Sunday, August 24, 2014

Jazz 101: The 10-minute Version

Editor's note: I am pleased to share this efficient run-down of how to begin teaching jazzHuge thanks to Nickolas Conte for sharing his work with me!
 I would make a change on the 5th page, so that the first note of the triplet has no accent, and instead, move the accent to the third note of the triplet, replacing the staccato that is currently under that note. Also, the reference to "Killer Joe" only having 2 chords (on page 12) is only referring to its "A sections", not the "bridge."


Austin Kimble is a professional jazz pianist, music director, educator, and composer based in Austin, Texas.

Inquiries?  Email Austin Kimble at or Tweet @JazzAustin

tags: curriculum, education, beginner, beginning, band, school, lessons, workshop, presentation, chords, rhythms, accents, swing, improv, improvisation, piano, trumpet, trombone, sax, saxophone, drums, drumset, bass, guitar, microphone, setup, class, arts, 

How Children Benefit from Music Education in Schools

  One of my jobs -- one I am very proud of -- is teaching children at St. Stephen's Episcopal School in Austin, Texas, USA since 2010.  I teach jazz piano lessons for grades 6-12, work with grades 7-12 jazz bands, direct grade 6 "beginning" band, rehearse with music theater students in grades 6-12, and teach various other instrument lessons (e.g. trumpet and saxophone.)
  I am currently accepting students in the Austin, Texas area to my private lessons studio: any level, any type of music.  I currently work with 8-year-olds through adult professional musicians and educators.  Email me at to get started today!


Austin Kimble is a professional jazz pianist, music director, educator, and composer based in Austin, Texas.

Inquiries?  Email Austin Kimble at or Tweet @JazzAustin

Monday, August 18, 2014

Transcription: My Favorite Things - Kashiwa Daisuke

Although he's not what you'd call a jazz pianist, Kashiwa Daisuke has a beautiful solo piano version of the jazz standard "My Favorite Things."  He was born in Hiroshima and started his music career in 2001 composing and playing guitar in the Japanese post-rock band Yodaka.  The sheet music below is playable by intermediate through advanced pianists + you don't have to be a jazz player!

Scroll down for a full transcription of Kashiwa Daisuke's solo piano recording from the album 88, which you can listen via YouTube:

Kashiwa Daisuke's "My Favorite Things" (YouTube)


Kashiwa Daisuke: 88
(Virgin Babylon, 2011)

Ohka / Quartz / Coto / Swan Song / My Favorite Things (Rodgers/Hammerstein)/ the Night of the Kentaurus Festival / Albireo / Scorpion of Red Eyes / Good-bye / Travel Around Stars / in the Lake [VBR-005]


Austin Kimble is a professional jazz pianist, music director, educator, and composer based in Austin, Texas.

Inquiries?  Email Austin Kimble at or Tweet @JazzAustin

Saturday, August 16, 2014

How Miles Davis Fused Rock and Roll with Jazz: A Musical Analysis

By Austin Kimble

Author's note:  The life and music of Miles Davis, a jazz trumpet master, have been two of the biggest influences in my own life and career as a jazz pianist.  Listening to hundreds of hours of the music of Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, Clifford Brown, and Woody Shaw, along with formal music education, is how I originally learned to play jazz music -- as a trumpeter
     I began learning to play jazz on the trumpet in the 7th grade in a junior high school jazz band and started jazz trumpet lessons in the 10th grade.  I first attempted to transfer my jazz chops over to the piano in the 12th grade prior to starting my "jazz piano performance" studies at the University of Texas at Austin in 2005.
     STEP ONE for becoming a successful jazz pianist was, for me, starting piano lessons and daily practice at age six (21+ years ago!), and STEP TWO was getting turned on to Miles Davis in junior-high school.
Photograph of Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Dave Holland, and Jack DeJohnette (1969)

“If Charlie Parker Were a Gunslinger, There’d Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats,” was the alternate title Charles Mingus gave to his jazz tune “Gunslinging Bird.” What Mingus’ words seek to convey is that if a jazz legend such as Charlie Parker flatted a ninth or played a melodic line through a chromatically descending harmonic sequence on a gig one night, the next day musicians all around town would be copying and practicing what they had heard the night before as an addition to the current improvisational language of jazz. In this way, dominant musicians have changed the course of jazz history. Miles Davis was one of these dominant musicians, having shaped the development of jazz for decades. While this paper focuses on Davis’ development of jazz fusion, Miles Davis was also a pioneer of three additional subgenres of jazz: cool jazz, hard bop, and modal jazz. He recorded and performed music in the cool jazz style from 1949-1953, beginning with his nonet recording, Birth of the Cool; in the hard bop style from 1954-1959, starting with his sextet album, Dig; and in the Modal style from 1959-1968, with a sextet of different personnel on Davis’ 1959 album Kind Of Blue. From Miles’ hard bop years forward, the individual subgenres of jazz proliferated, at times showing definite traces of the music that came before them. Finally, with the release of the album Bitches’ Brew in 1969, which sold over 500,000 copies, Miles Davis concretely defined the subgenre of music called jazz fusion. Through critical listening, musicians, musicologists, and the general public can see that Miles Davis invented jazz fusion through gradual means – taking small evolutionary steps from recording to recording rather than through a single miracle of creativity.

     In order to contextualize the innovations of Bitches’ Brew with the music that existed before it, analysis must start with the earliest recognizable sign of Miles Davis having borrowed musical concepts from rock and roll for use in his own music. The first track recorded by Miles Davis that clearly borrowed from rock and roll comes from his 1965 album E.S.P. The track, titled “Eighty-One,” is based on the twelve-bar blues form, and the personnel on the entire album include Miles Davis on trumpet, Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone, Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass, and Tony Williams on drums – a combo known as “The Second Great Quintet” to jazz historians. On this track, Ron Carter plays a “rock bass line” under the blues form. The ostinato repeats every two bars during the first eight bars of the form, transposing up a perfect fourth for the fifth and sixth measures to retain the form of the blues. In essence, this bass line serves as a pedal point over the first four bars. The last four bars are based on the bass line and serve as a “turn-around” back to the beginning of the form. The reason why this can be called a “rock-like” bassline is because Ron Carter basically sticks to the three notes, scale degrees 5, b7, and 1, throughout the tune; these three scale degrees are common aspects of many rock and roll tunes and of many traditional blues recordings (especially those in the Louisiana boogaloo style.) In addition to the mere inclusion of a rock bass line, the rhythm section on “Eighty-One” exhibits a non-static groove – changing back and forth between the rock feel with the aforementioned bass line to a swing feel with a walking bass every few choruses – that foreshadows the mixing of jazz and rock rhythmic concepts that were perfected during the Bitches Brew recording sessions. The album E.S.P. contained only the first signs of jazz fusion, but it influenced the music that Miles Davis’s bands would play from that point on into the future.

     Although “Eighty-One” was, at its time, the first obvious sign of rock elements being fused into the jazz idiom, the use of static, modal, pedal point-based harmonies, a foundation of rock, is apparent as early as April, 1958 on the LP Milestones. The author Eric Nisenson notes the use of piano vamps, similar to those heard on rock and roll recordings, and drummer Philly Joe Jones’ “steady, repetitive rhythmic figures” that “would become a model for the jazz-rock that was to become so predominant” within the tune “Milestones” (Nisenson 149). This new type of rhythmic intensity, which would eventually become part of the basis for fusion, truly started taking shape with Davis’ introduction of drummer Tony Williams to the band on Seven Steps to Heaven (1963), an event which formed the aforementioned “Second Great Quintet.” The rhythmic “grooves” that Williams and bassist Ron Carter create in pieces such as Eddie Harris’ “Freedom Jazz Dance” and Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints” on Miles Smiles (1966), are the next step in Miles Davis’ development toward jazz fusion. The writer and musical director Greg Tate, whose writings on art, music, and culture have appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Washington Post, Premiere, Downbeat, Artforum, and the Village Voice, commented on how the roles of Miles Davis’ band members had successfully diverged from the traditional roles within mainstream jazz.
          On Miles Smiles Ron Carter and Tony Williams so radically
          transform - indeed, so radically subvert - the role of bass and
          drums in improvised music as to make the solo skeins of Miles,
          Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock come off like a tight wire
          act run through a rain forest… (Tate 16-17).

This particular rhythmic element signaled the beginning of Davis’ experimentation with loose and undefined solo structures, exemplified in “Nefertiti” (Nefertiti, 1967) and “Circle in the Round” (Circle in the Round, 1968). Miles Davis began using electric instruments on Water Babies, recorded in 1967-1968 (but not publically released until 1976), a step that can be called Davis’ last innovation before recording In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew. While the first three tracks on this record have the same personnel as E.S.P., the final two tracks on the five track album feature a band with Dave Holland on electric bass replacing Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock on electric piano instead of acoustic piano, and the addition of Chick Corea on electric piano as well. Miles Davis’ incorporation of electric instruments was fully realized with the addition of George Benson on guitar on the album Miles in the Sky (1968). The last album that Miles Davis recorded before In a Silent Waywas Filles de Kilimanjaro (1968), which has the same personnel, minus George Benson. This album draws from the music that came before it, namely since E.S.P., but true jazz fusion was not yet audible from Miles Davis’s music – not until the release of In a Silent Way, which was followed immediately by the release of Bitches Brew.

     On the album In a Silent Way, Tony Williams and Dave Holland play roles that obviously fuse rock traditions with jazz. On the two preliminary tracks of the recording session, “Shhh / Peaceful” and a medley of “In a Silent Way” and “It’s About That Time,” Holland plays repetitive rock-influenced rhythms on the drums, such as repetitive straight eighth notes and sixteenth notes, while Dave Holland plays ostinato bass patterns, such as repeating V – I over and over again during the single-key solo vamps of “Shhh / Peaceful” and alternating between a one-measure I – vii – I ostinato and a two-measure I – III – VI – V – bIII ostinato on the medley tune. Similarly to the rock tradition of using multiple guitars (outside of one lead and one bass guitar) or synthesizers as part of the band, such as in bands like The Doors, Pink Floyd, and The Who during the late 1960s, there are four chord-playing instruments on this recording: Joe Zawinul on organ, Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock both exclusively on electric pianos, and John McLaughlin on guitar. Miles Davis’s trumpet sound is amplified and processed using studio echo and reverb, while Wayne Shorter plays only soprano saxophone. The album contains three tunes, two tunes composed by Davis and the tune “In a Silent Way” composed by Joe Zawinul. According to Miles himself, Joe brought his chart (melody and chords) to the studio, and then Miles changed what he had written. When they recorded, Miles “threw out the chord sheets and told everyone to play just the melody, just to play off that.” Miles said, “I wanted to make the sound more like rock” (Davis 296). The musicians that he had selected to play on this record and on Bitches Brew are the reason the music sounds like it does. Miles Davis, at least on the tune “In a Silent Way,” only takes credit as having arranged the piece. But this way of thinking led to the definitive jazz fusion recording. While the In a Silent Way ensemble is large in comparison to anything Miles did since Birth of the Cool, the sonic possibilities provided by the In a Silent Way ensemble was not enough for him.

     The studio double-LP Bitches Brew included trumpet, electric guitar, electric and acoustic bass, three electric keyboards, two reeds, two drummers and one percussionist. This double album opened space for works like Joe Zawinul’s “Pharaoh’s Dance” (20:07) and “Bitches Brew” (27:00) to create expansive “grooves” for soloists, based on vamps and simple figures in the rhythm section, and various pre-composed segments, all of which utilized the current studio technology to heighten the surreal atmosphere. This expansion of the improvisational dimensions paralleled that of the physical size of the ensemble as there were infinite possibilities of developing the pieces within themselves. The Bitches Brew sessions took three days to complete, and over four hours of the sessions have been released in the form of nineteen individual tracks over four discs. The complete personnel for these first real “fusion sessions” included Miles Davis on trumpet and vocals; Don Alias on percussion, conga, and drums; Khalil Balakrishna on sitar; Harvey Brooks on bass and electric bass; Ron Carter on bass; Billy Cobham on drums and triangle; Chick Corea on electric piano; Jack DeJohnette on drums; Steve Grossman on soprano saxophone; Herbie Hancock on electric piano; Dave Holland on bass and electric bass; Bennie Maupin on bass clarinet; John McLaughlin on guitar, Airto Moreira on Berimbau, CuĂ­ca, and percussion; Bihari Sharma on tabla and tamboura; Wayne Shorter on soprano saxophone; Jim Riley on conga and shaker; Lenny White on drums; Larry Young on organ, Celeste, and electric piano; and Joe Zawinul on electric piano. Long recording sessions, the enlarged electrified jazz-rock ensemble, and the “static-rooted but harmonically kaleidoscopic tonal field” (Sanford 30) are the basis of Davis’ 1969-75 fusion period. His musical development and innovations through these six years can be heard sequentially based on his recordings during this time; each successive performance includes more rock sounds than the recording sessions that came before it.

     In conclusion, Miles Davis invented jazz fusion over a span of several years instead of in one spurt of creativity, culminating with the definitive release of Bitches Brew in 1969. His music evolved from one recording to the next in a gradual fashion towards more incorporation of rock and roll elements. Jazz, an American musical form, has always borrowed from numerous outside sources to develop and change as time has progressed. As a result of this borrowing, individual jazz pieces have expanded both the definitions of what we perceive as “jazz” and of what we perceive as a genre in general. This borrowing also shows that jazz is an art form with a life that is shaped gradually by the genius of dominant musicians such as Miles Davis.


Claman, David Neumann “Western Composers and India's Music: Concepts, History, and Recent Music.” Diss. Princeton University, 2002.  ProQuest Digital Dissertations. ProQuest. 14 Oct. 2007

Davis, Miles, and Quincy Troupe. Miles: The Autobiography. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989.

Garcia, Al. “The Jazz/Rock Fusion Page: A Site Dedicated to Jazz fusion and Related Genres with a Special Emphasis on Jazz/Rock Fusion.” 2007. <>.

Gioia, Ted. The History of Jazz. New York, Oxford: Oxford UP, 1997.

Gridley, Mark. Jazz Styles. 6th ed. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1997.

Nisenson, Eric. ‘Round About Midnight: A Portrait of Miles Davis, New York: The Dial Press, 1982.

Nicholson, Stuart. Jazz Rock - A History. New York: Schirmer Books, 1998.

Palmer, Robert. “Jazz Rock.” The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll500-504. Ed. Anthony Decurtis, James Henke, Holly George-Warren, and Jim Miller. New York: Random House, Inc., 1976.

Sanford, David William. “Prelude (Part I) from “Agharta”: Modernism and Primitivism in the Fusion Works of Miles Davis.” Diss. Princeton University, 1998. ProQuest Digital Dissertations. ProQuest. 4 Nov. 2007 <>

Tate, Greg. “The Electric Miles, Part I.” Down Beat July 1983: 16-17.

Austin Kimble is a professional jazz pianist, music director, educator, and composer based in Austin, Texas.

Questions? Comments? Booking Inquiries?

Email Austin Kimble at or Tweet @JazzAustin

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Conversation with Jazz Pianist: Robert Turner

August 10, 2014

Via phone call from Shanghai, China to Austin, TX USA

 Photograph of Robert Turner, jazz pianist

AUSTIN:  You have such a sweet sound as a jazz pianist.  People from the US all the way to China love your playing.  I’m interested in your roots.  How did you first come to start playing gospel piano in that Baptist church?

ROBERT: I think it was ’89, I believe I was in the 9th grade, and that was my first time of actually getting enrolled in a music class.  I used to go to the concerts and watch the drums. I watched the orchestra play, and my favorite part was when the drums would have a drum solo.  They used to have 2 drum sets. The junior high school kids would just be all into it.  So I wanted to be like that because I was kind of a square, and I figured that that would be where I could have more friends. So I got into the class, and I learned how to play the snare drum and then I got into it and I started learning. They finally put me on the drum set the end of the semester. I did a drum solo, and people appreciated it. I think I did a drum solo and a snare drum solo. People appreciated it. So when I got into high school, I was in the jazz band, and I was learning how to play drums, you know. I just was in there, just practicing, and this guy comes out of nowhere. He’s a drummer. He looks like a rap guy. I was scared of him. I thought he was going to beat me up.

AUSTIN: That’s funny.

ROBERT: He got on the drums and played some shout music. He just played there like real fast, kind of like all of these new drummers that’s coming out now.  He was just as bad as them on the gospel. Then, he told me to play something, and then he played some shout music on the piano. That’s what did it. I recorded it, too, on the cassette. We had a cassette player recording I think or something. I recorded it, and he played like 2 songs, and it was real bad. That’s when I listened to that tape about 500 times. I would call my friends and asked them to show me the chords, and that’s what it was. Then I went to a Baptist church, and a piano player was playing something kind of different. I would just ask the piano player at the end of the service to show me what they played, and that was kind of hard because they’ll always be in a hurry to leave.

AUSTIN: Right.

ROBERT: So they were gracious enough to kind of show me that. I just practiced then. I was around, you know. I still wanted to play Jazz too. I liked Jazz chords. I’d record all the piano players -- go to the mall and record what they’re playing -- and I would always have my small tape recorder, and I would have it recorded, you know. I would go back at home, and that’s the pretty first time I did it. That’s how. That was me.

AUSTIN: That sounds like a really good foundation you had there. So you became a member of the church band then, I guess, or were you just playing on your own?

ROBERT: When I got to the Baptist church, I joined that church. Before I joined the church, I was Methodist. I would go to [my friend’s] church and play drums, and he would play the piano. I did that for about 8 years or so. I was around them. They were always you know showing me chords, and then I would take what this other piano player showed me and showed it to him, and we would put it together and write a song and get ideas and stuff.  My father turned me on to the Baptist church. It was close to my house, and I started going in, and that was a whole dozen times. It was a completely different kind to [my friend’s] church.  I just kept going there, and then what happened was after about a year, was the pianist quit, and it was graduation time from high school for me. That’s my time to graduate my high school. So I was playing. I was sitting in, but mainly I was playing a little bit of drums. Once the pianist quit, I was the only one there, so I was the one filling in until they got a new pianist too.
So that’s how that worked.

AUSTIN: What was the instrumentation of that church band?

ROBERT: At the time it was organ, piano and drums, and people probably played the tambourine at time. I remember a few who played guitars now and then.

AUSTIN: How receptive was the church community to jazz music?

ROBERT: A lot of people in church liked jazz. They don’t know the lyrics to the song. I bet you if they saw the lyrics they had with the song, they’d be like, “No, we can't do this and do that,” because “Since I Fell for You” talks about a husband and how they fall in love with their mistress. I still really liked playing that song, but one time I heard the lyrics -- the lyrics buried down in my mind. I was like, “man, how am I going to play ‘Oh, The Blood of Jesus’ on Sunday and then Saturday, I'm going to play ‘Since I Fell’, talking about this guy hooking up with another woman because I don’t like this other one anymore. You see what I'm saying?


ROBERT: So my point is if the church people knew the lyrics to some of those songs, they will be
like, “No, you can't play that.”

AUSTIN: So do you see that as being kind of an advantage of being a piano player versus being a vocalist is you know in that you can reach people that you might not necessarily have been able to reach with lyrics?

ROBERT: Yes, but at the same time, these are old songs, and I don’t think part of the intended goals are for me to do a change the lyrics of the song. I don’t think anybody would know that I changed the lyrics of the song, you know what I mean.  So basically, the words and the lyrics of some of those songs I was telling you about, those songs are dialed in. Those songs are in fact a hit. So my job, if you narrow it, is just to sing that song on the piano, sing those lyrics on the piano even if it is my old piano. That’s my job as a pianist. So to me, “if I call Me And Mrs. Jones” -- if we got a thing going on -- talk about the culture we have. If I played that instrumentally, people know the lyrics to that song. On my part, let’s make those lyrics sing on the piano.  So yeah, it’s the same as the songs singing, if you know what I mean.

AUSTIN: In a little bit of a different turn here, is home for you in LA?

ROBERT: Yes. Well, now I live in Sacramento.

AUSTIN: What was your experience like finding venues to play Jazz in LA and Sacramento?  How was it for you getting into that scene starting to play Jazz as a style?

ROBERT: Well for me, I was taught that we had to play a whole style, and we liked to play funk and R&B and jazz since high school. I liked it all.  I was interested in anything, even a little bit of classical. I guess it started with: people would ask me, “Hey, do you wanna jam in my business? You wanna play in my band?” I would go to rehearse, and maybe rehearse like once or twice a week, doing light gig here and there. That’s sort of the story of it. I’d gotten professional. I got to get professional with the ministry you know. I was on stand at the ministry and then I hooked up with a singer, a professional singer. And when she came to LA. I was her pianist. I sounded like Billy Preston. She loved it, so I was her pianist up to now. I was 18 years old. She had all these musicians, and I was the musician called in. And that’s how I became a full‐time musician in LA: because somebody always needed a pianist.

AUSTIN: Alright!

ROBERT: If there was jam, gig, R&B gig, or gigs like that, they left me packing.

AUSTIN: Would you say, overall, you had more success being called to play in other people’s bands versus going out and booking your own gigs with your own projects?

ROBERT: Yeah at that time, yeah. It was harder for me to get my own gig, my own solo gig. I still have a hard time doing that.

AUSTIN: Yeah, I feel you. I'm kind of the same way.

ROBERT: Yeah. It’s getting harder just like here [in Shanghai].

AUSTIN: Who stylistically affected your playing the most?

ROBERT: Gene Harris is my favorite piano player. I appreciated other musicians but Gene Harris was my favorite. So it furthered my style.

AUSTIN: I’d like to get into some more detail on your time living and performing in Shanghai in just a second, but for right now, how would you contrast your experience finding venues and gigs in China versus in Los Angeles?

ROBERT: I'm sure you know about you know all of your friends want to hear you play. They start calling you for gigs: “Hey, would you go do this on December 8th? Show up on time.” The bass player from that gig then calls you: “what are you doing tomorrow? Can you go down and play the piano?”  I said, “Yeah, I ain’t doing nothing. I’ll come down and play.” I would take all his gigs, all these opportunities.  So I'm getting called. I think I was 19 or 20; somebody hooked me up with a band that came through LA.  They said, “Come with us.” They called me up and took me to Japan. They got me there. I started working there. So of course I, you know, that kind of thing was happening for about 5 years. Even with China, this gig came from LA because Dnotes and I played together for about 15 years since I was almost a kid. We played this gig with each other. So he came over here [to Shanghai] first.  He came in and said, “Hey”. So I called him and talked with him and he invited me to come down here.  So that’s how I came down here.  So you see what I'm saying: it basically all comes from LA. All the gigs for the most part did come from LA.  This being down here [in Shanghai] is kind of like an extension of an LA gig. You know what I'm saying?

AUSTIN: Yeah, man. I definitely understand that. That’s really cool. How did you first realize that you love jazz enough to focus on that?

ROBERT: Well to be honest, I was around Jazz. I was around Jazz then, and I was listening to a jazz station. This is before I left my family: I was listening to Jazz. I was around Jazz. I didn’t know if I could tell I was going to play piano back then. I was thinking of a man who played Gospel. He didn’t play any Jazz chords. He played Gospel chords. He had a blues scale run. He had a vague chords. He was “boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.” It was something he grabbed. I never heard that before, and it was so straight up. It was raw. So when I heard that, I was inspired to play the piano. Now, I liked some Jazz. I'm like one or the same. One of my first songs that I really liked was “My Little Suede Shoes” by Charlie Parker. I always got the chance to play that song. So I could jab a chord. I liked some of the jazz songs and when I heard Gene Harris, he put it together. Gene Harris is a solid player. He liked gospel. He liked his parents. They accepted blues. He would start with that, and he would go into a song like the Green Dolphin Street. He puts in the jazz, and he would play Jazz chords. He’ll put the Jazz right together with the Blues. That’s what I like about Gene Harris. So that I wanted to play like Gene Harris. So that was what I planned from the beginning. I wanted to do that. I ain’t like, “go into Gospel first.” Oh, jazz was perfect. I wanted the Jazz. No, no, that did not happen like that.  I wanted to take the old style and tie it together and make it just like Gene. That was how I started.

AUSTIN:  How did you initially get turned on to Gene Harris?

ROBERT:  I was listening to the jazz radio. He was still “in” at that time in LA.  I heard the pianist. I heard cool piano stuff. It looked like playing jazz makes you better. It was raw and loose, and I would record it on my cassette recorder. That was the first time I heard him. I don’t know what happened to that tape but if I find it still, I would be so happy but that’s how I got turned on to Gene Harris. Man, I started going to the record store, started buying that. I got a couple of records, my first CD that I bought of James Black, and all. On day the TV broke down: so I had to go to the store.  I mean, once you hear it, any of Gene Harris’, you will be hooked.

AUSTIN: Is there anyone in China that is a jazz musician that you have enjoyed listening to the recordings of?

ROBERT: No. I hate to say it man. They don’t really have first‐class jazz singing market here. They have a Chinese festival once a year. They try to push out Jazz again. Most of these are from abroad. I don’t really hear a lot Chinese Jazz musicians here. They don’t really care a lot about that. I actually heard a couple of key musicians that were really good, you know what I'm saying. I sure did, but I’ve never seen them or played for them. Jazz here in China? They have a certain change on special occasions.  On special occasions, you have Jazz or something. That’s what I noticed.

AUSTIN: So why would you say that you originally moved to Shanghai? Because of the gig offer itself?

ROBERT: Well, the recession there back in 2011, so I was told that there by Dnotes: he told me about this China new gig that he had. At first, I didn’t take it. I didn’t take it when he first offered, but then I called him back and said, “Okay, I’ll take it” because that recession came. So basically, I was trying to get a break all that by doing my Gene Harris tribute record called “Blues for Gene.” I was trying to work on that. I had been writing and putting it together. So I remembered when he called up. So I remembered how it was then. Basically, I didn’t have money. It’s just not the same offer as to go and buy whatever I want whenever I want. So I said, “Hey I need this much.” It was supposed to be: I wasn’t to be coming to China for 3 years, I'm thinking 3 months. But when I got down here, I saw a lot of opportunities. So I said well I’ll do a Chinese record real quick, you know, but the Chinese saw through my old style.  So we did my album “Chinese Piano” and that record just took time and money. It took time, more time, and that’s what made me take so long. I wasn’t supposed to be here that long.  I got the opportunity and had a distribution company. They put it in the store and everything. It got up their way. It’s an opportunity. I got to take this opportunity. That’s why I had to stay in China for 3 years.

AUSTIN:  I met you in Shanghai in 2011. How many years have you been there?

ROBERT: 3 years.

AUSTIN:  So I must have met you not long after you moved there.

ROBERT: Right.

AUSTIN: How is your Chinese, or do you speak Mandarin?

ROBERT: No. I speak a little Japanese but not Chinese.

AUSTIN: I had the pleasure of meeting your bassist friend of 15 years: Dnotes Harris.  I remember him. How did you all originally meet?

ROBERT: Me and Dnotes?

AUSTIN: Mm‐hmm.

ROBERT: A saxophone player. I remember that Yeah, so here’s what I'm saying. Dnotes and me is like a whole music scene. So when I met [this sax player], then I met Dnotes. He introduced me to Dnotes. I’ve been playing with Dnotes for a long time.

AUSTIN: The Melting Pot seemed like a really great Jazz and pop music hangout when we were there for that month in Shanghai. Was that the first place that you started playing at or how did your relationship with that venue start?

ROBERT: That was it right there.

AUSTIN: Cool. And that, I remember, I loved meeting the vocalist and drummer you had at the Melting Pot. How did you meet the two of them?

ROBERT: Well, they were already working with Dnotes before I got there. So once I got there, I started working with them.

AUSTIN: Have you performed in any other countries other than China and United States?

ROBERT: Bali, Indonesia Jazz Festival. I was a featured artist for that.

AUSTIN: How did you end up there?

ROBERT: Dnotes.

AUSTIN: Nice – Dnotes. What a great guy.

ROBERT: Yeah. He’s amazing.

AUSTIN:  I loved checking out that new Chinese film “Just in Shanghai” which features both you and Dnotes preparing for and then performing a concert. That must have been lots of fun.

ROBERT: Damn right. Yeah, it was.

AUSTIN: How did you decide what tunes to play for that concert?

ROBERT: Well, I don’t know. I just find my feel when I do a concert or you want a program.  [Chinese audiences] want it in order so I just try to think -- kind of put a show together. You know that’s how I did it. I go by how I feel and then hone it wherever, go over all those songs. I think about the oldest songs, and I started to think of Gene’s songs and anybody else, and yeah, just trying to keep it simple, but we rehearsed a lot. [We had] 20 songs.

AUSTIN: Yeah. Well, how’d you meet the filmmaker and of getting to do that documentary?

ROBERT: Oh, they came to the Melting Pot. I think maybe the oldest things will groove people.

AUSTIN: Cool. How would you compare the appreciation of Jazz standards by your Chinese audiences versus American audiences?

ROBERT: Well, you know if I can say it all, you know, I barely have a good audience. I think the audience that I have [in the documentary] is the first audience that I had that was good.  I can hear a pin drop. I can drop a coin on the ground across the room. The Shanghai Symphony [gig] was a good audience.  Same thing. I could drop a quarter on the stage and then you can hear it all the way to the back in the room.  Melting Pot, unless I did was a Chinese song or a fast song or a loud song, they want an end to it.  It was hard. They came to us and asked us to shut [a jazz song] down. They did not like us. It was even the climax in the song. Now, it was worth it of course.


ROBERT: So, I would say overall, I would say that [Shanghai] isn’t a concert city. They don’t actually love music. They don’t ever listen to us, so I can play anything. I can play a Chinese song or a Jazz song. So whenever I want to play soft music, they now pay attention to the one I'm playing, but if I go to an R&B song, I would have to play something that they knew, either some Chinese song or a pop song, whatever song I want, just as long as they know the song, and I would have to do a breakdown performance. They never listen to us.  I hate to say it but I don’t think that it [because of] playing in China and even in Bali, Indonesia. I played some really heavy stuff and I was fortunate that our band did pay attention, but I don’t think I have 100% of their attention, you know what I'm saying? When I say all over the world, the Jazz is gone. The true jazz appreciator is gone. So to do it is to do all these [hits], you know. If they’re kind of bored, you got to change up if you want them to pay attention to you. To answer your question, it’s the same all over the world. I believe so. You know, it’s the same in Indonesia, it’s the same, I believe it’s the same in Japan, same in America, same in China. I think that’s pretty fair.

AUSTIN: Talking about classical music versus Jazz music, do you find that people in China usually are able to appreciate both styles or usually does an audience only like classical music or only like jazz?

ROBERT: I know that China is a classical market so I like the classical keys. They don’t know the jazz standards. When you go out, people are interested in it. They want to try to go check it out, but at the same time, they don’t know it and it’s like you have to require a change to jazz. So the Jazz audience is slowly coming up in China but the classical audience is now. China is definitely a classical market.

AUSTIN:  I remember when I was in Shanghai that you were teaching a masterclass, but I was unable to attend it because we’re doing some performances with Tapestry Dance Company.  I remember you showing me some great voicings.  How did you start teaching in the first place?

ROBERT: Well, it’s been their call. I got a called to teach private lessons. You get these calls [after] you do an exhibition. You get it the first time. When I went to Sacramento, I started playing this church song. I had a few people that wanted to learn gospel music and talked to me about that. I said, “If you ever want to come, just come down and take a music class.” So at that time, we did it for a couple of years like on a Tuesday. Every Tuesday, they’d come down, probably Wednesday they’d come down, you know, and learn how to play and stuff. I did choose that for a change. That was fun too. I liked teaching a big class. In that way, I can play it out to everybody.

AUSTIN: So are you just doing master’s classes or what types of teaching are you doing currently?

ROBERT: I kind of did a masterclass [in Shanghai].  It was cool. We had 100 students. I wanted to get the video on, but you saw it probably on Facebook. It was a really big class. We got some information out there. These are high school students. They’re very good by the way. They’re very talented musicians as well, and so yes, it was a fun class. That was a fun class. I mean if someone comes up to me and said, “I wanna learn,” I’ll teach it.

AUSTIN: Do you see yourself doing more teaching as the years progress?

ROBERT: I’m interested in doing a masterclass. They are just there for me that kind of collaborate with all of this talent  -- you know, the need for energy,  skill, more energy – and just get these persons again out there.  I'm proud if I die, I put a lot here -- and all that crowd. Yeah, that’s kind of fun. So that’s kind of what I want to do right now. That’s why I do masterclass..  I kind of want a video of the audience above all that. That’s a lot of talent.

AUSTIN: Do you have any goals you are hoping to achieve as a performer?

ROBERT: Well, my goal is to conquer it all. My life is all of piano. I really want to have solo keys at a concert. I like playing in the concert hall, you know, a truly the gift of a little artist, you know. I enjoy it more when I really play and the audience would uplift me or appreciate anything, and they will repeat this for 5 sets.  [At the bar] they’re not really there for art. They’re there for this and all. So I was like, my goal is just to carry these songs. I mean I would like to play any song from my records, my own composition or song.

AUSTIN: Having spent 3 years in China, why have you finally decided to return home?

ROBERT: Well, you know I'm married and I got [kids], just that.  So I get to go home and be a dad. You know what I mean. I see that I don’t get the same opportunity with my kids in America.

AUSTIN: What are you going to do when you first get there?

ROBERT: Spend some time with the family and then you know cook beans and some fried chicken and gravy, pancakes, relax, watch some movies, maybe go to the beach. So, I’ll kind of enjoy LA a little bit. That’s what I would like to do.

AUSTIN: Well, you ought to come to Austin, Texas some time. We will show you around and take you to jazz clubs.

ROBERT: Yeah, man, that would be great. That would be wonderful, man. You call me.

AUSTIN: Cool. So how about musically? What are you going to do first when you get back?

ROBERT: Well, I'm working on a concert hall. I haven’t told a lot of people about it but it’s kind of a long shot. I always put it in my craft, you know, ever since I’ve started but I encourage it in my albums. When I started to do a concert, I'm trying to focus up a bit on a big hall [that] holds about 700 people.  I'm thinking about trying to set that up, you know, pull that, and I believe that would help get more opportunities because there’s much jumping up too. My name is not strong enough to like stand out. It’s one of the places I really want to play.  So I'm planning to set it up by playing at other venues. I’ll play it to perform it to many. That will keep my thing going. It’s flowing down into my vein as an artist. That’s one of my plans. I just want to do something about that. I can relax and do my thing.

AUSTIN: I'm sure you’ll let us all know about that via your mailing list. I have to ask, how did you get to play with Stevie Wonder and with the Temptations? I saw that on your website.
[Visit Robert Turner’s website at]

ROBERT: Temptations -- I was working with a friend of mine named Dennis Nelson. He’s a jazz player, and he was working on his record called “Back on Track.” You should check that out. He did a track with the Temptations. He sang as a backup, for I think anyone. So, yeah, that’s how I met The Temptations. I talked to the guy.

AUSTIN: How about Stevie?

ROBERT: Oh, Stevie? Well, while we were doing a soul show, I mean this was back in 2003
or something [2002, actually]. Neo-soul came out. Stevie was very popular. I got called to play in somebody’s home with a house band – I thought it was maybe a birthday party for Stevie.  First set we played some of his songs, stretching out. It was a really good band.  Stevie came up.  He started singing a whole set of all his songs. Very nice too. It’s on YouTube. You can watch him in action.  He can play everything, very nice too. He can do very challenging stuff. He can play Giant Steps, He can play in A the same way I play in B flat.
[Subscribe to Robert Turner’s YouTube channel at]

AUSTIN: Is there anything else that you would like to say to whoever will be reading this interview?

ROBERT: Yeah. Like my man Jesse Jackson said: “Keep Hope Alive!”

Robert Turner currently has three jazz albums available for purchase, with a fourth in the works.

Robert Turner - "China Piano" Turner Music Ent./CSCAV (Beijing Conpnay)

Robert Turner - "Soul Piano" Turner Music Ent.

Robert Turner - "Silent Night" Seedless Records/Turner Music

Connect with Robert Turner on his Facebook page at

If you have a question for Robert, please leave a comment.


Austin Kimble is a professional jazz pianist, music director, educator, and composer based in Austin, Texas.

Questions? Comments? Booking Inquiries?

Email Austin Kimble at or Tweet @JazzAustin

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Jazz Piano Music Video

Official Music Video for "Dear Freddie" by Austin Kimble

AUSTIN (KXAN) - Jazz pianist Austin Kimble was on KXAN News Today to talk about his viral video and his [successful] Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for his new album.
     Kimble, who graduated from the University of Texas, plays both with a trio and his wife Kelsey.  His video, circulated during SXSW, drew well over 1 million views.  In it, Kimble and piano are seen all over Austin, playing at various iconic locations such as the Long Center for the Performing Arts, a cow pasture, the Lady Bird jogging trail and Pete's Dueling Piano Bar down on Sixth Street.  The music is a tribute to the late Freddie Hubbard.  

Originally published at Saturday, 27 Apr 2013

Live performance by Austin Kimble on KXAN-TV (NBC Austin)

Encore performance by Austin Kimble on KXAN-TV (NBC Austin)


Austin Kimble is a professional jazz pianist, music director, educator, and composer based in Austin, Texas.

Questions? Comments? Booking Inquiries?

Email Austin Kimble at or Tweet @JazzAustin