2015-01-17 / Features

‘You’re going to get a chance to do it’


I was thinking about how fortunate our town is to be welcoming native son Frank Kimbrough to the stage of the Kirby Theater on Jan. 31.

Kimbrough is a renowned jazz pianist who lives in New York City and teaches his craft at the Julliard School of Music.

Now, not only will he be performing here, but he will be conducting Master Jazz Piano classes, also at the Kirby, on Friday, Jan. 30.

The significance of those two days can be measured out in large portions of entertainment but the hands-on teaching of his profession is a headliner, too.

Kimbrough will be teaching jazz piano and ensemble, which means the addition of usually two or three more instruments to form a trio, quartet or if more players, a combo.

That means the class is not restricted, or just for the piano. Kimbrough does perform alone, but some of his best music is with the addition of percussion, double bass and a horn/reed instrument.

This will be a class on playing music, explaining the theory of jazz ensemble and a player’s ability to express himself through his instrument in a jazz idiom.

After interviewing Mr. Kimbrough last week, I got the strong impression that he respects the styles and mixed bags that classic jazz musicians “put down” for all these generations, but isn’t bound to them.

His point was to learn as many of the licks as possible, and understand what musicians like Miles Davis and Charley Parker were playing and if it conformed or not within a pattern that the composition seemed to be making.

Kimbrough’s final point was to learn all you possibly could about music theory, but when you began your own solo, accompaniment or phrasing, forget everything and let yourself play in the moment. The way you are feeling, physically and mentally, will also determine what you will come up with.

I thought that was great perception.

I think that being in that workshop with Kimbrough would benefit any serious musician looking to strengthen his or her playing and put more colors on his or her soloing palette.

I don’t know if there is a limit to the size of the class on the 30th, but a quick call to 336- 597-1709 will get you an answer. Anytime a local musician/student has a chance to be around a teaching master such as Frank Kimbrough, don’t miss that chance.

That brings me to another point.

Many of you know that my girlfriend, Pamela Myers, is a highly respected and sought after actress/singer with over 45 years of experience on and off-Broadway. She just finished up with a two-month run of the musical White Christmas that had her in seven different theaters in the Midwest and East Coast. Tonight she is performing at 54 Below Nightclub in NYC, so she’s still pulling in the crowds.

About five years ago, Pam and I had come down here and spoken with Doug Newell about a performance at the Kirby and a master voice workshop, and we had big plans.

But, Doug passed away before anything could be decided on. That’s not something I forgot about, however.

I think that there would be a great response if Pammie came down here from Cincinnati and conducted the same kind of workshop she has done at Yale, the University of Indiana, and her alma mater, the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Then, she could put on a performance of some of her Stephan Sondheim classics and do a few things from the Great American Songbook.

I am fairly certain, if given enough time, she could work with all the local vocalists and improve their level of singing. She loves doing it and specializes in cabaret singing.

If you want to get an idea of her talent, she’s on a dozen You- Tube clips with my personal favorites being Another Hundred People and Everything’s Coming Up Roses. That girl can sing, ladies and gentlemens!

She also played the wacky blond, Ginger, on the television series Sha Na Na in the ‘70s and sang the female vocals on all those oldie covers.

There must be dozens upon dozens of aspiring music theater students, as well as serious karaoke singers, that would benefit from a Vocal Master’s Class. One summer about five years ago, Pam was part of a staff that specialized in Cabaret song, show tunes and dance. I know she had an older gentleman in her classes who did one-night dinner shows up and down the East Coast. She also spent a full week training a beautiful opera star from Germany who wanted to entertain in nightclubs and take advantage of her dancing skills and really break out. She did.

I know it wasn’t too long ago that Pam had several sessions with a good friend of mine, Donna Redd, who had been an entertainer for a cruise line after she left college. Donna was able to cruise around the world in a first class cabin and then do a Motown Revue for a floorshow in the ship’s theater.

Donna was attempting to retrace her steps as an opera singer, but still wanted Pam to help bring out her best in shaping her voice for singing pop tunes. Pam had the experience, knew how to coach and got Donna all tuned up for several appearances up in the Danville area for the Wednesday Club.

So, you don’t really know how much talent you have until you play or sing for a professional who can accurately assess you. Then, the beauty of the whole process is that this teacher or coach can make the necessary adjustments to get you into the proper technique, and make you better.

Not everybody is a born musician, has perfect pitch or especially a high belt. But, the ones that have that talent can reflect on it and provide inspiration so you can polish up your game.

I can remember when I used to be in blues bands and play my harmonica through an amp with an old microphone to amplify the sound and distort the tone. I wasn’t great but I didn’t embarrass myself either.

I used to practice to records and develop certain redundant harmonica licks that were in songs like I’m a Man and Hoochie Coochie Man. They consisted of four or five notes with one bent, blue note. They were played over and over through the entire song and you talk about getting winded.

But, just like what Frank Kimbrough says: When it came time to take my solo, I was able to leave the rhythm of the band and musically describe how I was feeling that night, playing my harp. And what I played came out naturally and it really seemed to me I was playing in the moment, playing the notes or runs that belonged.

There just isn’t a better “high” than expressing a feeling with an instrument or with your voice. I guess it’s called “being cool.”

And you’re going to get a chance to do it.

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