Loading...

Brick's Picks: F***ing Pianos, How Do They Work? 

Thursday, Mar 17 2011
Comments

We still haven’t the vaguest idea how a piano works. Well, we know how it works, literally. You press a key and a little hammer plunks down on a wire and the wire resonates and you got a note. Do a couple at once, you got a chord. Pump the pedals for effects. We know that. But how it goes from that chord to, say, Bud Powell or Oscar Peterson is a complete mystery. We see Monk do a fist clomp on the keys and he makes jazz. We get real drunk and we sound like Cecil Taylor, but Cecil Taylor makes jazz and all we get is someone yelling to get Brick away from the piano.

So how jazz pianists do what they do completely mystifies us: 88 keys, 10 fingers, feet at the pedals and even an elbow or two when they get carried away, and out of those ingredients they make the most amazing music. We sit and watch their hands dart across the keys, listen to the panoply of sounds, freak as the improv turns unbelievable.

But how to explain that in words?

Related Stories

When the best gig of the week is a piano player, we feel pretty helpless telling you exactly what it is he does and why. We can say Theo Saunders plays beautiful piano. That he picked it up in the days when Trane’s quartet was really happening, changing everything, and McCoy Tyner was doing all those grand, long sweeps and gorgeous clusters of chords dropped just right. And Monk was still happening, too, his playing spare, punctuated, dramatic. Saunders soaked all that in. So we’ll say that, and hope you get the idea. It’s a sextet gig, and man, does he have the killer sextet, with Chuck Manning on tenor and Zane Musa on alto, trombonist David Dahlsten, bassist Jeff Littleton and drummer Tony Austin. They jam hard, no matter how obtuse the composition (Saunders can get pretty eclectic), and the up-tempo pieces can get crazy hot. Best of all, it’s a release bash for his too-long-awaited Intergeneration. At Charlie O’s on Thursday, and no cover.

Then there’s pianist Alfredo Rodriguez. He’s one helluva player with a very intense technique, a lotta notes. You’ll think Art Tatum in places, almost. Quincy Jones caught him at Montreaux, dug it a lot, and got him on the bill at the Playboy Jazz Festival, where Rodriguez was impressive indeed. We’d been wondering where he’d gone (these virtuoso types have a thing about woodshedding) but he’s back, courtesy of Jones again, at Vibrato on Tuesday. It’s a trio gig, and should be pretty thrilling. $20. And the Foundry on Melrose is also always good for energetic piano trios, and they have the brilliant pianist Mahesh Balasooriya on Friday and Vardan Ovsepian on Saturday. Mahesh especially is a thrill to catch live.

Some great saxophone playing this week, too. The iconic Pharoah Sanders is at Catalina’s Friday through Sunday, drawing out the faithful. The man played with Trane at his most intense and had a great string of releases on Impulse!, and that alone keeps the fan base steady. Still wails, too. And NYC alto Jim Snidero is back (with pianist Bill Cunliffe) at Vitello’s on Saturday, an excellent player. Bob Sheppard is across town at Vibrato the same night. We’re always raving about him. At Charlie O’s on Wednesday the under-recognized alto saxophonist Gary Foster joins bass great Chuck Berghofer. You have to experience Foster’s perfect tone. Mighty bassist Christian McBride begins a Catalina’s stand on Thursday with his five-piece Inside Straight!, with its sax-vibes-piano combination.

And the Blue Whale pushes things outside and electro this week, beginning with pianist Richard Sears switching to Rhodes for his band Rick, whose self-titled debut we dig a lot. Sears is quite a pianist, you can see him at the Foundry often enough. But this project is as rock and groove and trance as it is jazzy, and that can be a real good thing. Then drummer Jason Harnell’s Sigmund Fudge (with Joe Bagg on keys, guitarist Jamie Rosenn and bassist Ryan McGillicuddy) stretch in odd, angular ways we really like on Saturday, and bassist Daren BurnsOnibaba (a sextet featuring Vinny Golia playing sax and everything with a reed plus some) go some weird and ethnic places on Wednesday.

Related Content

Now Trending

  • What Was Hip-Hop's Worst Year? We'll Tell You

    Everyone seems to agree that 1994 was hip-hop's best year. We don't exactly disagree.  But what was hip-hop's worst year? No it's not, as so many stick-in-the-mud hip-hop traditionalists say every year, "this year." In fact, it was, unequivocally, 2008. And here's why.  The Gnarls Barkley Effect As much fun as...
  • Why Your Band Shouldn't Play Benefits for Free

    Are you a musician? Is your group having issues? Ask Fan Landers! Critic Jessica Hopper has played in and managed bands, toured internationally, booked shows, produced records, worked as a publicist and is the author of The Girls' Guide to Rocking, a how-to for teen ladies. She is here to...
  • At Zorthian Ranch, a Return to Bohemia

    The parties Jirayr Zorthian threw at his ranch in the foothills of Altadena were invitation-only events, yet everybody in Los Angeles seemed to rub elbows there: Caltech physicists, modern artists, Pasadena bluebloods, jazz musicians, the famous and infamous, hipsters, hippies and hedonists of every stripe came to dance, drink and...
Los Angeles Concert Tickets

Slideshows

  • Air Guitar Championship Semifinals @ The Troubadour
    The Southwest Semifinals of the US Air Guitar Championship were held last Saturday at the historic Troubadour Club in West Hollywood. The event determined who would compete as regional representatives at the 2014 National Finals in Kansas City on August 9th. The colorful contestants (many of whom opted for elaborate codpieces) were judged by comedians Kristen Schaal and the Sklar Brothers. The top score was awarded to crowd-surfing guitarist Kingslayer, the mother of a teenage son who also competed wearing little more than an American flag bathing suit. All photos by Gustavo Turner.
  • Lucha VaVOOM @ The Mayan Theatre
    Lucha VaVOOM to The Mayan Theatre on Thursday night with a dose of their Sexy, Hot, Summer FUN! show to a packed house. With all the girls, guns and muscles what could go wrong? All photos by Timothy Norris.
  • The Best L.A. Concert Scenes of 2014 (So Far)
    With more secret shows, more once-in-a-lifetime performances, and more venues than any place else, there is no doubt that L.A. is one of the top places on the planet to see live music. Here are the best concert scenes of 2014 (so far).