Dave Ratcliffe Piano
Highlights Archive
My Grandfather had a photographic memory. I have some kind of “audiographic memory”; I hear something that I am drawn to and hear it playing back inside. Highlights of the Month include reflections of wondrous, irrational meaning for things heard and felt, encountered while here on the journey.
2023 Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov
2022       Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

November 2023
Mal Waldron: Nervous
I found my way to Mal Waldron’s Nervous piano solo on the double LP, They All Played Bebop (released in 1982). Recorded on 5 December 1957, it was part of the LP, The Sound of Jazz, which was followed on 8 December by the TV broadcast of the same name. The restless, edgy feeling conveyed through Waldron’s musical imagination is a notable “utterance” of the word’s meaning as expressed in our universal language.

October 2023
Claude Debussy
Walter Gieseking playing Passepied from Suite Bergamasque
I learned about Walter Gieseking from my father who had been tuning in to him since the 1950s. The rhythmic feeling of Passepied mixed with its melodic line showcases Gieseking’s unique style of interpretation. In the 1990s I found my way to Gieseking’s 1954 recordings of the Complete Works for Piano Solo of Mozart in this 8-CD box set:

September 2023
Found this album in the early ’80s. Especially love the final track, Chorinho Do Marquinho. The Portuguese direct translation is something like “Marquinho’s Little Cry”. The song struck a beautiful chord inside when I first heard it. The interplay between TM and NHOP repeatedly rises and falls like ocean swells making land fall. Catch the extended wave beginning at 2:10.

August 2023
I saw West Side Story as a kid in 1961. It was out-of-this-world powerful. Later at home, I listened to the LP soundtrack a LOT. The Prologue was/is especially captivating. Above goes to a 9:51 minute film version of the Prologue (with the very end clipped). Below is a visual representation of the 6:32 minute original August 1960 soundtrack recording. The transition beginning at 4:32 turns up the heat. The zylophone phrase begins at 4:34. See how many different zylophones you can detect that begin riffing off each other starting at 4:44 and running through 5:07.

July 2023
Sergei Prokofiev
Monster Composer and Pianist
Casting about for more piano wonder to discover and explore, I fell into the expanding universe of Sergei Prokofiev in 1994 with the 3-CD set, PROKOFIEV, Vladimir Ovchinikov – Piano Sonatas / Toccata / 9 Pieces from “Cinderella”. Introduced to Prokofiev’s genius by the utterly inspired pianist Vladimir Ovchinikov, this set continues to be a cherished favorite in the music library. Scores of III: Quarrel (Six Pieces From The Ballet “Cinderella”) and IV: Vivace (Sonata No. 2 in D Minor) are presented in Transcriptions. This music highlights the influence of SG’s oeuvre on composer Danny Elfman (from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure[1][2][3][4]). Consider the following as fodder for Elfman’s musical sense: Toccata, Op. 11 and from Sonatas: No. 2, II: Scherzo - Allegro Marcato, No. 4, III: Allegro Con Brio, Ma Non Leggiero, No. 5, II: Andantino, No. 7, III: Precipitato, and No. 8, III: Vivace, to name a very few.

June 2023
Mary Lou Williams
recordings of No Title Blues
I have wanted to record this quintessential Mary Lou blues with a bass for a very long time. Finding Max Ridley and playing/recording together on 7 and 14 June 2023 was a great gift on many levels.

May 2023
Randy Weston
A vinyl LP that never made it into CD form, here is a digitized edition. While containing some of vinyl’s telltale snap, crackle, and pop, the music is straight-ahead Randy Weston. Fave’ tracks are: Portrait Of Tuntemeke, Good Harvest (Buena Coscecha), and Monk Steps.

April 2023
Tuned in to this album in the early '70s. Two favorites are Compared to What and You Got It In Your Soulness. Just recently stumbled on a film of the former which prompted this highlight.

March 2023
Facing You
As described last November, Facing You was the other album Oscar pointed me at in 1976. The two blow-me-away songs here are In Front and Lalene. Various versions of transcripts are now presented in Transcriptions.

February 2023
Adriano Celentano: Prisencolinensinainciusol
This song was composed by Adriano Celentano in 1972. Some years later it was performed on Italian television—above, and the fun starts at 1:25. It was written to mimic the way English sounds to non-English speakers. Supposedly the English sounding lyrics are mumbo jumbo and his intention was to write a song that means nothing. In addition, the claim is made that the reason it sounds so good, even if it’s gibberish, is because Celantano studied phonetics theory. In Celentano’s own words, “Ever since I started singing, I was very influenced by American music and everything Americans did. So at a certain point, since I like American slang – which, for a singer, is much easier to sing than to sing in Italian – I thought that I would write a song which would only have as its theme the inability to communicate. And to do this, I had to write a song where the lyrics didn’t mean anything.” Taking the music one step further, “OreStones” worked up a subtitled-inventive interpretation of the meaningless English-sounding words.

January 2023
Texas Seaport 1934:1937
I discovered this album when it came out while working at Rhymes Records. Among the inspired tracks, Rob Cooper’s West Dallas Drag, Joe Pullums’s Cows See That Train Comin’, Rack It Back And Tell It Right, Mississippi Flood Blues, and Andy Boy’s House Raid Blues, and Church Street Blues are especially rich.

December 2022
Christmas Time Is Here
released December 1965
A very simple arrangement of a dreamy tune.

November 2022
Oscar Peterson: Sandy’s Blues (17 Oct 1968)
By 1976 I had burned out on rock n’roll and, at the suggestion of my friend-from-the-beginning-of-time Oscar Hills, picked up copies of Keith Jarrett’s Facing You and a two-fer of Oscar Peterson’s titled, In A Mellow Mood. Putting on Sandy’s Blues, the first song on Side 2, I knew I’d gotten onto something I’d been looking for for a looooong time.

October 2022
This 2000 recording paints a sound picture of a locomotive fired up, slowly rolling out of its wheelhouse, hooked up to the cars it will pull, and then barreling down the tracks to destinations amongst the great beyond.

September 2022
Transcription of Prelude No.16 Variation
Going back to the 1990s original by-hand transcription of John Lewis’ improvisation in the middle of J.S. Bach’s Prelude 16 in G minor from Book 1 of the Well-Tempered Clavier, I have now put together a more accurate representation, detailed at the top of John Lewis: The Bridge Game, Vol. 2, 1984/85.

August 2022
In his autobiography, African Rhythms, Randy Weston observed, “Nobody wrote more great music than Ellington, and I don’t care what Duke played or wrote—you always heard the blues underneath.” Beginning in Kansas City in the 1930s, Jay McShann expressed his own fundamental access to and articulation of the blues as composer, band leader and master pianist. “In the late 1930s and early 1940s, along with his fellow pianist and bandleader Count Basie, the singer Joe Turner and many others, McShann helped establish what came to be known as the Kansas City sound: a brand of jazz rooted in the blues, driven by riffs and marked by a powerful but relaxed rhythmic pulse.”[] This recording of My Chile is from a 1966 LP that has never been digitized, until now.

July 2022
I began seriously tuning in to Duke Ellington when I was introduced to At His Very Best. For decades following I discovered a cross-section of his music from 1927 up to 1973. The reach of his imagination and creativity was utterly out of this world. The way he voiced horns, his musical ideas, writing for the specific quality of sounds each member of the orchestra brought to the table, his unmistakable pianistic style, his unbounded ability to continue to grow and expand as well as keeping his band working non-stop for more than 40 years ... The liner notes for the 1950 LP, Masterpieces By Ellington observes something of Duke Ellington’s sources of inspiration:
Ellington once listed George Gershwin, Stravinsky, Debussy and Respighi as his favorite composers, a significant group of choices to remember in listening to his music. Gershwin, the inspired melodist, also showed a masterly preoccupation with intricate rhythms and meters. Stravinsky, certainly the most important influence in modern classical music, is an experimenter of the first order, continually exploring rhythms and textures in his compositions. Debussy is the master of Impressionism, refining delicate themes to a gauzy web of articulate grace. And Respighi, whatever his claims as a composer, was a master of orchestration. These revealing choices give the clue to the basis of Ellington's music, and to its incontestably immense appeal: melody, rhythm, delicacy and color.
While he used the piano to compose, Duke Ellington’s instrument was his orchestra. As he put it in a 1962 interview in Vancouver, “The band is an accumulation of personalities, tonal devices, and as a result of a certain musician applied to a certain instrument you get a definite tonal character.”

June 2022
Genius is inexplicable, but Art Tatum, when asked, usually cited Fats Waller as his main inspiration. “Fats, man. That’s where I come from. And quite a place to come from,” he once told an interviewer. Waller, in turn idolized Tatum. Once, when Tatum entered a club where Fats was performing, he stopped the music and announced “Ladies and gentleman, I play piano, but God is in the house tonight!”
This LP, recorded in 1940 and 1941 after-hours venues, presents, in Dan Morgenstern’s words, ”the relaxed, informal, completely at ease Tatum.” In this paean to the unique spirit of after-hours, two favorite gems are Fine and Dandy and Begin The Beguine. Tatum’s seemingly effortless rhythmic fluidity underpinning and supporting the swinging melodic lines—interwoven with Reubin Harris “discreetly, moving two whiskbrooms over a folded newspaper placed on a chair”(!)—is truly out of this world.

May 2022
Mary Lou Williams’ composition, Hesitation Boogie was recorded by her Trio in 1946. A transcription of this recording is now published in Transcriptions. In The History of Jazz album (1978), she describes this style of playing in the Kansas City Swing era:
During this great swing period a pianist had to have two strong hands. Especially a good swinging left hand to compete as a top pianist. During this period boogie woogie was also very popular. I was never considered a top boogie woogie pianist but was trained to play all styles.

April 2022
Excerpt from Thelonious Monk: American Composer, Masters of American Music Documentary (1991). Randy Weston describes and plays an example of Harlem Stride Piano, followed by Producer Orrin Keepnews, a segment of James P. Johnson’s The Mule Walk (1939), and closes with Randy Weston describing how Monk “put the traditional and modern ... together - so there was no separation” and demonstrates this playing Monk’s tune, Functional using a little bit of stride.