Gwen Gets to Work

The Jazz Pianist

July 20, 2020 Gwen / James Season 1 Episode 15
Gwen Gets to Work
The Jazz Pianist
Chapters
Gwen Gets to Work
The Jazz Pianist
Jul 20, 2020 Season 1 Episode 15
Gwen / James

Do you know your notes? Join in with the game as we test the Jazz Pianist on his musical ability and find out from him what it means to be a professional musician.

We also get to listen to the Jazz Pianist's top three jazz piano tracks of all time, which is very inspiring. Here they are in case you would like to look them up:

Someone to Watch Over Me by Brad Mehldau
Take Five by The Dave Brubeck Quartet
Köln, January 24, 1975, Pt. 1 - Live by Keith Jarrett

I am a 7yr old. My name is Gwen Rose. I wanted to do this podcast so all the girls, boys and me could learn about what adults do all day. Visit our website for past episodes and to find out what's coming soon: https://gwengetstowork.com/

Produced by Enigma Records: https://enigmarecords.co.uk/

Support the show (https://www.gofundme.com/f/gwen-gets-to-work/)

Show Notes Transcript

Do you know your notes? Join in with the game as we test the Jazz Pianist on his musical ability and find out from him what it means to be a professional musician.

We also get to listen to the Jazz Pianist's top three jazz piano tracks of all time, which is very inspiring. Here they are in case you would like to look them up:

Someone to Watch Over Me by Brad Mehldau
Take Five by The Dave Brubeck Quartet
Köln, January 24, 1975, Pt. 1 - Live by Keith Jarrett

I am a 7yr old. My name is Gwen Rose. I wanted to do this podcast so all the girls, boys and me could learn about what adults do all day. Visit our website for past episodes and to find out what's coming soon: https://gwengetstowork.com/

Produced by Enigma Records: https://enigmarecords.co.uk/

Support the show (https://www.gofundme.com/f/gwen-gets-to-work/)

Gwen :

Have you ever been asked, 'what do you want to be when you grow up?'

Gwen's Mum :

Gwen Gets To Work

Gwen :

I like talking to people. And they like talking back to me. Well, that's what I think. One day I asked my mum, how do I know what I want to be when I grow up? My mum said, if I interview people about, like their jobs and things like that well, I will find out and like, all the people who are listening, um, you will find out too, if you don't know. Let's get to work! In this week's episode I interviewed a Jazz Pianist and we played a fun game. You can play along too if you think you know your notes.

James :

Okay, great. What was the last one you had Gwen? Who was the last person you interviewed?

Gwen :

Yesterday I interviewed an adventurer, Kam.

James :

Oh, yeah.

Gwen :

Er, that's probably the most recent one.

James :

Cool.

Gwen :

I interviewed a beekeeper and it came out on Monday.

James :

I saw that, I looked at it on YouTube! Amazing.

Gwen :

I would like to test you on your musical ability. Are you up for a game of 'Guess the Note?'

James :

Okay.

Gwen :

Okay, great. Here we go!

Clip :

Round One

James :

C A Flat D

Clip :

Excellent

James :

Well that's a C major chord That's an F major chord That's just a horrible noise

Gwen :

[Giggles]

James :

Did I pass?

Gwen :

Yep!

Clip :

Outstanding

James :

Excellent.

Gwen :

When you are a little boy, what did you want to be when you grew up?

James :

Well, when I was a really little boy I wanted to be a fireman. And after that I didn't really think about it very much. I just wanted to do whatever I enjoyed. And I thought, I'll decide that later on when I have to.

Gwen :

So, when did you first start playing the piano?

James :

I first started playing the piano when I was, I think I was five years old. And I can remember that I had a teacher - I think her name was Mrs. Forbes or Mrs Forsythe or something like that - and I used to have to sit next to her on the piano stall to learn the things I was playing. And if I made a mistake, she would push me off the stool.

Gwen :

Ow.

James :

So I quickly learned not to make any mistakes. And that way I got to stay on the stool.

Gwen :

Horrible!

James :

It wasn't that bad, really. She was very friendly.

Gwen :

I would just leave the class if she kept doing it to me, 'cause I make lots of mistakes.

James :

Everybody makes mistakes. I made lots of mistakes, and I still do.

Clip :

[...]

Gwen :

How did you learn to get good?

James :

Well, that's a good question. The most important thing is practice. Practice, practice and more practice. And I think it's a combination of that and actually enjoying what you do because unless you enjoy playing the piano, then you don't want to practice. And when I was small, there were lots of times when actually I thought, you know what, I'm fed up of practising now. And so I'd say to my mum and dad, "d'you know what I can't be bothered to practice anymore. I don't want to play the piano". And they would say, "Okay". And then I wouldn't do any practice for a couple of days. And then afterwards, I think I'm a bit bored actually, I did quite like playing the piano. So maybe I will start practising again. And then the more you practice, the better you get, and the more you want to practice, and it just goes and goes like that. And eventually, you enjoy it so much that you just want to practice all the time,

Gwen :

And then you get better and better at it.

James :

And then that's how you get better and better. Exactly. You have to keep it going though. Because even when you get good, you can't stop. It's like people who are you know, football players or athletes. You have to keep practising otherwise you stop being quite so good.

Clip :

[...]

Gwen :

Did you always want to practice or sometimes your parents have to make you do it?

James :

Well, I mostly wanted to practice, not not always want to do it very much. But normally if I decided I didn't want to practice, then I just wouldn't and then my parents wouldn't make me do it. They just said, "well, that's up to you, James. If you don't want to play the piano, then that's up to you. If you don't practice, you won't get better". And then that was, I would say they encouraged me to practice but they didn't force me and then, you know, after a time, I just started to really enjoy it. And then I wanted to practice all by myself.

Gwen :

How often do you practice now?

James :

Oo, not enough. Now I probably practice about once every two weeks. Because the problem is I have another job now. And also, I have small children, so I've got to look after them. So there's lots to do. There's lots to do. So I don't have time to practice as much as I'd like to. But I probably practice about once every two weeks, as I say. I really should practice every day and even if it's just for a few minutes, but I just don't have time.

Gwen :

How long does it take to learn a new song until it's easy for you to play?

James :

Well, that depends. Depends on how difficult the song is, with a lot of the songs that I learned to play, they are what you call standards. And that means that they are, all songs are different, obviously, but a lot of them have quite a lot of similar things in common. Lots of the same patterns, lots of the same things you have to play on the piano. So if I was learning a new standard, then that wouldn't take very long because I just have to, you get to learn the melody line. And then all of the music underneath would normally go quite quickly. But if it was a very difficult piece of music, then it might take me several weeks to learn it properly. I remember I played a song at my wedding. That took a long time to learn because it was a, it wasn't a standard it was a different sort of song. It was quite difficult and also had to practice that when my wife Jessica was was not there. So it was difficult to do that - took a long time. But it just depends.

Gwen :

Yeah. Do you look forward to going to work?

James :

Yes, I do. Well, I look forward to going to work - do you mean my music work?

Gwen :

Yeah.

James :

Yeah. Um yes, absolutely. Sometimes you feel a bit tired and you just don't want to go and play a concert, play a gig. But most of the time yeah, definitely look forward to it. I mean, they've got they've got the fun thing about playing gigs is that you know, you've been practising. If you've been practising on your own, you've probably been practising with other people, if you're going to play with them and at the gig, that's then an opportunity to have some fun, put it into practice and entertain people, which is very much, it's very enjoyable.

Gwen :

Yeah. I have a challenge for you. Can you name your top three favourite jazz piano tracks of all time?

James :

Gosh, top three favourite jazz piano tracks of all time. Well, one of them is probably a piece which doesn't really have a name, I think it's actually called Part One, which is from an improvised concert that was performed by Keith Jarrett in something like 1975, a long time ago, and he didn't, um, he just sat down and played. And the first piece that he played, I didn't have a name and so you just call it Part One. But that was a piece of music that I listened to, for the first time when I was at school, in in the library of my school, and I put on some headphones, I thought, what's this, and I was transfixed. And so that's always stayed with me. That's a very, very important piece of music for me. Now, that's one. Let me think if I can name two others. All time favourite jazz piano tracks. Well, I suppose another one actually would be a song called Take Five by Dave Brubeck, which is a song which my mother used to play to me on a record player when I was a child. And it was before I really knew how to play any jazz and so I just listened to the sounds of it. I couldn't play it, but I like listening to it. And I used to like it so much that I wanted to put it on all the time. So my mum said that I was limited as to the amount of time to play at once a day or once a week, two days or something like that. And I'm glad that she did that because then I never got bored of it. It's a very popular piece of music and you hear it a lot but I still like it. So that's two. Let me see. The third piece of jazz piano music that's my favourite of all time. I'm gonna have to take a minute to think about that. So just give me a minute.

Gwen :

My mum, ah, makes me stop playing my music. Um, because, you know, like, Siris and Alexas.

James :

Yes.

Gwen :

I have a Google, and she does sometimes tell me to stop playing music.

James :

Yeah I know that's the thing isn't it.

Gwen :

'Cause I play a song over and over again.

James :

Yeah because sometimes, you know, if you play things over and over and over again, then you just get bored of them, and then you don't want to listen to them anymore. And that would be a shame. So you know, so it's quite good. So I mean, it might not feel very nice when your mum tells you to stop playing piece of music, but you should probably be grateful because she's telling you good. It means that you can still enjoy it. Still trying to think of my third piece of music. I guess I should probably choose a piece of music, a song by the person who's probably my favourite jazz pianist, who is a guy called Brad Mehldau. He's an American jazz pianist. He became famous in the sort of late 1990s and the 2000s. I'm going to pick one piece of music that he played in a live concert in Tokyo in Japan. And it's a song called Someone to Watch Over Me. And he used to say he played this. He played this live in this concert. It's a very, it's a very well known song. It's a jazz standard, which is what I was just talking about earlier on. But it's a very beautiful piece of music and the way that he plays it really is beautiful. So I recommend that you listen to that.

Gwen :

Okay, I will!

James :

Excellent.

Gwen :

Can you describe exactly what it is like doing your job?

James :

What exactly it's like...well, I guess I would say there are two things parts to it. One is the practising part. And the other is the performing part. In some ways, they're quite similar, but the practising part is very repetitive and quite lonely sometimes. You're sitting in a room on your own playing the piano, and you're playing the same thing over and over again, to try and get better at it. And sometimes not even playing a piece of music. You're just moving your fingers in a particular way, a bit like training on an athletics track, to get your fingers moving in a particular way. And that can be quite tiring, but it's also, it sort of feeds your brain. So you feel like you're, um, you feel very satisfied at the end of it. And then you know, you might do something else for a bit, do something else for a couple of days, come back and do the same thing again. And then suddenly you find that you can play it better. And so that makes you feel good. And then you carry on and that's how that works. And then the second part of it actually playing concerts and gigs. In some ways, it's similar because you're concentrating very carefully on what you're playing. But you have this sort of feeling that, you know, people are listening to what you're playing, and you sort of feel connected to them. And it's almost like you're having a conversation with them. And you're, you're talking to them even though you know, they're not, they're not saying anything, but you can tell that they're listening and you can see sometimes on their faces, how they're responding to your music. So it's a real good feeling of interacting with people who are listening to you playing. And also particularly with jazz music, when you're playing with other people that's very much like having a conversation almost. You look at them a lot, and you can see what they're thinking. Sometimes you can anticipate what they were going to play. And you can really share in the experience. So it's a real sort of good, good feeling of communicating with people even without using words.

Gwen :

Because you're in London, is it good that you can play performances outside of your house? Because of the corona virus?

James :

Yes, absolutely. I mean, unfortunately, at the moment, it's even difficult to play concerts outside for most of the things that I do, because the main group that I play with at the moment is called a big band, which is a group of about 17 or 18 musicians, and then we play jazz music and similar kinds of music. And although we do normally play a lot of concerts outside in the summer, these concerts have, unfortunately been cancelled because of the coronavirus. Because obviously if you're sitting with a big group of people, we have to sit quite close together and we're not been able to. We can't do that at the moment. We will say can't rehearse inside, of course. So, haven't been able to do any of that. But if you're on your own, obviously, it's a little bit different. And I don't know if you could say I've done any concerts outside, but there have been a couple of things in my street, actually, where we had gatherings of people, ad everyone staying two metres apart of course, but where I could sit on my doorstep and play the piano for people, and some of them we had songs where everyone sang along and so on. So that's that's been great. And, probably should have done more of it really but yeah, that's lucky. Lucky to be in a street where there are lots of friendly people and as you say, it's in London so there are lots of houses close together, which means people can watch without having to leave their houses.

Gwen :

In normal times is it helpful to live in London for this job?

James :

Definitely, definitely yes. Because i England at least London is one of the places where the most jazz music happens. There are lots and lots of people who live in London who either are good at playing jazz music or like to listen to jazz music. There are lots of good places where you can go and hear jazz music. And it's important if you're a musician, not just to play the music, but also to go and hear other people playing. And so London is - it's not the only place in England by any means where you can do that - but it's a really good place to see good good musicians. And it's a good place to to play with other good musicians. I'm really lucky that I live about a mile from the place where I rehearse with my big band, which is in central London. And there are lots of good players that come and and rehearse there. And it's not easy to find that outside of London. So yeah, it's great.

Gwen :

Do you eat at work?

Clip :

[...]

James :

Yes, I do eat at work. If you're talking about playing gigs then, normally, uh it depends on the sort of thing. Sometimes eating is you just take a sandwich, or a bowl of pasta in a Tupperware box and eat it sat on a chair somewhere in a dressing room while you're getting ready to play and you're crowded in with various other people. Sometimes you get a meal made for you in a restaurant, if you're playing a gig in a restaurant or something or maybe you're playing music for a wedding. You know, some some gigs are really good because you can play maybe for an hour so then you get a bit of time off and you can actually go and eat a really nice meal and then go back to playing. So sometimes in that kind of thing it actually feels not really like you're working. It feels like you're at a party having a good time and the food is a good part of that.

Gwen :

Who pays you?

James :

Who pays me? Um, quite a lot of the time, no one pays me. And I have to do what I'm doing for free. But most of the time, it's the people who are listening to me play. So if you are playing for a wedding, then the people who are paying for the wedding will pay for you. And if you're playing in a pub, or playing in a jazz club or something, then normally you get paid by the people who own the pub or the jazz club. But sometimes the money that they get for the concert to pay you with, comes from all the people who have come to listen. Now most of the time, that's how it works. Sometimes you'll go in a pub, and actually they'll pay you a small amount of money which doesn't directly come from people who've come to the pub because they don't have to pay to buy a ticket or anything. But because there's music in the pub, lots of people come to listen to to it, and then the idea is that they spend lots of money eating and drinking. And that gives the pub more money to pay you. But ultimately, the money comes from people who are listening to you playing.

Gwen :

All right. Okay, thank you, James. Now, I know you are really busy today, so I'll let you go.

James :

Okay.

Gwen :

I think I have a good idea of what a jazz pianist does now.

James :

Great. Well, thanks very much for interviewing me Gwen. That's okay. Bye.

Gwen :

Bye! Have a nice day.

Clip :

[...]

James :

So probably when I said that was horrible noise actually, that was inaccurate because I could probably have told you what the notes were.

Clip :

[...] Final round

James :

That's an E, an F, a G and an A.

Clip :

Excellent

James :

Ah, that's interesting. That was almost like a whole tone scale with D, A, B and a C sharp in it.

Clip :

Outstanding

James :

Oh that was, there's a lot in there that one. It's like a C major six chord

Clip :

Impressive

James :

Oh that's easy that's an E and an F, and an E Flat C and an E Flat in there

Clip :

Well Done

James :

Oo that was a little squeeky C sharp at the top there. And again? There was an F in there and then you were squealing at the top in like a B and a C. It was delightful. Well done.

Gwen :

Well done. Bye.

James :

Bye bye, see you soon.

Gwen :

Thank you for listening and remember to rate, review and subscribe, please. In next week's episode, I will be interviewing an oceanographer who lives in Texas, which is extremely exciting. My class topic was oceans, so some of my school friends are going to help me interview him. It's the last episode before we take a bit of a break for summer. End of term special - don't miss it! Transcribed by https://otter.ai