I’ve certainly had an interesting life in the music world. I started playing at the age of five. Playing the organ at local eateries when I was fifteen didn’t last too long. The organ became passe’ by the early 70s. Trying to score church gigs when you don’t have the experience (or the repertoire) didn’t really work either. So, I took some time away to re-group. I did eventually get back into the organ taking Classical instruction, and landed a couple of church gigs along the way. The coolest gig was playing for the St. Mary Cathedral Choir at Trinity Church in Toronto, Canada. My organ teacher, Dr. Wayne Wyrembelski, always told me I should “make friends with the piano.”
Well, I managed to put that off until the early 80s when I went back to college. Piano was a little intimidating for me at the time. That’s when I met a real Jazz player, Mickey Greco, who played with Woody Hermans’ band when he was 19 years old. Mickey lost both legs in an accident at the age of 6. When everybody else was playing sports, Mickey was at home playing the keys. By doing this, he attained a tremendous amount of skill at the piano. While in music school, I studied Jazz Impro with Mickey. We worked on Chord Substitution, Harmonization and Improvisation. Style was also incorporated. Mickey could take a tune and say, "this is what Errol Garner, Oscar Peterson, Dave Brubeck, Bud Powell, etc. would do with this tune". He could play all of those styles and then some! After about 2 years of study, I could earn my ‘bread and butter’ as he put it. I'll never forget what he once told me, he said, "Howard, if you can play as well as you can within the limits of your technique, you can achieve greatness". Still, I wanted to be a better player, while everyone else was telling me that I would never make a full transition from organ to piano. I didn’t have ‘piano hands’, they said. I somehow managed to prove them all wrong! Even if I couldn’t hold a coffee cup in the morning due to practice binges, I did it!
In the late 80’s, early 90's I studied with concert artists at the Bay View Conservatory and performed in artist recitals. At Bay View, I could study the works of Chopin, Beethoven, Grieg, Mozart, Brahms, etc. Piano study at the University of Arizona was really not my bag. I didn't consider playing the music of John Cage at the piano very satisfying.
All along the way, I played every music venue I could, including a country band gig at the “Galloping Goose” in Coolidge, Arizona, and yes, they had chicken wire in front of the stage! In the late 90’s I played Jazz Festivals throughout Michigan and had my music aired on CMU Public Radio. Not to mention gigs at the Grand Hotel on Mackinaw Island and Bakers Keyboard Lounge in Detroit.
The photo on the right is from an event in which I worked with an acclaimed French artist, Mathias DuHamel from Paris. I actually improvised to his brush strokes as he created a painting at the Timothy Michael Art Gallery in Atlanta. This live painting event ranks as one of the coolest, and most challenging, performances I've ever done as a musician.
I know you'll enjoy my new CD,"Piano Styles". It represents 20 years of formulating original musical thoughts and ideas. The song "Waltz in the Park" has already been accepted for publication through Crucial Music in L.A. for placement in the TV and Film Industry. It has also won an honorable mention in the 2008 BillBoard World Song Contest.
Each cut tells a story of its’ own if you listen with your imagination as well as your ears. It is indeed a pleasure to share my music.