Writings about Music

Two Weeks Ago

Michael Robinson

Two weeks ago, Lee Konitz was in my thoughts momentarily while recording two of his favorite standards, All the Things You Are and Cherokee, with tabla genius Anindo Chatterjee, whose amazing instincts, inventiveness and musicality assimilated songs he had never heard before in ways never heard before. It was hard to believe I was coinventing equally in real time with someone I've only previously listened to on recordings with legendary musicians like Nikhil Banerjee, Shivkumar Sharma and Hariprasad Chaurasia before. A rather auspicious start given this was my first piano session with another musician, having focused on solo recordings to date.

During a break, I told Anindo about the time I met George Harrison and he sang Charukeshi for me. Without missing a matra, Anindo then shared how he met George following a London concert with Ravi Shankar, the monumental sitarist he accompanied many times.

We actually improvised on Cherokee for 75 minutes. I thought it was maybe 30 minutes while doing so, and was surprised to learn the actual duration. That's just the way, to give one possible explanation, I'm what I was once told by an astrologist is a pure Pisces - Sun in Pisces and Moon in Pisces; synergizing jazz and raga at once, moving in two directions at once.

All praise to Jocelyn for somehow turning me into a pianist, and to Jerry Sharell for reigniting my love for Frank Sinatra, pointing me in directions for a deeper and fuller appreciation of his vocal and musical genius, really essential for my continuing interpretive and improvisational development.

Next, I'll be looking for a jazz drummer to record with, someone with an adventurous spirit eager for the musical and intellectual challenge of something genuinely new like Anindo Chatterjee who wrote somehow knowing prior to our session here in Los Angeles: "We ll have an amazing rec. i guarranty. Dont feel nurvous. Just play openly and relax."

On our first of two afternoon sessions, slated for rehearsal, things progressed so rapidly we ended up recording three tracks. Discussing our plans for a second afternoon of recording, Anindo was surprised to hear how we would be doing all new pieces, including how I never really know what's to be played, spontaneously selecting from dozens of possibilities in the moment. "You have courage!" he said.

The studio also made, without my prior knowledge, a behind the scenes audio document of conversations between Chatterjee and myself whereby I explained the conceptual basis for our collaboration in considerable musical detail. I was advised our efforts amounted to a historic recording session calling for such documentation.

Lennie Tristano, the teacher of my teacher, Lee Konitz, was also a Pisces, born on March 19. Lee once told me about a mystical sensation experienced when his friend, Charlie Parker, mournfully departed on March 12, a day before the birthday of Konitz's Pisces father on March 13. Parker was scheduled to perform with Lee in Boston at the time of his untimely passing. Both Jocelyn and myself were born March 11. George Harrison was born under the same sign on February 25.

Charlie Parker flashed through my thoughts briefly while recording All the Things You Are and Cherokee, too, these also being favorite standards of his. I even spontaneously emulated the melodic shape of some favorite phrases from his famous Cherokee (Koko) solo a few times during the recording, altering the pitches and rhythms.

- Michael Robinson, September 2022, Los Angeles


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Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer, programmer, jazz pianist and musicologist. His 187 albums include 151 albums for meruvina and 36 albums of piano improvisations. Robinson has been a lecturer at UCLA, Bard College and California State University Long Beach and Dominguez Hills.