Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pure Imagination

When I was in high school people (read: girls) used to tell me that I looked like Gene Wilder.  I was not too fond of that comparison as you could imagine.  Even at the height of his career, he was not exactly considered to be a good looking guy.  He was on an incredible run of classic movies when I was a teenager.  In 1971, he made Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  He made both Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein in 1974 when I was 16.  When presented with this comparison, I always made my best case that I did not look like Willie Wonka!  Or Dr. Frankensteeen!  I just don't see it.  How about you?

Anyway, one of the great songs to come out of Willie Wonka was 
Pure Imagination, by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newly.

I really love this melody, and have heard several excellent jazz renditions. One of my favorites is a solo piano version by Bill Charlap. As I'm exploring how to play in a number of different jazz styles, I thought that I would give "Smooth Jazz" a try. Yes, this is smooth jazz as in CD 101. Smooth jazz is heavily influenced by R&B,funk, rock, and pop music. Kenny G has given it a really bad name, but I have to admit it is fun to play in this style.  

I always thought of Pure Imagination as a song that would sound good as a smooth jazz number, so I gave it a try. Smooth jazz piano playing has a much different feel to it than other jazz styles. I'm not sure that I'm actually doing it, or just playing what I usually play over the smooth jazz rhythm. You be the judge.

This version is done with acoustic piano, electric bass and drums. There is a trumpet solo by Ron King and a tenor sax solo by Eric Marienthal. Vernon Barbary is on the electric bass. Originally, I really wanted to do this on a Fender Rhodes. The Fender is more of a smooth jazz keyboard than a regular piano I think. The Fender Rhodes sound-alike mode on the electric piano that I have (Yamaha P-200) was just not up to the task. I guess it is reallyhard to get that fat Fender sound without the real thing.

Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka

1 comment:

  1. Ken,
    This is very cool. Your Gene Wilder look alike is a riot too.
    I think you really achieved "Smooth jazz" & the ensemble sounds cohesive too.
    Well done!