The Greatest Jazz Ballad Ever Written Performed By The Composer Who Couldn't Read His Own Music

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Comment by Ron Powell on October 29, 2018 at 3:36pm

The studio recording that taught me how to play "Misty":

Comment by Tom Cordle on October 29, 2018 at 4:39pm

I was hoping that was the song you had in mind, and I wholeheartedly agree on all counts. In the same vein, I'm fond of a response Louie Armstrong, when asked if he thought he might have been an even better musician if he'd learned how to read music. Louie's response was as accurate as it was succinct: "If you ain't got it, you ain't gonna get it."

Comment by Ron Powell on October 29, 2018 at 5:59pm

This live performance is about as good as it gets...Just look at his hands. And, if you look at his face you can see that he thoroughly enjoyed sharing his gifts...

Comment by Ron Powell on October 29, 2018 at 6:08pm

Louis Armstrong was arguably the greatest jazz trumpet player of all time...Only a white reporter would ask such a condescendingly stupid question....

Can you identify the greatest classical trumpet player of all time? Of course not... Why? Because at the end of the day they can't help but sound exactly like one another...That's what 'r'reading'' does for you...It turns music into some kind of stylized intellectual endeavor.....No heart or soul whatsoever....

Comment by Tom Cordle on October 29, 2018 at 10:08pm

Sorry, Ron, but I can't agree about classical musicians. Case in point, watch pianist Vladimir Horowitz in Russia, in particular, his rendition of Schumann's Traumerei from Kinderszenen Op. 15:

There is plenty of heart and soul in that performance, and Horowitz needed no histrionics or over the top virtuosity; this was just a gifted old man expressing himself and evoking deep emotions through his music. In the end, that ability to communicate, to convey honest, heartfelt emotion through one's performance is what makes a performer great. In that regard, the genre matters not. Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and Ray Charles, to name some of my favorites, had that ability in spades.

In short, there are many paths up the mountain, that is to say, many ways to move someone with music.

Comment by Ron Powell on October 29, 2018 at 11:56pm

Horowitz is indeed and extraordinary exception to the rule...My repertoire includes a brief sampling of the piece you mention...My favorite performance by him:

Comment by Ron Powell on October 30, 2018 at 12:20am

But you still càn't name the world's greatest classical trumpet player.... However, Wynton Marsalis does come to mind:

Comment by alsoknownas on October 30, 2018 at 6:26am

I learned this around age 24 when I took chord melody lessons for jazz guitar. While my instructor was open to improvisation he was adamant that any standard, as difficult as it may be to be play should never be transposed to a different key. 

As a point of curiosity, do you follow that way Ron?

BTW: A past client used to call me on Sunday mornings to chat. He always had classical music playing fairly loudly in his hotel room and told me he had a great admiration for the music and those who play it. It was quite interesting to me. Doc Severinsen is still renowned as a bandleader and jazz trumpeter.

Comment by Ron Powell on October 30, 2018 at 7:59am

If your intention is to play a piece as the composer intended it to be played, or interpret the intentions of a composer, a piece should be played as written...

However if your intention is to create an entertaining adaptation, transpose at will...

It is in this way music of various genres is heard by those who might not otherwise hear or listen to it...

Comment by Tom Cordle on October 30, 2018 at 8:42am


I would add to the list Miles and Brubeck. Two of my all-time favorite jazz albums "Kind of Blue" and "Time Out", both released in 1959, are still selling decades later. Same goes for Eddie Harris' "Exodus to Jazz" album, released in 1961; my favorite cut on that is "Alicia". Same goes for Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" and "The Wall", and Fleetwood Mac's "Rumors".

As for evocative vocal performances, Chet Baker's rendition of "My Funny Valentine" takes me to another world; his voice and horn become as one in that marvelous version. Same sort of melding occurred with the pairing of Cleo Laine and flutist James Galway on the album "Sometimes When We touch". Then there's Billy Holiday's scathing take on "Strange Fruit". And then there's Sara Vaughn, Joe Williams ... obviously, I could go on and on ...

Those with a mercenary bent will dismiss music as mere adornment, but I wouldn't want to live in a world without it. Music, like virtue, is its own reward.


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