Message to All Pianists II

Jonathan Bellman

I have mentioned before in this space my obsession with the piano solo from the Allman Brothers Band’s “Jessica,” which is perhaps the most celebrated and classic piano solo in all Rock-and-related music. It has been a life-goal of mine since college to learn this solo by ear—correctly, with no faking and whinging (this really should be “whingeing,” by the same principle that gives us “singeing” from “singe,” but the dictionary tells me different). During a wonderful interview with Bob Edwards on NPR’s Morning Edition, Chuck Leavell, the man at the ivories, plays a shortened version for Edwards, who is jabbering like a college boy in the dorms in his exaltation of the solo. Edwards sounds just a bit like an idiot, and I’m with him totally; I know the feeling and I know those backgammon-driven dorm listening sessions.

As I said months ago, my ear isn’t quite this good…or so I thought. Today, a discovery: on iTunes, there is a “Unedited Master Version” from the Allman Brothers Band’s anthology Gold. The piano part is clear. You can hear every note.  Even the stuff starting at 3:20 or so. Now it’s just a matter of time.

Pianists: I just thought you ought to know.

About jonathanbellman

Professor of Music History and Literature and Head of Academic Studies in Music at the University of Northern Colorado. Author, *The _Style Hongrois_ in the Music of Western Europe* (Northeastern University Press, 1993), *A Short Guide to Writing About Music* (2e, Longman, 2008), *Chopin's Polish Ballade: Op. 38 as Narrative of National Martyrdom* (Oxford University Press, 2010), Editor, *The Exotic in Western Music* (Northeastern University Press, 1998), author of bunches of articles and reviews and so on. Likes to play the piano, the mandolin, and even guitar sometimes. A. M. and Jo Winchester Distinguished Scholar at UNC, 2011.
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7 Responses to Message to All Pianists II

  1. Mark says:

    I used to love the Allman Brothers, but we fell out and haven’t spoken for 14 years. In the mean time I’ve taken up the piano. Maybe this is an opportuinty for rapprochement?

  2. Jonathan says:

    Far be it from me to say. But think how much more perspective, ear training and so on you’ll be bringing to that solo. And if you knew their work before, you *know* the solo I’m talking about.
    Could it hurt? Stick a toe in the water.

  3. Mark says:

    Maybe I’ll try. I hope Scott Joplin doesn’t get jealous. I’ve been spending so much time with him lately. Thanks, Jonathan. Mark

  4. dswift says:

    So what’s your take on Donald Fagen’s break in “Fire in the Hole”? Is it as plain funny as it I think it is?

  5. Jonathan says:

    Can’t think of it offhand. I have to admit I’ve never been drawn to Steely Dan’s music at all, ever.

  6. You should check out a documentary called Note By Note, it’ll be showing at Film Forum in New York starting November 7th.

  7. Kip W says:

    Thanks for the pointer. I’ve loved the tune for years, but because of the secretive nature of radio announcers, couldn’t find out what it was called until now. Another mystery solved.

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