Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Jazz Appreciation

Robert Greenberg Recommends: Roger Kellaway

It’s been a while since I blogged about my favorite jazz pianists. A new crush calls me back to the (computer) keyboard. That pianistic crush is the magnificent, in-every-way spectacular Roger Kellaway. Roger who? Roger KELLAWAY (born in Waban, Massachusetts on November 1, 1939), thank you very much. In fact, whether we’re aware of it or not, most of us have heard Kellaway play, as his performance of his song “Remembering You” concluded the classic Norman Lear-produced TV show “All in the Family” (which ran from January of 1971 to April of 1979). I first became aware of Roger Kellaway in the very early 1970’s when I acquired his album “Roger Kellaway Cello Quartet”. The album featured Kellaway on piano, Joe Pass on guitar, Chuck Domanico on bass, and – yes – a cellist named Edgar Lustgarten. I liked the album okay, but I sold it – along with most of my records – when I moved to California in 1978. Maestro Kellaway promptly fell off my radar and – boohoo for me – remained thus until about 6 months ago, when a friend came to dinner. The friend is a super guy named Lenny Paul, who at 86 years […]

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Greenberg Recommends — Vince Guaraldi

Back in early autumn, I ran a series of blogs on my favorite jazz pianists. With your indulgence, I would resume with a wonderful – if somewhat under under-appreciated – pianist, whose name I will broach in due time (not that you haven’t just checked the bottom of the post). But first, a necessary screed. The holiday season is finally behind us, and for a humbug like me, I’d hazard that IT’S ABOUT TIME. Consider this: Hanukkah started at sundown on November 27, the day before Thanksgiving. Figuring that the “holiday season” runs through New Year’s Day, that’s a holiday season of 36 days, a full 9.86% of the entire year. There’s just so much good cheer and rapacious consumerism a person can indulge. So it’s time to put the tree out by the curb, toss away what remains of that toxic, rum-infused fruitcake, brace ourselves for our credit card bills, and settle in for the winter, with the knowledge that Spring Training (and with it the rebirth of life as we know it) is but six weeks away. For me, one of the biggest problems of the extended holiday season was the non-stop music. Now don’t get me wrong; […]

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Greenberg Recommends: Oscar Peterson

I was sixteen years old when I bought two record albums that changed my life. One was called “Oscar Peterson at the JATP” and the other “Oscar Peterson on Prestige”. “Oscar Peterson at the JATP” [‘Jazz at the Philharmonic’], the producer Norman Granz’ touring jazz mega-show] is available on a just-released, four-CD set called “Oscar Peterson, Live Recordings 1952-1958”, issued by the UK-based “Coda” label. Sadly, the set is not available in the United States for reasons inexplicable. However, it can be found on iTunes, and I would single out in particular a cut called “Come to the Mardi Gras” that cooks like a roomful of industrial ranges set on “broil”. With Ray Brown on bass and Herb Ellis on guitar it is – in my opinion – a must have despite the fact that it can only be acquired from the evil audio empire, the Starbucks of recorded sound (iTunes). In the name of great music we do what we must. The other album named above – “Oscar Peterson on Prestige” – is indeed available, albeit under a different title. The circumstances behind its creation are fascinating, and it’s a story I’ll tell in a moment. But first, a […]

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Greenberg Recommends: Tony Williams

It was sometime in the spring of 1980. I was a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, living in a studio apartment in a dilapidated old brown shingle house south of campus, across from a package store. I made my dollars as a teaching assistant in the music department and by giving private lessons. When folks called the music department looking for a theory or composition teacher, I was the person to whom they were referred. As a result, I received a lot of calls from prospective students, a few of whom actually took a lesson or two. So I didn’t pay all that much attention when I received just such a call of inquiry from a guy who identified himself as “Anthony”. Anthony told me that he wanted not just theory, analysis, and composition lessons, but that he wanted the equivalent of an undergraduate music education, from start to finish. I told him that that would take years. He told me that he was prepared to do whatever it took, including taking lessons twice a week, no small thing considering that he lived about an hour away, in the chi-chi village of San Anselmo in Marin County. […]

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Robert Greenberg Recommends: Erroll Garner

The jazz-inspired revelation that changed my life at the age of fourteen was foisted on me by none-other-than the Elf himself: Erroll Garner. My dad had a number of Garner LP’s among the various stacks in the record cabinet, most notably the albums “Concert by the Sea” and “Soliloquy”. These records literally drove me wild, and if you had lined ‘em up side-by-side with a scantily clad Gina Lollobrigida and asked my testosterone-ravaged 14 year-old self to choose between the records and the sex kitten, I would have (eventually) chosen La Lollobrigida, but grudgingly and only after a few minutes thought. That’s how crazy these records made me. “Concert by the Sea” was recorded on an open reel tape deck by a serviceman named Will Thornbury when Garner and his trio performed in a church outside of Carmel, California in September, 1955. Garner’s manager Martha Glaser took the tape and played it for George Avakian at Columbia Records. Boom: the LP was made and just like that it climbed to the top of the charts, becoming gone of the most successful jazz records of all time. All these years later, this record still has the power to drive me absolutely […]

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Robert Greenberg Recommends — Chick Corea

It’s a standard question in a literary interview to ask an author “what books are on your bedside table.” We humans are, by our nature, voyeurs, and we can’t resist knowing what authors are themselves reading. (What we’ d REALLY like to know is what’s in their medicine cabinets and sock drawers, but that’s a question that – sadly – rarely comes up in interviews). The equivalent question for a musician would be “what music is in your car CD player/MP3player/iPod/iPhone/iPad/8-track cartridge/turntable (vinyl phreaks unite!)/gramophone (78 r.p.m. crazies unite!), or Edison cylinder Dictaphone (crazies!)”? Let’s make this personal. “Bob, dude, what’s is in your car CD player?” The answer: over the last year, way more often than not, it is the music of Chick Corea. Armando Anthony “Chick” Corea was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts on June 12, 1941, making him – today – a sprightly 72 years-old. As is so often the case with jazz musicians, Corea – unlike a concert pianist – did not hone his skills under the watchful eyes and ears of a particular set of mentors/teachers. Jazz is an oral tradition, and the only way to “learn it” is to live it: by listening to jazz […]

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New Jazz Appreciation Series

As a young’un, I played the usual instructional piano stuff, starting with the then ubiquitous pedagogic set by John Thompson, red-covered piano books beginning with a series called “Teaching Little Fingers to Play” and then moved on to “John Thompson’s Modern Course for the Piano.” By the time I was fourteen I could play a handful of Beethoven Sonatas, Bach’s Two and Three-Part Inventions, some Chopin and Schubert, a batch of Romantic fluff, and blah blah blah. Truth be told, I was bored with the “classics”, and while I spent a good bit of time writing my own, primarily rock ‘n’ roll flavored ditties, I stopped practicing the piano. And then I was hit by the bolt from the blue, my epiphany, my life changer: at the age of 14, I discovered jazz. Here was a music with all the rhythmic intensity of rock ‘n’ roll but magnified – to my ear, a gazillion fold – by the polyrhythmic magic that is swing. I was gob-smacked by the harmonic complexity of jazz , by its melodic sophistication, its discipline, its conversational nature and its freedom from the printed page. I began practicing the piano again and by the time I […]

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