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On why my friends are more talented than I am

February 4, 2011

So I just got back from hearing Ken Ge and Friends at the Cafe Django downtown. The Cafe is a cool place; Carolyn and I went once before to see Ken. I sat at the bar, since I couldn’t find anyone to drag along with me, which was fine until some stupid undergrads showed up. It was a good gig, and reminded me how much more talented my friends are than I am.

I’ve known Ken since he was a freshman at Furman at the ripe old age of 16 (he’s a year behind me, but a freak and skipped two grades). My first memory of him is playing in a combo with him my sophomore year; a memory that was recalled on the way to the gig when a tune came up on my iPod (which is on a constant loop) in my car. The first tune I ever played as a fledgling jazz pianist was “Tom Thumb.” It’s a Wayne Shorter tune, off of Schizophrenia. This was my first experience playing real jazz (not out of the Charlie Brown Christmas book, or “How to Play the Blues”), and my combo was me on piano, Ken on bass, Mark on alto, McMillan on trombone, and Vince on drums (I think that’s the whole group). None of us knew what we were doing, and our teacher/coach Matt Olson wrote out voicings for me so I wouldn’t sound terrible.

I remember thinking that we were hot shit, but also that our time was terrible. I didn’t have any sense of how to comp, our drummer had never played jazz, and Ken was struggling playing a Latin vamp (something like the bit below) on his cheap electric bass. He couldn’t find the damn beat, and I certainly wasn’t helping things.

Fast forward a couple of years, and Ken is auditioning for IU’s jazz program on electric bass, and getting in. Now the dude is playing acoustic and sounding like he has been for years (I guess all that Suzuki paid off, or whatever). His band tonight was killing it (Nick Syman on trombone, John Vallejo on alto sax/bass clarinet, Michael D’Angelo on drums). His time was solid, his tone was fat, and his lines were melodic and angular, depending on the tunes. His arrangements captured the essence of the tunes, and his lines laid down the harmony despite not having an instrument to play chords. Ken’s solos were motivically coherent, musically logical, and groovin’.

Hearing Ken’s group, and remembering how terrible (no offense) he used to be, made me wish I had dedicated more time to becoming a decent jazz pianist, rather than just sort of half-assing my way through it like I have been. I realize I’m pretty decent at writing about music theory, but sometimes I wish I were better at actually playing.

But Ken is the man, and you should check him out.  www.kengemusic.com

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One Comment leave one →
  1. notitiae permalink
    February 7, 2011 10:20 am

    Nice graphics… Great ! Wonderfull post, greetings for the blog too, by NotitiAe.
    We suggest our link, photoes and video at: Gabin

    http://notitiae.wordpress.com/2011/02/05/third-and-double-gabin-visioninmusica-2011-terni/

    Simona Molinari international star at:
    http://notitiae.wordpress.com/2011/01/16/croce-e-delizia-tour-io-sono-il-canto/

    Good reading… in Italian but musica is internationale… No?

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