A GWINNELLIAN RENAISSANCE
PLAYING, COMPOSING, ARRANGING, EDUCATING AND JAZZING
Judy Adam’s Dirty Dog Jazz Café blog about Scott Gwinnell’s new CD led off with:
“Although he’s known as one of our town’s most talented pianists Mr. Gwinnell is also a composer, arranger, and educator who has been playing locally and internationally for more than 25 years.” “He’s put all of these musical abilities to work on his new tribute album to the late Jazz piano icon, Mulgrew Miller.” Both Scott and Mulgrew come off looking pretty good on the Detroit Music Factory Records recording,Mulgrewology.
Scott like Mulgrew is tall, with a sturdy build and both can be physically imposing on the bandstand. Their ability to bring other musicians along on their journeys is a result of possessing a temperament that is warm and gentlemanly. Both are musician’s musicians. Both dug deep into the music. They are both special.
Down Beat magazine once said, “Miller could swing hard but maintained grace and precision with a touch and facility that influenced generations of musicians.”
Scott Gwinnell was one those who were touched by this man.
WHY THEY ARE SPECIAL
Mulgrew Miller ( and Kenny Barron) perform at the 2010 Detroit Jazz Festival.
Mulgrew was Artist-in-Residence at the Detroit Jazz Festival
MULGREW MILLER 1955 – 2013
Mulgrew Miller was known as a remarkable piano player. As saxophonist Loren Schoenberg put it, “Mulgrew could levitate a bandstand.” he also will be remembered as having a great spirit and a humble demeanor. His gentle personality and thoughtful mentorship further endeared him to multiple generations of musicians.
The New York Times wrote “Thinking about his piano alone, Miller’s right hand was the great embellisher; the whole keyboard was his canvas. His left hand could stride and swing with great authority, and when the two hands got together, he sent the train down the tracks. Yet he could lay down a carpet of flowers. What a touch. Miller deployed all his gifts and accomplishments anew every time he was recorded, and he always seemed to be with us, grounded in the shared love of the music.”
Mulgrew Miller’s piano playing sparkled with clarity and bounded with a soulfulness that reflected his personal experiences — a combination that can be heard on more than 500 albums.
Mulgrew Miller was also one of America’s most prolific and talented composers and arrangers. He said “I strive to compose beautiful melodies and interpret them with a beat that dances.” Scott Gwinnell has picked up that beat and is keeping it dancing.
Scott Gwinnell first heard Mulgrew Miller live in 1991 at a star studded Newport Jazz Festival. He told me that he liked Mulgrew’s music but it wasn’t until he had more knowledge of jazz at his fingertips that he came to fully appreciate Mulgrew Miller.
Last Tuesday at the Dirty Dog I had a chance to sit down and talk to Scott Gwinnell. Scott had grabbed lunch on the fly between teaching gigs just to make room in his day to talk to me. I am so thankful that he did and that it gave me a chance to get an insight into someone who can turn his passion into reality. Just listening to the first cut of Mulgrewology you will see what I mean. Talking to Scott gave me a deeper understanding of his love of the music and the respect Scott has for those who share his passion.
GETTING JAZZ ARTISTS TO DO THINGS YOUR WAY
Here are some things that I learned from Scott.
I have always thought that jazz was about the freedom of expression, having the right to take off and explore new territories. Jazz musicians are artists who don’t want to be restricted by a piece of music. So how do jazz composers and arrangers pull this off? How can they ask other free spirited jazz artists to accept their demands to conform? Why does such a democratic body as a jazz band accept an authoritarian dictator like an arranger? Scott answers that he is only acting as an “enlightened monarch.” He admits to being a control freak but doesn’t apologize. Many of his most admired jazz artists are tyrants like himself. They all have had a “nerdlike passion”to get to know more and more about the details of good music along with having an expansive curiosity. A common trait among the very best composers and arrangers, according to Scott, is they liked taking on big projects. They have the rare ability to macro manage and micro manage a large composition. Composers must have both the creative and technical parts of their brains engaged when they create. Scott has these qualities and like Mulgrew is able to speak the language so that others can enthusiastically get on board. They are special people with a gift that is recognized by their band-members. Gifted individuals will only accept restrictions on their playing to be part of a composer/arrangers big scheme when they have earned their respect and believe in the project.
It turns out that in the right hands jazz can can handle and even embrace benevolent dictators like Scott and the inspirational Mulgrew.
The multi-talented Scott Gwinnell will perform his tribute to Mulgrew Miller at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe October 17 through October20.
Piano, Theory, Composing, Arranging, Improvisation, Combos
Scott Gwinnell like Mulgrew Miller does it all. These are guys who could accompany anybody. They fit into every kind of setting, and they are the guys you want on your album. You will get both live in an intimate setting this week at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café.
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