human Minute work? Methinks it does. But then again, I'm using the word "methinks", so what do I know? What I do know is that the energy coming from guitarist Steve Roberts' tracks really helps the build towards a satisfying conclusion. All in just over a minute.

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Track-of-the Day: Indeterminacy

Track-of-the Day: Indeterminacy

07/26/2020 This track, from my Kabbalah Blues/Quantum Funk (2000) is a kind of -free-for-all study in musical quantum weirdness. Although it is tightly structured around the two themes stated right at the beginning, there are a lot of semi-random clashes between the two. In other words, an intricate mix of improvisation and composing on said themes. Can you tell which is which?

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7/24/20: A Highly Melodic Improvisation

7/24/20: A Highly Melodic Improvisation

This is a good example of highly melodic improvisation. It comes from the first volume of my ongoing and occasional series, Piano Diaries. The challenge for me is to create accessible, relatable improvisations that don't sound like new age, smooth jazz, simplistic pop...or in general dumbed-down. to the point of being sleep-inducing. The key to making it work? Develop improvisations thematically.  In other words, stick closely to the theme, but don't be afraid to develop it.

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