There was a crescendo of feelings as I moved towards my LTCL exam. The performance anxiety mixed with the whole “what’s the point of this” syndrome. The lead up to it was long and intense. And just after the exam, I looked back at it like a typhoon heading away from me. I felt I had reached a point that had drained me so much that I couldn’t continue playing classical music at some level.
I sought out the next best thing I could find: Jazz.
We all start playing music as kids, with the core idea of performance. There are so many things that happen along the way. Lessons, masterclasses, workshops, competitions, exams, teaching, all these superfluous things that are supposed to help you perform, end up occupying your entire life.
Studying Jazz suited my nature of distorting ideas that I saw on paper, something that I picked up while playing classical music. The technical ability to execute passages was a big bonus for me. The biggest problem I had was going from being a medium to a creator. It was like going from reading Shakespeare to having a conversation with a pretty girl whom I want to impress with smooth talk. Yeah, a Shakespeare line here and there would definitely help me. But reciting a whole play would make me the weird guy.
I had to take what was relevant. That is the point where I realised that I had been playing classical music with no understanding for over 18 years. No shame in admitting that. Somehow I connected to the composer emotionally and not intellectually. It’s like learning how to ape a French accent without the grammar and vocabulary.
The challenge now was to hear theory and visualise sounds. Jazz to me became sound. So I could play a whole jazz standard in the style of a fugue and it would still be jazz. The teachers at the Bill Evans Piano Academy in Paris were obsessed with classical music. I somehow felt their intentions towards classical music were too pure. They didn’t want to perform these pieces. They wanted to dig deep into them and find true inspiration rather than use a composition as a performance platform.
Yet, these were the same teachers who inspired me to remove the gap between the physical and emotional aspects of music.
This helped me in creating music without any bias in style. Information had to be seen purely and style was just an influence. This is why I still play Bach inside my house and get obsessed with one prelude. The style maybe outdated but the information is relevant. This is why all jazz musicians love classical music.