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Harry Pickens - Live At Stem Concert Hall


Solo jazz piano recorded live

1. Letter From Ghana (7:40) B. Gertz
2. Toots (8:21) J. Bergonzi
3. Shut Wide Open (6:20) K. Cervenka
4. Tenerife (8:52) B. Gertz
5. Pluto Was Here (7:07) B. Gertz
6. I See You (4:10) J. Bergonzi
7. Booga Chacha Lu (5:34) K. Cervenka
8. Blueprint (5:10) B. Gertz
9. Revolving Door (10:27) B. Barth
Total Time 63:44

Listen to CD Tracks

About Harry Pickens
    Harry Pickens has performed internationally with many jazz legends, including James Moody, Milt Jackson, Freddie Hubbard, Johnny Griffin, Joe Henderson, and Slide Hampton, as well as with many of the top players of his own generation, including Wallace Roney, Kenny Garrett, Ralph Peterson, Carl Allen, and Robert Hurst.  He has recorded with the Johnny Griffin Quartet and with Out of The Blue on the Blue Note label.  This is his first solo CD.

    Harry is also a consummate teacher, professional speaker, and skilled facilitator, who uses the magic and mystery of jazz to help people live more fulfilling, rewarding, joyful, and productive lives.  From corporate boardrooms, where he teaches leaders the art of ‘strategic improvisation’, to schools, where he inspires teachers to connect with the master performer within, to colleges and universities, where he presents what is perhaps the most unique and comprehensive artist-residency program in existence — Harry combines masterful music-making with powerful insights into the ‘skills of jazz’  to empower, inform, and inspire audiences wherever he goes.
    January 1998

     I left New York in the spring of 1987 (after nearly a decade of free-lancing with, among others, Johnny Griffin, Chico Freeman, Out Of The Blue, and Milt Jackson) because of a deep need for personal and professional renewal.  Although I disappeared from the ‘scene,’ I continued playing the piano, though most of my time was spent exploring other, equally compelling, interests.  I’ve been asked literally hundreds of times over the past decade when I would record my own CD.  My answer has consistently been — ‘when I have something to say.’ I feel the time to ‘speak’ has come. I hope you enjoy the results.  Harry Pickens  Jan. '98

About the tunes
    "Blackberry Winter" — I first heard this tune performed by pianist/composer Loonis McGlohen when I was a freshman at Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina.  Loonis coauthored this tune with Alec Wilder, and was one of the very first professional musicians to encourage me and nurture the seeds of musical possibility that have only recently begun to bear fruit.  I still have a letter he wrote me in 1977, filled with words of support and encouragement.  Loonis, this one’s for you.  God Bless You, and thanks.

    "Blues" — Kenny Werner talks about asking your hands what they want to play.  Mine answered with this Blues.  I grew up in the Deep South, where the sound, rhythms, and feeling of the blues is in the air.

    "Un Poco Loco" —  Bud Powell was one of the first jazz pianists I really studied, in terms of listening to virtually everything he ever recorded, transcribing solos, and attempting to imitate certain aspects of his style.  But what perplexed and intrigued me most about Bud was his journey to the very edge of madness, the essence of which suffuses even his most joyful and coherent work.  I hope this version of Un Poco Loco reveals some of the essence of Bud’s approach — the beauty, the power, and the madness.  Thanks, Bud.

    "Melancholy Baby" — This tune wasn’t on my setlist; it, like the Blues, demanded to be played.

    "I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face" — This is one of my favorite ballads, not only because of the music - but also due to the exquisite and subtle lyric.  One of America’s greatest, but under recognized, jazz vocalists, Yve Evans, inspired my approach to this melody, laying back behind the time in accord with the lyric’s meaning.  Thanks, Yve.

    "Maiden Voyage" — Herbie’s composition is masterful in its simplicity.  This version attempts to respect and enhance this simplicity while maintaining coherence through gentle textural shifts.  This CD is a kind of maiden voyage for me, so the tune carries multiple meanings.  Thanks Herbie, for such an elegant vehicle.

    "Giant Steps" — I love this tune!  Back in 1978, Marian McPartland played a concert in Charlotte, North Carolina, which I couldn’t attend but which several of my friends did.  When I asked them how it was, with wide eyes and in a hushed tone the proclaimed, ‘she played ‘Giant Steps’ — solo piano.’  Needless to say, I was impressed, and immediately went to the practice room to tackle the behemoth.  Eventually I learned to play Coltrane’s solo over a walking bass line.  Over time this ‘argument’ evolved into a variety of tempi and styles.

    "Body and Soul" — I love exploring tunes as poetry — using harmony and texture to help ‘unfold’ the words through tone.  Body and Soul’s melancholy nature appeals to me, and when I play it, a wistful sadness often emerges.

    "What Is This Thing Called Love" — I worked in Johnny Griffin’s quartet for 3 1/2 years.  Often, Griff would count off an ‘impossible’ tempo, play the head, then leave the bandstand.   Since I was the piano player, and since Kenny Washington and Curtis Lundy were smoking behind me, I got a world-class ‘crash course’ in playing tempos.

    "When I Fall In Love" — I LOVE love songs, being a rather ‘incurable’ romantic.  Many classic standards convey a sense of class, courtship, and chivalry not as common in popular culture of the past couple of decades.  This one’s for my Aunt Cee, who taught me the lyrics and introduced me to Nat Cole’s singing many years ago.  Thanks, Cee.  Listening to the master of this tune, I’m reminded of George Shearing’s solo piano version, which I last heard probably 20 years ago.

    "Blue Monk" —  I’ve always admired Monk not only as conceptualist/composer but as a pianist.  Blue Monk was the first tune I heard and learned.

    This recording is dedicated to my mother, Harryette Pickens, who taught me how to play ballads through her organ playing at church services when I was too young to know what was happening, and who has taught me more about grace, dignity, and truly unconditional love than I could ever describe in words.  Thank you, Mom.

    Harry Pickens