NYU Black Renaissance Noire Fall 2013 - Page 14

“Yep…same thing Dizzy (Gillespie) told me,” Miles said, “he told me: ‘Miles you wanna master the trumpet—learn to play the piano.’ Now Diz can play some piano, too!” “Wow Dizzy on piano?” 12 “You never heard Diz on piano Bobby? Oh yeah… he’s on some early stuff with Bird.” “No but, I’m going to check that out. So, Mr. Hunter spent a lot of time with me after class teaching me basic piano theory and giving me stuff to work on. I got the big picture real fast. I’d skip social studies classes and lock myself in the private piano practice room when the band room was free. I worked out chord progressions and practiced jazz tunes every day. I began to see the shape of the scales and chords as a family of notes in relationship to other extended families and so on. Mr. Hunter also had a big band called The Moonlighters. He was surprised at my rapid progress and would let me go set up music stands and sit in on a couple of numbers on their gigs. It turns out that some of the members of Earth Wind and Fire’s horn section came from his big band along with Red Holt and Eldee Young. I only stayed there for two years cause after my mother passed away, we relocated to North Carolina. By that time I could play anything I heard in any key. That’s the kind of training I received in Chicago. Later, I studied arranging privately and the writing just came naturally. I decided to study business in college since I already played music professionally.” BRN-FALL-2013.indb 12 m Richard Irving III and Miles Davis. Rendition or Audition? “Bobby,” Miles suddenly said, “why don’t you go play something on the piano... hasn’t been tuned lately, but it’s not too bad.” Now Miles didn’t know me as a pianist. On the recordings he’d heard, I played Fender Rhodes electric piano, clavinet, and a little Minimoog synthesizer. Did the “Prince of Darkness” summon me to his palace for an interview and audition? He did make it sound more like a casual invitation. Yet I couldn’t help but think he would size me up in comparison to jazz piano giants like Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett. “Sure,” I said, though feeling a little nervous. “Is there anything in particular you’d like me to play?” “Just play you… whatever you feel comfortable playing.” I sat at the piano, adjusted the bench and looked down at the keys as if they might inform me what to do. The white keys looked back at me like smiling teeth, as if to say: “We’s not a player-piano boy, so you better be a piano player! Now! Or else!” However, Miles’ words made me feel a little less self-conscious. So I trusted my intuition and allowed that familiar, inviting feel of the smooth piano keys to arouse my fingers, initiating tactile tingling, awakening my inner muse. It’s almost like the blood flow that engorges a penis making it erect. Similarly, my fingers became aware and somehow knew what to do without the help of my brain, which could often get in the way. My five phalanges left and right listened, instead, to my heart, enabling me to float on the keys uninhibited. So I started playing, freely traversing blues, gospel and jazzy idiomatic styles. Feeling intrinsically grounded, I immersed myself in these pianistic expressions until the music felt as if it flowed through me from the source. 9/13/13 12:47 AM