the apq mixtape

i went to a concert last night.  my friends have a chamber group called the ames piano quartet (and no, that's not four pianos.  a logistical nightmare and probably way too many requests for a "heart and soul" orgy.)  the group has been on the scene since 1976, with mahlon and bill as co-founders. george joined in '81, and jonathan signed on in '98. they have played all over the world, recorded a bunch of music, and have managed to nearly exhaust the repertoire in their niche market.  they are widely considered to be the foremost authorities on piano quartet artistry.

george, bill, mahlon, jonathan
these guys are all very interesting chaps; with varied wardrobes, vehicles, hobbies, and musical interests.  they are the best kind of people to know and have been supportive of my pursuits.  i'm the token jazz guy in our faculty and these guys could have easily dismissed me, but instead they treat me with respect and are very collegial.  i've got a bit in common with these guys.  i too like coffee, photography, dirty jokes, and also have a secret crush on astrud gilberto.

crazy.  mahlon & bill are both retiring at the end of this school year.  in this, their final concert, jonathan and george allowed the two fogies (ha!) to pick out the rep for their swan song.  it was pretty interesting.  they came up with a list of all their favorite movements (initially 25+), whittled it down to 9, and packaged them together as two multi-movement works.  the "quartets" used favorite selections from the likes of beethoven, walton, martinu, strauss, brahms, etc.  i was fascinated with this concept while i listened intently.   why did they pick these particular excerpts?  how long have they known these pieces?  do they like playing it personally, think the group plays it best, or have sentimental memories associated with these particular pieces?

that's the charm in it, right?  i will never know the full story, and they might not know it entirely either.  it's probably hard to convey exactly why you want to play something in particular.  on top of that, how heavy is it to pick out your final tunes to play?  the packed house was on emotional overload, full of wonder and joy and gratitude and sorrow and happy-for-you but sucks-for-me and sorry-i'm-being-selfish.

which tunes would i do for my last show?  could i even pick? can i play all night? these guys went for two hours, so i suppose i could pack it in.  some that come to mind: "alone together" with john & karl, because i love how i feel when i hear lee konitz open up on that record with charlie & brad. "mo' better blues" with crawford/nate/anton, because that tune was our anthem and it feels so damn good to play. "body & soul" with phil, because i truly identify with the lyric and phil is a magician.  "harold & the purple crayon" with my 3x5 guys, because i dig the book and the way seth plays and how joel leads the phrasing in the out (plus i love those guys).

i'm so happy for apq.  there was a huge turnout.  people were actually seated on stage, and an overflow room accommodated others who watched the live webcast.  gotta love technology. we gave enthusiastic applause after each movement, standing ovations without hesitation, and about seven curtain calls. they deserved every one of them.  they earned it.

mo better makes it mo better

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