Below is a project description I submitted to the Canada Council in March 2010. I requested $17,000 and received $10,000.
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With the help of the Canada Council, I will fully transcribe, study and learn the original music from three contemporary solo-piano jazz records. These records include Fred Hersch’s Songs Without Words Disc 1 (2001), John Taylor’s Songs and Variations (2005) and Canadian David Braid’s Novitas (to be released Summer 2010).
The purpose of this study is to extract stylistic materials from these recordings and apply them to my own music, which is focused primarily on solo jazz piano. Specifically, I am interested in how these pianists approach hand independence, counterpoint, articulation and composition in an improvisatory, solo piano setting.
Most of my time will be spent listening to and writing out every original composition from these albums, note-for-note. Following the completion of a transcription, I will take it to the piano where I will imitate the pianists, derive improvisational exercises from the above-mentioned materials, achieve fluency and develop concepts for my own solo-piano compositions. In my opinion, these three contemporary pianists are leaders in this field and approach these materials with great depth and originality. Considering my interests, a study of this kind would be most beneficial to my artistic growth.
As an added benefit, these pianists’ compositions will become part of my performance repertoire. For David Braid’s music, this is an opportunity to expose audiences to new Canadian music. Also, because the completion of this project will result in me possessing numerous transcriptions, I will be exploring avenues to increase their circulation and educational benefits. This includes approaching publishing companies, the Canadian Music Centre (for David Braid’s music), and the Faculty of Music’s library at the University of Toronto.
Artists specializing in solo jazz piano are rare and research into contemporary materials is lacking. Transcribing this music and studying these materials is the most effective way for me to assimilate new musical concepts and contribute to a field that is fairly underrepresented. Ultimately, my hope is that listeners and students come to appreciate solo jazz piano as I do.