Friday, May 10, 2013

The Rocky Balboa of Jazz Pianists

I'm back to practicing the piano.

I feel a bit like Rocky in training, preparing to make a come back.  I haven't missed a day this week, but I'll admit it hasn't been easy.

I decided to narrow my focus to two things:
  1. Practicing the twelve "super bop" lines given to me by Charlie Banacos a few years ago.
  2. Transcribing Herbie Hancock's "Takin' Off" record.   
The Banacos lines are very chromatic and full of twists and turns.  Charlie referred to them as being "snake-y".  They make for great chop builders.  I plan to stick with one line for a couple of weeks, until I can play it at a good clip, "double fisted" (in two hands), in all keys.  For these I have alloted a 1/2 hour daily.  I set the timer on my phone and commit myself not to leave the piano bench until I hear the buzzer sound.  This has been a far greater challenge than I imagined, but I'm sticking with it, in hopes that it will get easier.

Transcribing has been going relatively well.  I've started using the Amazing Slow Downer software program, and love it!  I'm surprised at how many details I missed in my first run-through "at tempo".  I began with track 2, "Three Bags Full".  I have already completed the right hand, and am moving onto the left hand comping. I will post these solos here, along with some analysis. I'm hoping to incorporate some Herbie-isms into my playing over the next few months. 

Here's the solo, starting at 3:05, after Freddie Hubbard and Dexter Gordon.

For the first time in a long time, I'm not practicing in preparation for a gig or recording.  I'm back to just practicing to "sharpen my axe" and elevate my skills.  It feels great.


  1. Hi Earl!
    I love your blog. Started with looking for information about Charlie Banacos in Inet and stumbled on your publications. I was read them all. A lot of interesting and useful.

    Is it possible to see these twelve "super bop" lines given to you by Charlie Banacos?
    Maybe it's a Sekret? I can not find any books, exercises, videos, clinics, lectures by Charlie Banacos in the Web... There is only mention of their existence... Thank you!

    1. Dear "murom",
      I wish I could pass along this material, but Charlie was protective of his material to the point that he had all of his students sign a contract stating that it would not be shared. I have heard that his family is equally protective of giving away the material for free.

      On this page there are instructions for how you could take some of the correspondence lessons with his daughter or Garry Dial, to attain the exercises.

      I think they are worth every penny. Good luck.