Oh, if Beethoven could only see Walter Carlos now. What would Ludwig say about the electronic keyboards of today? I can only imagine what a great improviser as he could do with an ARP260O. In the last issue I discussed the role of the guitarist in today's "JAll/ ROCK.- This month we will examine some innovations and innovators of keyboard music in JAll/ ROCK as well as JAll and ROCK respectively.
-Paul Bley in Scorpio,- released in the early Seventies, was to many the first major Jazz LP to feature synthesized keyboards. Pink Floyd was one of the first rock bands to employ sound produced by these new electronic entities in their already spaced out music. The Floyd introduced many of their peers to the mellotron. ARP2600, and the moog synthesizer. Herbie Hancock, the prodigal pianist found on countless (you can count them if you like) Blue Note sides, is responsible for much of the catalystic effect electronic keyboard work has had on the development of "JAll/ROCK." His album "Crossings" was a futuristic contribution to this fusion.
A major reason for the widespread use of electric keyboard instruments is their portability and ease of use among artists who handle more than one instrument live. Just imagine Edgar Winter or Billy Preston wearing a Steinway Grand Piano around his neck.
There are many very directional piano players however, who will not go without the lush acoustic sound of a concert piano. McCoy Tyner is an excellent example of this. Until his "Trident" LP, McCoy never did any electric playing. On that album he plays a clavinet merely as an introduction and a reprise on a few compositions. Bill Evans, an infinitely capable and totally creative pianist, has recorded maybe only twenty percent of his music with electric piano. Oscar Peterson is a more traditional player who never uses these new keyboards to enhance his almost perfect sound. I say almost perfect to compliment Peterson's growth and paramount accomplishments over the years.
Players such as Evans and Peterson date back to a more traditional period in acoustic Jazz playing. Musically they represent the father/son relationship bequeathed to them from such greats as Art Tatum, Bud Powell, and Duke Ellington. In the future I think we will see this same sort of tradition characterized in artists who are just being accepted by audiences today. Keith Jarrett's "Solo" and "Koln" concert sets are just a glimpse of what he will give us in the years ahead.
Uniquely capable of self-accompaniment, the keyboard player is often times the focal point in any musical composition. Whether it be Vladimir Horowitz executing Mozart, George Duke sharing the stage with Frank Zappa, or Chick Corea returning from forever, you can bet your low B-flat that keyboards will always be a major component of the fine art of music.
CAL TJADER "Amazonas" Fantasy F-9502
Jazz LP's come flying through the marketplace every week of the year. Nowadays, Jazz is accepted, or bought, by the average consumer at a greater rate than ever before. This means that about ten percent of the Jazz releases on the market actually "fly" into somebody's house. Unfortunately, most of Cal Tjader's albums have remained within that other ninety percent of Jazz discs the record companies fling at us poor unexposed music freaks. Let me also point out that an album's sales and selling price have little to do with the quality of music contained in a given package. In short, Tjader's albums sell poorly, but he always makes beautiful music.
Tjader, primarily a vibes player, has a lush, unique sound. On his latest disc, "AMAZZONAS," the feeling is definitely Latin. Tjader, like any masterful Jazz artist, is continually examining the fine musical textures transmitted through contemporary music as it happens. The younger musicians also play a vita' part in the concept of the album.