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  • Writer's picturestephensgerald10

I wasn't being dangerous, I was just asking the big questions.

Intensity has been inside me the whole time. I hung out with the outlaws, the fighting boys when I was a kid, even though I usually wanted to be peaceful, the drinking/getting high tough dudes in high school, even though I wouldn't do that with them. I started all that stuff in college.

I am smart and pretty well-disciplined when I want or need to be. I made A's mostly in school. All A's and B's forever, except for that one religion class when I was a youngster in the studio all the time. I made a C in that class.

But I liked to hang out with the bad guys, the nerds, the writers and musicians, drama geeks, anyone who was different than the norm. I had no trouble with anybody, but I wasn't too close friends with anyone either. This was all throughout school.

In college I came to jazz, avant-garde classical, punk and avant-garde pop, grunge, deeper levels of the classic rock and psychedelic bands I had gotten into during high school. Mostly from a roommate who turned me on to psychedelic experiences with Coltrane, Philip Glass and William Burroughs, and a good friend or 3 in the dorms who were jazz students, and deep into it too.

Later, while performing on Memphis and Mid-South stages, I really learned about music. Learning to play jazz while hearing it for the first time in my 20's was nuts, and I am still fixing all the problems caused by that and some earlier problems, well into my late 40's. But it did get this MS white boy on stage with Stevie Wonder material, when I had only heard Superstition before. I learned so many classic songs that had been kept from me even though I was alive as a kid when many of them happened. I guess just because my folks only listened to country. And they didn't play the country history in the 70's. Sad. I learned much of it later.

Trying to learn jazz didn't work for me at first, but it gave me an opportunity to get experience in blues, soul, r & b, rock, and country that I couldn't have gotten without knowing some of the musical patterns of past American genres.

And my technique was so shitty. Always. I was in such pain at 25 at the piano, with pain coming up my arms from the fingers, through the elbows, up to the shoulders and down the back. It really took me until 42 to really find enough good teachers to get through proper training and know what to do and what not to do. I am currently still undoing the 40 plus years of not so good physical approaches to the piano. It is working. I haven't had terrible pain at the keyboard in years now, but I still have to really work at it daily.

Anyway, I learned all that music performing in bar bands, while also trying original bands, funk bands, jam bands, while working to learn modern jazz. I got to work a lot in a swing band that played Ellington and Basie, so I can swing correctly.

After my Master's in classical at 42, I decided to spend some time backing away from modern jazz and try to focus on and get work in rock and blues. It worked well up until the pandemic. Now I am back in jazz training, but this time I know what I do and don't have, I know what I want in my playing, and how to get it, and I have spent the last year, whenever I wasn't feeling too painful, or when I wasn't recovering from surgery, really working on it. I get it and I want it more, I know what it is, and I see how far I have to go, and how much I have to work to get somewhere better with this.

Getting stuck alone musically speaking, has been so good for me. I have something to say other than to backup great vocalists and songwriters, or playing blues gigs and cocktail piano bar gigs. Not that I won't still do some of that if they will have me, but the 6 years of all that being my main focus is done. I have sort of turned a corner, I suppose you could say,l and I have the understanding and ability to develop myself into an instrumentalist with something to say. Since I can, I now must.

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