Jazz Times Magazine June 1999
I suppose it wouldn’t seem unnatural that, more than in any other aspect, Duke appealed to me most from a pianist’s sensibility. I write from this point of view and, I think, speak the same for many other piano players. Duke’s playing presents a problem for those younger pianist’s who, like I did, in order to seek appropriate musical models, would wish to sit at their master’s feet for guidance.
Duke, belongs to a little club of pianists we all love, who’s membership includes Monk and Garner, of whom it would be in bad taste to copy. They’re not like our other models, Red, Tommy, Bill, Hank and such. It’s okay to copy them. To try to sound like them. But it’s not okay to try to sound like those other guys.
Not to take anything away from the guys it’s okay to copy. It’s great to show that you’ve been influenced by some of Duke’s better musical qualities. Any player is proud to show their roots in their playing. It’s a musician’s way of paying respect to those who have shaped their playing and honoring their debt to the past, but never do it at the expense of one’s own individuality.
Duke, and his ilk, are too unique to copy. They carved out their own individual places in a space where no two musical objects can reside at the same time. It does, however, impose a minor constrain upon those pianists who would wish to honor them. They’ve become, in a sense, too strong to copy, to strong to honor.
But, that doesn’t mean that those of us piano players who love and respect Duke’s playing haven’t enjoyed and learned from him. Au contrare’. I don’t know of any pianists, at least of my generation, who didn’t speak in awe of, Duke, Monk and Garner. We had all their records and would sit at home at night and try to copy and learn from them but it was de rigeur TO TRY TO PLAY LIKE THEM. Certainly, a lack of good taste.
But don’t think we weren’t all heavily influenced by Duke. He influenced the guys that we all copied, the guys that it’s okay to copy. Whether we know it or not, or show it or not, every piano player has been influenced by Duke. Every one.