Solo Piano

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Solo Piano

Postby fred » Wed Jun 29, 2005 3:04 pm

There is always something unique--to me even sort of spell-binding when I hear a player effectively sing & play solo. I realize there are lots of folks to listen to & I don't really know how to explain success/effectiveness/etc. (I simply know it when I hear it!), but some just catch my ear more than others. I want to learn to play along w/o the trusty cd/tape/whatever. Anyone care to share some insights &/or thoughts on the topic?
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RE: Solo Piano

Postby doc williamson » Wed Jun 29, 2005 8:48 pm

[updated:LAST EDITED ON Jun-29-05 AT 07:12 PM (EST)]>There is always something unique--to me even sort of
>spell-binding when I hear a player effectively sing & play
>solo.

Fred, you are my kind of guy. You describe what I try to do for a living but I'm a hack compared to so many wonderful piano Blues players/singers. I know exactly what you mean and I wish Ray Charles had done an album of just his singing and his piano.

>I realize there are lots of folks to listen to & I
>don't really know how to explain success/effectiveness/etc.
>(I simply know it when I hear it!), but some just catch my
>ear more than others.

There are so many greats. A good way to find out what appeals to you is to go to Amazon.com and listen to the 30 second sound clips of each song on an album. Try early Champion Jack Dupree, Big Maceo, Roosevelt Sykes and Leroy Carr and see if you like them. Most of those are prewar Blues solo piano and vocalists and I think that will get you started. Others would be Booker T. Laury, Skip James, Little Brother Montgomery, Jimmy Yancey and so many more.

The postwar giants like Memphis Slim, Otis Spann, Sunnyland Slim, Professor Longhair, Dr. John, James Booker and others have solo CDs but many times played in a band situation.

>I want to learn to play along w/o the
>trusty cd/tape/whatever. Anyone care to share some insights
>&/or thoughts on the topic?

OK Fred, I was with you until now. If you have a great ear and can play what appeals to you then more power to you. The very foundation of playing and singing Blues piano is listening to the greats and picking up their style and nuances. What happens when you listen and study these giants is you will find you start mixing the licks of Maceo, Laury, Dr. John, Spann, Slim, etc., and you will have a piano gumbo that is your own style. I don't think I ever mastered anyone else's licks, I always added something of my own. You will also come up with your own licks and find the direction you want to take your playing. You will find classic songs that appeal to you that you want to play and sing and you will find nuggets that are rarely heard especially by the prewar piano men that you'll want to learn. Some will move you and some probably won't.

There are a few Blues piano players/singers here on BRB and we're all glad to help. You might want to look in the archives for piano lessons, links and other topics under this category.

How much piano do you know? Do you know the chords? Can you play a good lead? A boogie? A shuffle? We'll try to help at whatever level you are on.

Good luck and stay with it.

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"I chose to sing the blues." Ray Charles
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RE: Solo Piano

Postby doc williamson » Wed Jun 29, 2005 9:06 pm

[updated:LAST EDITED ON Jun-29-05 AT 05:08 PM (EST)]Hi Fred ~ I just went over to soundclick and listened to my one original song posted. I'm not happy with the vocals (in parts), the uneven tempo of the piano playing, some sloppy piano licks and the mix in general. Small wonder my solo CD is two years in the making and with no end in sight. But, it is what it is. If you would like to hear my vocal and piano style this would be a taste of it but the well is much deeper.

http://www.soundclick.com/docwilliamson

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RE: Solo Piano

Postby fred » Thu Jun 30, 2005 2:56 am

Hey Doc! So good to hear from you--and thanks so much for such a thoughtful & insightful response to the post. I have no doubt that the valuable info that you shared will enlighten not only myself but also other forum members who aspire to playing blues piano.

I've had some ups/downs recently, but I've tried to stay fairly current w/BRB posts for the past several mos--you guys/gals have shared a ton of priceless bits of knowledge that have really helped to direct my future playing. Doc, I have listened to you & other folks who have music posted @ Soundclick--all I can say is: Great Work!!!

I'm inspired & quite amazed at the astounding range of talent that "is" BRB! Doc, along w/what you suggested, one event that prompted my post was a solo performance by Harry Connick Jr on a PBS tribute to George Jones. HCJr interpreted "She Thinks I Still Care." When he started, I didn't really react, but as he settled into a "spellbinding" groove, I was hooked! Then & there, I determined that what I needed to do to succeed in playing was learn to be comfortable playing w/others as well as solo!

I want to share more w/you & fellow players later (sack time!)--it was really good to make contact/hear from you again! Hpe we hear from others who will share their thoughts! To everybody @ BRB--Best Regards! Fred
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RE: Solo Piano

Postby papatex » Thu Jun 30, 2005 2:29 pm

Hi, Fred- Everything Doc said and play, play, play. Play as much as
you possibly can. Play (at times) when you don't really feel like
it. B.B. King said "obsession breaks down barriers". It can also
lead to divorce, but that's another story. I've been working seriously
on my Blues piano playing for going on 6 years and I can now play
a 20 minute solo gig. :-( Half hour tops. That's 5 or six tunes
that I know well enough to attempt with somebody watching. I
sincerely hope your leaning curve is shorter, because my slow
progress has led to some serious frustration, even to the point
of wanting to give up. Happily, this frustration is in remission,
and I'm able to revel in my little successes, and my love for the
music prods me on. Let's face it, this is hard!! Much of the time
progress is measured in tiny increments. Thankfully there are those
wonderful "breakthrough" times. My whole approach is based on
getting myself to the point of being able to set up somewhere and
play a solo gig, my logic being that if I can pull that off, I
should certainly be able to play with a band. I actually did put
in a year as the weakest link in a pretty good Blues band, which
was good for me too....But back to the point.....Play, play, play!!
(did I mention play?) I forget who said this little jewel: If
you've got the Blues crawling under your skin, you'll be able to
shake it out the end of your fingers. All the best to ya! Mike KIng
p.s. I saw that George Jones special too, and I agree, the H.C. Jr.
performance was great. To my ear, the tune (one of the great classic
country tunes) was not translating real well to Harry's Blues bag,
but what a middle solo he played!! That boy is a monster!!!
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RE: Solo Piano

Postby doc williamson » Thu Jun 30, 2005 3:15 pm

Did Tex mention to play? That is the only way you will become proficient. May your love of the music carry you through the rough spots in learning. You'll get the hang of it, it takes time as with anything new. You can buy all the piano giants on CD, lesson books with CDs and DVDs but you'll never pick it up by osmosis. You have to play. But, interestingly the osmosis will come as you play and listen to the greats. It is an exciting journey.

I'm sorry I missed the Harry Connick, Jr. song on TV, it must have been great. I lived and played in New Orleans in the mid 1980s. Every Sunday morning in the French Market, Ellis Marsallis and his band would play. I tried never to miss him, he's a piano player that would inspire the dead. Almost every Sunday these kids would sit in. Yep, they were Branford and Wynton Marsallis and also Harry. Great players then and now.

An interesting side note about Harry. As a kid he took lessons from New Orleans piano wizard James Booker. Harry's Dad was the District Attorney in NOLA at the time. James was a hard core junkie but a brilliant player. Harry's Dad not wanting that kind of influence on his son fired James. When James died at 40 years old he was buried in an unmarked grave. A junkie alienates his friends including Dr. John, Connick and a host of other NOLA players. No one bought a marker for him until a few years after his death and that was purchased by two fans who never knew him. What is so interesting is to hear Harry and others put their spin on James Booker and how much they liked him now.

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RE: Solo Piano (to Doc)

Postby papatex » Thu Jun 30, 2005 4:11 pm

Doc- Man, that had to be a gas living down there with access to
to those caliber musicians and their art. That's another thorn in
my side, living literally in the middle of nowhere, with little chance
of changing it. There is the ocassional rare visit to the boondocks
by some known acts, (Leon Russell is playing within a half-hour of
my house tomorrow, and I'll be there with bells on), and we have
the Wortham Blues Festival in Sept. honoring native son Blind Lemon
Jefferson. Other than that, there's a very healty Blues scene in
Dallas, but I'm 2 hrs. away from the clubs. But that's o.k., Dallas
ain't quite ready for me anyhow-;-) Hey I got a new computer, (our old
old one crashed) soon as I get the speakers plugged in (gotta find
em again first) I'll check out your tune. Great weekend to everybody-
Mike
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RE: Solo Piano (to Doc)

Postby doc williamson » Thu Jun 30, 2005 7:59 pm

[updated:LAST EDITED ON Jun-30-05 AT 04:22 PM (EST)]Fred ~ We are going to hijack this thread a little but it is all about piano and players.

>Doc- Man, that had to be a gas living down there with access
>to those caliber musicians and their art.

Mike, it was a gas. I lived there for two years and in an apartment in the French Quarter at the corner of Ibberville & Royal Street over Messina's restaurant. Playing on Bourbon Street and other clubs in the Quarter are memories I will always treasure. I was always aware of the fact that I was walking in the footsteps of giants in The Quarter. The quality of players was amazing and I learned more chops in two years there than at anytime in my life plus I learned so many variations of that New Orleans funky syncopated beat. I saw several Jazz Funerals and Second Lines. No one does a burial better than NOLA folks. Many of the finest players on Bourbon I knew never "made it big" but part of that has to do with integrity and staying true to yourself and your music.

Please don't think I'm name dropping on the following. Anyone that takes the adventure of a lifetime and lives and plays in NOLA, for a length of time, will have the same magic happen. The local artists I got to know and learn from were The Neville Brothers (especially Art), Dr. John (when he was in town), Fats Domino (a great man & his son played in one of the clubs I did) and my very favorite Cousin Joe, who is a much overlooked piano great.

Cousin Joe was in his 80s when I knew him and was the truest Bluesman I have ever known. He was like Lightnin' Hopkins only his instrument was piano. He wrote and played hilarious song/stories and would talk for hours about playing in the brothels, his travels, the players who were his peers but made it bigger (Louis Armstrong, Champion Jack Dupree, Roosevelt Sykes, Jelly Roll Morton, Tuts Washington, Professor Longhair and many others) and all without a hint of bitterness or self pity. I think he has only one CD reissued from vinyl but he had a ton of great stuff on vinyl that should be on CD.

Guys coming through town that I talked to and/or played with were Stevie Wonder, Eric Burdon, Doc Pomus, Delbert McClinton, John Phillips (from The Mamas and Papas and a very cool guy) and others. It was a great period of my life.

>Leon Russell is playing within a half-hour of my house tomorrow, and >I'll be there with bells on).

Mike, I love Leon and I hope he isn't a disappointment to you. The last two times I saw him his voice was only a whisper of its greatness, he layered his keyboards so much it sounded like mud and he always played in the pocket without any of those breakout classic Leon licks. I hope he puts on a great show for you.

>we have the Wortham Blues Festival in Sept. honoring native son
>Blind Lemon Jefferson.

Now this is exciting to me. He was one of the first Texas Bluesmen and a great influence on so many. Is his grave in Wortham? I understand it "wasn't kept clean" until a few fans took it upon themselves to see that his song request was filled and "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean."

Also, I have a friend in Texas working on getting me the coolest US license tag, the Texas plate with Blind Lemon Jefferson on it. The second coolest is a Mississippi tag and I have the third coolest on my van, Florida's John Lennon Imagine plate with the extra money going to Florida food banks.

>Other than that, there's a very healty Blues scene in Dallas, but >I'm 2 hrs. away from the clubs.

The same friend getting me the BL Jefferson tag lives in Dallas and she told me they don't have a Blues scene. But, she is into blues/rock like SRV, Johnny Lang, KW Shepherd, etc. So maybe she doesn't know.

>But that's o.k., Dallas ain't quite ready for me anyhow-;-)

Mike, I know you only have 20 minutes - 1/2 hour worth of material but, I would rather listen to a good player for 20 minutes than a wannabe for 2 hours.

>Hey I got a new computer, (our old old one crashed) soon as I get >the speakers plugged in (gotta find em again first) I'll check out >your tune.

I'm over critical of my work thus my "soon to be released CD" is overdue by two years. However, I would be interested to hear what you think of that song, warts and all, as outlined in another posting on this category.

You all have a great 4th! Starting tonight I have 6 gigs in the next 5 days and I think it is only because I dress well.
Doc

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RE: Solo Piano (to Doc)

Postby papatex » Fri Jul 01, 2005 2:01 am

Doc we have certainly hijacked Fred's original thread, but I bet he won't mind. Yes, Blind Lemon's grave is in the black cemetery in
the tiny hamlet of Wortham, which is about 20 min. from my front
porch. I understand that when the Dallas Blues Society undertook
the purchasing and placement of his headstone a few years ago, they
spoke with as many of the old-timers in the area as they could
about the exact location of the grave in the cemetery. Of course,
as with so many of the pre-war greats, there is some ambiguity
regarding the precise location, but the consensus among the
older locals pointed to the present gravesite. I stop by a
couple times a year and leave some token,(a blown harp,etc.)and drop a buck or two in the donation box. The annual festival seems to
be growing some, but thus far the talent has been limited to
regional acts. Still, a nice little one day affair. You have
to consider, we are smack in the middle of ranch country.
Lightnin' Hopkins hailed from Centerville, 35 or 40 miles
to the south on I-45, and I understand that as a kid he would
make his way up to picnics and other gatherings where B.L.J.
was playing and pester him to let him join in. Blind Lemon
would snap at him telling him to "Play it right if your gonna
play, boy!" You can check out the festival at
http://www.worthambluesfestival.com. As to the Blues scene in
Dallas/Fort Worth, you can get an update at http://www.knon.org,
which provides this link: http://www.geocities.com/bluesdfw. KNON
89.3 FM is a listener-supported community station with
very eclectic programming , but every weeknight 6-8 pm
we have Texas Blues Radio, with a different dj every night
playing every type of Blues in the book, from the early
20's to present. I was just checking out the club listings,
and I had to chuckle,-half of them warn you to "be careful-
rough area!" Dallas is a friggin' war zone! Well, check y'all later-Mike
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RE: Solo Piano (to Doc)

Postby papatex » Fri Jul 01, 2005 2:08 am

I think I screwed up those links, try these: http://www.worthambluesfestival.com
http://www.geocities.com/bluesdfw
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RE: Solo Piano (to Doc)

Postby papatex » Fri Jul 01, 2005 12:37 pm

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RE: Solo Piano

Postby fred » Fri Jul 01, 2005 7:26 pm

Hey Mike, Doc! I enjoyed the tidbits passed along by you both. I last saw LR in Memphis several years back--already goin downhill somewhat even then--but I'll never forget his performance on ACL w/Edgar Winter (late 80's--early 90's???). I never tracked down the name of the Amazon black lady who sang w/them--she was absolutely awesome! LR was at the top of his game w/Tightrope & the wail of EW's sax--mind altering!

I meant to tell Doc that I looked for him @ the KB Blues Fest last fall--rained most of the day on Friday & I hit there in time to catch JCleary, pick up 4doz Pasquale's hot tamales & a quart of twist in WHelena & head to the house--maybe we'll hook up come Oct'05.

I've pretty well got a few of RC's tunes down: Let's Go Get Stoned, Drown In My Own Tears, A Fool For You, Hard Times, Together Again, Cryin Time, & Busted, but it's tough on a couple to keep things goin solo! Guys, do either of you play Warm Your Heart &/or Turn Me On? ANeville does super job on WYH (DJohn on piano!) & NJones covered TMO by JDLoudermilk.

Mike--if you don't mind sharing, I'd really like to know the songs you are singing/playing--same w/Doc! Maybe then we can swap some technique stuff (I really think that's a lot of what I need now--like for ex. certain times to use comp type voicings (Mike, remember HCJr stabbing the keys on the GJ song--like in the key of F voicing for the I(F):LH=F&Eflat & RH=ADF; then the IV(Bflat):LH=Bflat & Aflat & RH=DGBflat--get the groove goin with just stabbing/alternating the 2 chords. Also, you can maintain a RH voicing (GCF) for both the F & Bflat while alternating F(EflatAD) & Bflat(DAflatC) w/LH. Make sense?

Sometimes these simple yet effective measures you just happen to tune in on by communicating W/others! You guys have a good holiday wkend! Keep the groovething cookin Doc! Saw MMcDonald on Soundstage Thurpm--Super Group; Super Sounbd! I'm mighty happy @ 60 & Billy Preston stillllll rocks mightfully!!!
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RE: Solo Piano

Postby papatex » Sat Jul 02, 2005 3:49 pm

Fred, I certainly don't mind sharing, but remember I'm at best an
advanced beginner/early intermediate. Doc for one is way down the road
from where I sit. I'll try and get back on and talk some shop after I
recharge for a while Whew!! Big night last night!! Went wild and
drank 4 beers!! Mike
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RE: Solo Piano

Postby doc williamson » Sat Jul 02, 2005 7:31 pm

[updated:LAST EDITED ON Jul-02-05 AT 03:38 PM (EST)]>I meant to tell Doc that I looked for him @ the KB Blues
>Fest last fall--rained most of the day on Friday--maybe we'll hook >up come Oct'05.

Sorry I missed you Fred. I played Thursday afternoon (the only non rainy day) under The Blues Revue Magazine tent. Saturday afternoon I played in The Delta Cultural center directly behind the main stage. We had a good crowd in there because it was raining so hard during Robert Lockwood, Jr.s set on the main stage plus Sunshine Sonny Payne was there and he broadcasts out of that building and it is like a museum of Blues memorabilia in the DCC. It was a real treat.

My wife and I stayed at The Shackup Inn in Clarksdale and I played a few juke joints and also Pinetop Perkins' homecoming at Hopson Plantation with a few heavyweights.

I don't know if we'll be at KBBF in '05. But, I try to get to The Delta once a year, it restoreth my soul, and maybe we can hook up.

I missed Jon Cleary and he was the one act I most wanted to see.

>I've pretty well got a few of RC's tunes down: Let's Go Get
>Stoned, Drown In My Own Tears, A Fool For You, Hard Times,
>Together Again, Cryin Time, & Busted, but it's tough on a
>couple to keep things goin solo! Guys, do either of you
>play Warm Your Heart &/or Turn Me On? ANeville does super
>job on WYH (DJohn on piano!) & NJones covered TMO by
>JDLoudermilk.

Fred, you are way ahead on playing than what I remembered and you're playing some great songs. I don't know either of the ones you asked about.

>Mike--if you don't mind sharing, I'd really like to know the
>songs you are singing/playing--same w/Doc! Maybe then we
>can swap some technique stuff (I really think that's a lot
>of what I need now--like for ex. certain times to use comp
>type voicings (Mike, remember HCJr stabbing the keys on the
>GJ song--like in the key of F voicing for the
>I(F):LH=F&Eflat & RH=ADF; then the IV(Bflat):LH=Bflat &
>Aflat & RH=DGBflat--get the groove goin with just
>stabbing/alternating the 2 chords. Also, you can maintain a
>RH voicing (GCF) for both the F & Bflat while alternating
>F(EflatAD) & Bflat(DAflatC) w/LH. Make sense?

It makes perfect sense and is very effective. The style you mention Harry doing reminds me of Memphis Slim. I learn so much from videos/DVDs if they show the hands playing. The Dr. John videos helped me.

Playing solo I don't comp very much, I'm almost always playing octave rolling bass patterns, boogie woogie licks and sometimes a two fingered chord inversion down low.

When I play in band situations I play the RH but with a GOOD bass player in the band I'll stab the root of the chord with my LH. I need to work on effective comping.

Song list? Oh my :-)
I have a pretty big repertoire and my song list is in the van for tonight's gig. Here are a few show stoppers I do to act as a starting reference point. I'll list who did the version that influenced me most but I do my own versions:

F - Let The Good Times Roll - Ray Charles
F - Georgia, On My Mind - Ray Charles
E - Baby What You Want Me To Do - Jimmy Reed
Bb - Such A Night - Dr. John
G - Got My Mojo Working - Muddy Waters
E - Built For Comfort - Howlin' Wolf
F - Boom Boom - JL Hooker & as a sing-a-long
Bm - The Thrill Is Gone - BB King
C - Turn On Your Love Light/Can't Turn You Loose - BB Bland/Otis Redding
F - What'd I Say - Ray Charles & as a sing-a-long
G - Try A Little Tenderness - Otis Redding
F - Iko, Iko - Dr. John
F - If You See Kay - Memphis Slim

Having written just those few songs on paper, they seem lifeless to me. I work very hard to get and keep the audience on my side (in the bar and drinking), getting them laughing, keeping them involved, tell them stories about the songs and history (not as dry as it sounds), tell them how terrible they are on sing-a-longs while playing but I'll give them another chance AND "I'll keep doing this song all friggin' night until you get it right." etc.

>Sometimes these simple yet effective measures you just
>happen to tune in on by communicating W/others!

Yes, and all players on all levels have something to share. I have learned so much not only from other players but also watching major talents like Memphis Slim, Lightnin' Hopkins, Muddy, Wolf, etc. and how they work the audience.

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RE: Solo Piano

Postby ricochet » Sat Jul 02, 2005 9:22 pm

I think about everything Booker T. Jones did (with the M.G.s) was in F! I like their stuff, and remarkably enough, so does my wife. She's been putting my CDs of them on while doing housework.

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