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Journalism by Shueh-li
Sonicfreakz  |  08 Feb 2010

Beegie Adair

beegie

Beegie Adair, Steinway Jazz pianist and recording artist.

When I sat down with Beegie in the recital hall of the Steinway Piano Gallery in Nashville, I found myself a kindred spirit. I’ve had the privilege of meeting a few such people in my travels.

Within minutes of exchanging pleasantries, including details of each other’s musical aspirations and the such, I noticed we shared similar thoughts on many issues related to music. Beegie became my buddy the instant I found out she had heard the theremin; “they used to make theremin records when I was a little girl!”

Beegie aka Bobbe Gorin (B.G.) Adair, has seen jazz grow from a niche category in a music store to something more egalitarian, thanks to those who have had through generations, massaged their artistic persuasions into the music, much like one would rub spices culled from around the world into their cooking.The romanticised idea as portrayed on the celluloid screen is often the version that comes to mind when the word “jazz” is dropped; you know, walking into a club and being greeted by that intoxicating voice that would sustain your attention into the night … falling back into a plush chair to watch smoke rings intertwine, time ebbing in slo-mo.

Jazz originated from the Mississippi Delta. But ragtime did a modal on it, and Black Orpheus mysteriously samba-ed its way into its soul. When jazz thought con-fusion was cool, a series of permutations was necessary to reintroduce it as a form where all music is permissible and nu again. I encourage anyone just discovering jazz to do a brief review of its history, then find as much material to listen to as possible.

Beegie recently embarked on a solo-duet project where she got to work with divergent styles, including music by Hank williams, Stevie Wonder and more.

She does not hesitate to remark that the music does not fall in any category. I am of the mind that the lines have blurred because people from all walks of life have come together to explore each other’s musical talents. I feel proud to be one from such a group. (Friends of Xenovibes are familiar with the ideal we champion where ‘disparate musical souls coming together in a stream of consciousness exchange’.)

Beegie and I agree that music of the world is undoubtedly folk music (which jazz is a part of), and that folk music and the oral tradition wear the same hat where obeisance of rules given by the master is its true nature. Learning by rote ceases when the student becomes the purveyor of his/her master’s style. Read any artist’s bio and you will find names of teachers with whom, and institutions at which, they have studied.

Most songs released these days seem to fall under the Pop category; maybe this makes it more commercially viable? But the duration in which one pursues a specific genre is inevitably how one’s music is labeled. I began in the classical field then ventured down the road experimental before heading up the avenue of pop, detouring along the way, but always keeping between the lines of esoteric and mainstream. OK I admit with a grin that I did do the cover band thing (chuckle.)

Beegie is an associate professor of jazz studies at the Vanderbilt University in Nashville, while her husband heads the jazz and folk department. She tells me that the market has been changing, and students wanting to study music have other pressing needs. She cites the example of a string player coming in who might be playing with Disney World, and need skills to enable them to think on their feet.

She recounts the days when she would be put in front of a keyboard/synth at a recording studio just ’cause she was a piano player. The synthesizer is an entirely different animal from the piano, especially as the pianist has certain expectations of its action and feedback. When Robert Moog made black and white keys the input device on a synthesizer, he gave the pianist the power to change the world but at the same time created some confusion among many.

 

Beegie is no stranger to new instruments coming up with new sounds and new music. She listens widely and considers this exercise a good study of what the world has to offer. “The world (music) has certainly expanded” I say. She recommends the 2005 Roberto Benigni movie “The Tiger and the Snow/La Tigre e la Neve” and the voice of Tom Waits. In the movie, a literature professor is in love with a writer; the subject of a recurring dream. Each time the dream takes place, Waits who appears with the band sings ”You Can’t Hold Back Spring”. Well, I was introduced to the very distinctive Mr Waits in Melbourne a few years ago, and knew I would never forget him.

“As Time goes By” pic of the CD courtesy of the Beegie Adair Trio

Beegie performs with bassist Roger Spencer and drummer Chris Brown as the Beegie Adair trio. They can be found at their playground, F Scott’s in Nashville, every Thursday, where you might just find them developing material for an album. They play from the American song catalogue, making arrangements as they go along.

In my recent correspondence with her, Beegie informs me that they just recorded a live concert album, to be released in the Summer of 2010.

So what should young jazz musicians be developing as part of their study? Topping her list is a good classical education, and then this: that should one be interested in learning a tune, “listen to at least five different versions of it; the world needs you doing your own thing not a clone.”

… Touché!

Read Nashville; a Prelude to a journey into the 3rd coast for a list of videos on my YouTube Oceanachine channel and articles about my trip to uncover the diverse nature of the music scene in the music city.
Video Clip : Beegie discusses the state of jazz with Shueh-li

Video Clip : Beegie talks about Jazz idioms

Photos & videos (c) 2009/10 Shueh-li Ong (unless specified, all articles written by Shueh-li Ong bear the photography, videography and digital work of its author.

"beegie adair" • folk music • jazz idioms • jazz studies • oral tradition • vanderbilt university • world music •

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