Combining FlashPlay technology, 128-voice polyphony, powerful DSP, and an intuitive user interface, the portable Kurzweil SP6 is ideal for stage and studio. Its 88 fully-weighted keys provide the feel of an acoustic grand. Aside from high-definition piano sounds, KB3 ToneReal organs emulate Hammond, Vox, and Farfisa models. The SP6 features 256 factory programs in 10 instrument categories, with space for 1,024 user programs. Users can easily create split and layered configurations with up to four zones in Multi Mode. It comes with USB and MIDI connections, a headphone output, and stereo audio outputs with 32-bit DACs. SP6 packs high-end features into an affordable price ($1,295 MAP).
Roland’s GP607 brings a light-weight and maintenance-free mini grand into your living room. SuperNATURAL modeling technology provides high quality, realistic tone, complemented by a premium, multi-channel speaker system for top quality sound whether playing or listening. The new expressive touch PHA-50 hammer action keyboard with escapement provides authentic feel. Bluetooth compatible, GP607 lets you stream music or connect to the latest apps for learning and performance. 3D Ambience technology headphones allow accurate sound and silent practice. The graceful polished design with opening lid comes in ebony or white finishes.
Casio’s Cleviano AP-270 digital piano boasts a redesigned cabinet with all controls located on the side panel. The simulated ebony and ivory weighted, scaled, hammer action keyboard provides the feel, depth, and integrity of an acoustic piano. It features 22 tones, including both European and American concert grand piano tones with damper resonance. In addition, AP-270 offers Concert Play with 10 songs, three pedals, plus USB MIDI and two-track recording, all for under $1,500.
Blues Piano Legends includes 16 transcriptions with lyrics for tunes that all blues fans should know, including: “Big Chief,” Professor Longhair; “Bloody Murder,” Otis Spann; “Boogie Woogie Stomp,” Albert Ammons; “Chicago Breakdown,” Big Maceo; “Confessin’ the Blues,” Jay McShann; “Driftin’ Blues,” Charles Brown; “Every Day I Have the Blues,” Memphis Slim; “Honky Tonk Train (Honky Tonk Train Blues),” Meade “Lux” Lewis; “Worried Life Blues,” Big Maceo; and more.
Blues Piano Legends: 16 Note-for-Note Piano Transcriptions from 12 Blues Icons, Hal Leonard Corporation, www.halleonard.com.
The ability to play blues piano in an authentic style is a special skill that takes time to learn and develop. Aside from experimenting to find the right groove, feel, timing, chords, voicings, it takes time to learn the licks and how to listen to the other instruments and vocals to effectively complement them. This comprehensive and easy-to-use guide focuses on the basics of style and includes lots of licks to learn. Purchase of the book includes access to online audio tracks for downloading
Blues Keyboard Method: The Player’s Guide to Authentic Stylings,
by Marty Sammon, Hal Leonard, www.halleonard.com.
Casio Celviano Grand Hybrid GP-300WE comes with three popular grand piano sounds, as well as the Natural Grand Hammer Action Keyboard. The Grand Acoustic System, combined with the multi-channel amplification system, creates an immersive sound field like that of a nine-foot concert grand. GP-300WE also features five touch sensitivity levels, 60 preset songs, 26 built-in tones, 10 user songs, Concert Play mode, Duet mode, and USB audio recording and playback. GP-300WE has a natural white wood finish and GP-300BK has all the same features in a black wood finish.
A piano tuner in Shropshire, England, discovered a hoard of gold coins concealed in a piano that had been donated to a local community group. The Broadwood upright was originally sold in 1906 by a musical instrument shop in Saffron Walden, Essex, but ownership after that is unknown until it was purchased by a local family 1983. The Shropshire Coroner’s Office has launched an investigation and is looking for potential claimants to determine if the gold falls under the 1996 Treasures Act. To be declared “treasure” and property of the Crown, it would have had to have been deliberately concealed and for the original owner to remain untraced. If declared treasure, a museum would be able to buy the coins, with a reward payable to both the piano’s current owner and the finder.
This Greatest Hits series of books for piano, vocal, and guitar, each covers a decade of music with more than 40 pop music favorites. Piano accompaniment, vocal melodies, lyrics, and guitar chord diagrams are included. Currently available are The 1960s, The 1990s, and more.
Greatest Hits for Piano: Over 40 Pop Music Favorites, Alfred Music, Alfred.com.
The GP-400BK Casio Celviano Grand Hybrid delivers new advances in tone and feel. For realistic playing comfort, its keys are made of wood, using the same materials and process as C. Bechstein grand pianos. Tones were also jointly developed with maker C. Bechstein. GP-400BK features three grand piano sounds that faithfully represent a grand piano from above and below the soundboard. Other design innovations include a curved rear panel and thicker side panels and legs, plus the height from the keyboard to the music stand matches that of a conventional grand piano. It’s black woodgrain finish provides an elegant look.
Pianist Patrice Rushen is the ultimate role model for young female musicians. Among her achievements, she was the first female music director for the Grammy Awards (2004-2006), first woman to serve as head composer/musical director of the Emmy Awards, as well as the first female music director of the NAACP Image Awards, PEople’s Choice Awards, and HBO’s Comic Relief.
She’s composed musical scores for Emmy-nominated television shows and movies, plus the feature films Men in Black, Waiting to Exhale, Without You I’m Nothing, and Hollywood Shuffle. She released a total of 14 solo albums that earned her multiple Grammy nominations. Her music is frequently sampled.
The Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) member is considered one of the world’s top jazz pianists and continues to perform and compose, while also teaching at two of the country’s most prestigious music schools: Thornton School of Music at University of Southern California (USC) and Berklee College of Music. Education has always been a priority for Rushen who recognizes the vital role it played in her life. She says her teachers, including high school music teacher Reggie Andrews, shaped her future in a big way.
“I think I always wanted to become a musician, I just didn’t know the pathway,” says Rushen. She began playing piano at age five, but says when she picked up the flute in middle school, it was life changing. “Being in the middle of all the sound in the orchestra and band, you are conscious of your entrances and exits and the whole production, in the context of a team; that informed me in a different way.”
Rushen says the all-black Los Angeles public school that she attended was ahead of its time. “The high school experiences opened the door for me to see what was possible. We were playing high school orchestra and jazz repertoire, but we were also playing jazz as America’s classical music. That sort of opened up the vocabulary for other forms of contemporary music.”
Students at the high school didn’t just learn about music in a classroom. Field trips included visits to local jazz clubs. “On a Friday night we’d sit in the back,” she says. “Everything sounded really good and the exploration was profound. I heard some of the most amazing jazz musicians in their environment—Cannonball Adderly, Freddie Hubbard, and [Local 802 (New York City) member] Herbie Hancock’s sextet.”
“Some of the musicians were even coerced to come out to the school,” she recalls. “This was before jazz was institutionalized, particularly at the high school level. We had a lot of information firsthand. Bandleader Gerald Wilson, who lived in Los Angeles, would send us stuff to play; it was way over our heads, but the idea was for us to see the possibilities. That music pushed us.”
“The idea of being able to play music—all different kinds of music—and watch people react to it was supported by the entire school. It was an incentive to keep your grades up,” she says.
Aside from the music, Rushen’s high school gave her the fundamentals to succeed. “There was very clear consciousness towards a positive identity and the faculty supported that in the way they gave us information. They kept us busy all the time and everything was connected. If you were lucky enough to find your passion, you could learn a lot.”
“Preparation was a big deal,” she continues. “There’s luck, but luck is being prepared for the opportunity. That’s what Reggie used to tell us.”
Rushen’s first such opportunity came in her senior year when her combo won a chance to perform at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Her talents were noted by Fantasy Records, which offered the 17-year-old a recording contract on the Prestige label.
“I wasn’t really interested in a record deal; it wasn’t even on my radar at all,” says Rushen who was getting ready to enter college. “I was going to school, but I did need money.”
Rushen immediately joined the AFM. “I was very happy to join the union; it was like a milestone,” she says. “You have protection by belonging to a larger organization. It supports what we do with rules and regulations.”
Rushen’s very first album with Prestige, Prelusion, had her playing with established artists like Kenneth Nash, Joe Henderson, Hadley Caliman, Hubert Laws of Local 802, George Bohanon and Oscar Brashear of Local 47, plus contemporaries Ndugu Chancler of Local 47 and Tony Dumas.
“I began playing with a lot of different people, especially when the record came out. I would play with a lot of studio musicians who would play the clubs when they weren’t working,” she says. That’s where she met and befriended people like Local 47 members Lee Ritenour, Harvey Mason, and Abe Laboriel.
Though there were offers for her to tour, she was firmly focused on college. Film composing was her goal, but her parents insisted she major in music education. “At the time, USC had no jazz, and certainly no contemporary or popular music major,” she explains. She says the broad curriculum of the music education program served her well later on.
“A music director has to be able to see the big picture and understand the components that will make it happen. You need to know the goal of the presentation and then break it down into what it is going to take to make it happen—casting the correct people and empowering them through your direction.”
“It helps if you are able to work well under pressure and don’t sweat the small stuff,” she adds. “Respect is a given. When people feel like you care about them, they care about you, and want to help you. You also need awareness of a lot of different styles and the resources to pull the essence out of those styles.”
Rushen’s first big job was composing for Robert Townsend’s first movie, Hollywood Shuffle. “He didn’t know who any of the composers were. He went around to different agencies and my name was at the bottom of the list, in pencil,” she laughs. “He knew me because of my records. He said, ‘I want her,’ and the agents were probably horrified!”
“From that movie, I got five HBO comedy specials [as music director],” she says, adding that the role of music director served as a showcase for the skillset she had developed. Word got out, and that led to more work.
While being a woman never kept her from pursuing her ambitions, she’s sure there were jobs along the way that she didn’t get because of gender bias. Then, there were a few people who made the leap that she was a man. “I’ve had some surprised looks because my name doesn’t necessarily give it away,” says Rushen. “There’s the female thing, and then there’s the African American thing that sometimes comes as a surprise.”
Among other challenges, she points to the balancing act that women often struggle with. She advises young women to go for it. “Be strong in your resolve to be as good as you possibly can be. Then, don’t be afraid to let your priorities shift as your life changes and allow yourself the possibility of a family life. Understand that now, more than ever, a career in music involves lots of different layers and different related skills. If you build on that set of skills, you will always find something to do that’s musical. You don’t have to sacrifice any of it.”
As her own career has evolved, she has taken on more teaching roles, but she doesn’t see it as a huge shift from performing. “I don’t really see those things as mutually exclusive,” she says. “When you perform, you are teaching. There is always somebody out in the crowd whose approach could be modified or changed on the basis of a performance they hear.”
“I think teaching is important,” she says. “I’m fortunate to have had great teachers. They were all really open to the communication of music and using the piano as a kind of media, teaching great technique to give you the ability to play anything.”
Rushen is currently chair of Popular Music at Thornton, plus Ambassador for Artistry in Education at Berklee. “All of my different experiences have impacted my methodology and I can call on that as a teacher,” she says. “I’m teaching a music style that I lived—popular music—that’s informed by a certain tradition. It’s exciting for me to find a pedagogy that teaches and celebrates that.”
For Rushen, teaching is as much inspiration as it is instruction. “When you teach you are learning at the same time. I think artists are perpetual students, you know? You are always soaking it up. The inspiration and understanding of what it takes to make art takes you out of yourself. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to communicate on that level.”
Rushen is also involved with youth programs, including USC and Berklee outreach programs, a jazz mentorship program in Los Angeles area high schools, and work with the Young Musicians Choral Orchestra in the Bay Area. “This is an amazing organization that takes at-risk youth and puts them in an environment where they can thrive as musicians,” she says.
During the school year, Rushen’s focus is mostly on her students. Summer allows her to travel and take on other projects. This summer she’ll play some gigs as Patrice Rushen & Friends with Local 47 members Eric Marienthal (sax), Paul Jackson, Jr. (guitar), Reggie Hamilton (bass), and Ndugu Chancler (drums).
“We have some dates sprinkled throughout the summer, which is kind of cool because it allows everybody to do their own thing,” she says.