|Madison Square Park|
I was going to do a little Art Tatum week, but about midway through my lobby gig today, it occurred to me that I really wish I could play "'Round Midnight" by heart. In fact, I wish I could give it a decent go with the lead sheet in front of my face; my fingers stumble over the unexpected harmonies.
The first time I played jazz in college, my combo-mates very generously compared my playing to Thelonious Monk. This was the kindest possible description of my hopeful stabbing at the keys. The difference is (well, one of the differences) that Monk knew what he was doing. But we were both quirky and percussive, and the undeserved compliment kept me from dying of shame during some of my more pathetic solo choruses. They thought I sounded like Monk! Yeah!
And here I am, a decade later. I don't get to play Actual Jazz Music with Actual Jazz Musicians very often these days. New York jazzers are scary - if they're not getting to earn a living just from playing the music they love, they at least want to be jamming with people who are good enough improvisers to give them a satisfying, challenging musical experience (ie, not me). But I still like to think I'm a lot better than I was back then.
The moral of the story is, in order to get good at something, you have to A) love it a lot, and B) be willing to suck at it for a very, very long time while you're working on it.