Friday, November 09, 2007

Jazz Piano - Why I'm Not a Big Fan

I used to like Jazz a lot. Back when I was a wee teen living in Philadelphia. I tuned into my local Jazz station - which also happened to be a public radio station as well (big surprise.)

Anyway, the Jazz I heard was upbeat, good natured, and lively. Even though I didn't "understand" the music, I could appreciate the muscianship and unbridled enthusiasm shared by the players.

But I don't really listen to Jazz that much today. And as far as Jazz piano goes, I'm not a big fan. Why? Probably due to my personality.

You see, I'm an introvert. I like quiet things. Things that go at their own pace and don't have to keep a steady beat (as required in Jazz).

I prefer legato to staccato and enjoy the freedom of timing allowed in the New Age piano style. Here, there's no rush or need to keep up with other players or to keep strict time. It's all very rubato in the New Age piano world.

Personally, I have nothing against this music. It's just not my vibe - so to speak.

Edward Weiss is a pianist/composer and webmaster of Quiescence Music's online piano lessons. He has been helping students learn how to play piano in the New Age style for over 15 years and works with students in private, in groups, and now over the internet. Visit now and get a FREE piano lesson and book!


  1. It's not my vibe either, Edward. I guess I'm a purist. I prefer the steady structure of the classics. I don't put down anyone who studies or likes jazz. It just isn't my genre.
    Barbara Altman
    P. S. Let's here it for introverts! We get a bad press sometimes!

  2. Interesting...i'm definitely an introvert, or perhaps a compensating agoraphobe (afraid to go out) who is thought of as extroverted (tours internationally, plays about 50 concerts a year...). I have to say that aLOT of introverted people enjoy jazz as an expression of something they just can't bring themselves to do...rather than numb themselves with music that isn't very energetic, chromatic, or, to be honest, challenging. There IS a kind of vibe with some jazz that says, "who cares if you listen"...and that's just not cool...and I suspect you guys have been victimized by this approach 1 time too often. If you listen to a tune on my new record "Naked Dance" called That Damn Tango Thing Again, or Far Away and It's Okay it might redeem your faith in the piano as an appropriate thing for you. There there's Keith Jarrett's Facing You or just about ANYTHING by Paul Bley. It'll all be okay, and please don't write off us pianists!! Really!!

  3. Keisha Kovacs10:00 AM

    I guess I'm an extrovert...solo piano playing is way too lonely for me. I much prefer playing with other musicians and sharing the experience. I want people to be able to tap their toes while I play, or! Hence the need for a steady beat. But hey, too each his own.

  4. Jazz can be introverted too. Listen to Bill Evans' solo piano 'Peace Piece' on the album PORTRAIT IN JAZZ. He starts with a Satie-like riff and improvises, very simply and sparsely at first, gradually getting more and more atonal. Just two chords all the way through.

    I agree that a lot of jazz pianists play too many notes, and are just interested in showing off their technique, which gets really boring. But what jazz has that many other music forms lack is rhythmic vitality. Rhythm is life. Life is rhythm. Music that consistently ignores this is missing an important dimension, in my view.

    I find that most people who knock certain styles of music, whether it's classical, pop or jazz, turn out to be very ignorant of that style. Jazz is such a huge field now that there's something for everyone - you've just got to find it. If you've already decided it's not for you then you will never find it!

    I teach jazz piano (as well as playing it), and my pupils sometimes say to me that they don't classical piano. I always think a statement like that reveals a colossal ignorance, How can anyone not like Chopin? Or Bach? They're really just telling me that they haven't ever really listened to the classical piano repertoire.

    1. Anonymous2:51 PM

      I could not agree more with Tim. The more I grow in playing jazz or improvised piano the more I must draw from other musics. Since that is what jazz always has been( music that welcomes any sounds created by humans from all cultures) the act of improvising can be drawing on some of the sounds experiences before( sometimes finding a new effect or way of playing with rhythm and use of silence and enticing your listener with expectations and then surprises. Some of this can be in any genre as well. That's the beauty of it( open acceptance of ideas and welcoming new takes on them. We all steal ideas from eachother.

  5. I mostly agree with Tim Richards (above), although I don't agree that rhythmic vitality is lacking in other genres. By the way, the Bill Evans piece Tim referred to, Peace Piece, is a gem that any fan of "new age" (more of a marketing term than an organically derived musical genre) should love; interestingly, Peace Piece started as an intro to the Leonard Bernstein song Some Other Time, but instead of actually going into the song proper, Bill just kept going with the improvisation, and we're glad he did!

    But while my own predilection also leans toward quieter, contemplative, slower rhythms, there is plenty of jazz that fits this description, and it's readily available waiting there for those who think that they don't like jazz to discover and fall in love with. Speaking of falling in love, just listen to any recording of When I Fall In Love by Keith Jarrett (or just about any ballad performance by Jarrett) ... sublime and introspective (I prefer that term to "introverted"), I challenge anyone who thinks that they don't like jazz to not appreciate its deep beauty.

    And not just Jarrett, but Bill Evans (as Tim rightly mentioned), Fred Hersch, Larry Goldings, Tord Gustafson, Lyle Mays, Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell, Ralph Towner, Jan Garbarek, and so many other master jazz musicians who make this kind of introspective music. Check it out, and hopefully you'll never say you don't like jazz ever again.

  6. George Mitchell8:19 AM

    Hey Fred, I'm a friend of your brother Mark. He's subbing a few gigs for me here in Portland. I love all the artists you just mentioned and have met Keith Jarrett, Fred Hersch and Larry Goldings.Love Paul Bley and John Taylor as well, lots of contemplative music.

    I have friends that play New Age and are better known locally than myself. Each to his/her own. Nothing against the triad chord or triad/add2 arpeggiated in the left hand,it's just that I enjoy the richer chords found in jazz. Jarrett,Metheny and even Vince Guaraldi have used triads in beautiful ways however. Slower introspective music is wonderful.

    Please check out my "Ballads" CD on CD baby. Loved Simon/Bard back in the day!