Dr. Joe Gilman is a full-time professor of music at American River College in Sacramento, an adjunct professor of jazz studies at CSU Sacramento, and a longtime associate of the Brubeck Institute and the Stanford Jazz Workshop. Joe was the music director of Capital Jazz Project from 1997 to 2011. Joe has been the primary pianist with jazz vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson since September 2006, and the Sacramento Jazz Orchestra since 2010.
By JOE GILMAN
As I was growing up in this area, listening to the records owned by my older brother (like the Beatles, the Monkeys, and the Doors), and taking piano lessons from a wonderful Ukrainian immigrant, jazz was something that I didn't even knew existed. Well, my parents did own a Doc Severinsen record, and I sure liked Phil Harris as Balloo singing "The Bare Necessities!"
Almost out of elementary school, the movie "The Sting" was all the rage, and my sister began to learn "The Maple Leaf Rag" by Scott Joplin. I really liked the bouyant energy of that song; I could just imagine myself impressing my friends while wearing a straw hat and pinstripes at the Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour on Sunrise Boulevard! I quickly began learning the notes, which was no easy feat for a 12 year old playing a piece that was entirely too difficult!
But soon I had it learned and was steadily engaged in new rags, such as "Elite Syncopations," "The Cascades," and "Solace." I became a "specialist" and read as much as I could about Scott Joplin. I was starting to find my identity...
In my freshman year in high school, a few experiences lead directly to my love of jazz. The school jazz band needed a pianist, and my ability to read music and play the syncopated rhythms of ragtime made me a logical recruit. Now I needed lessons, and the brilliant Jerry Murphy took me under his wing and taught me the harmony of Oscar Peterson and Bill Evans.
My sister recognized my interest in jazz, and bought me a two-record set called "Jazz Piano Giants" which included everyone from Duke Ellington to Keith Jarrett, I found Gary Vercelli on KXPR spinning records as diverse as John Coltrane and the Crusaders, and my mother bought me a subscription to Down Beat magazine. Soon, my weekends were spent browsing the shelves of Tower Records on Watt Avenue. My money from mowing lawns was spent on Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Herbie Hancock. And fortunately, I have never looked back!
This is part of a series about falling in love with the artform of jazz.
We're inviting you to share your story of how you came to love jazz, in 200 words or less. Email your essay to [email protected] before February 14. We’ll read the top submissions on air and award several prizes.