This JazzPianoSkills Podcast Episode welcomes jazz pianist, composer, educator Andy Milne, University of Michigan.
Welcome to JazzPianoSkills, I'm Dr. Bob Lawrence. It’s time to Discover, Learn, and Play jazz piano!
Today, you are in for a real treat! I am joined by jazz pianist/composer/educator Andy Milne.
Andy is a Juno Award winner and has been a distinct and respected voice at the heart of New York’s creative jazz scene for over 25 years, collaborating with dancers, visual artists, poets, and musicians spanning jazz, classical, pop, folk, and world music. He has recorded and toured throughout the world with some of the very best in the jazz industry. Andy’s educational background is extensive which includes being a former student of jazz piano legend Oscar Peterson.
Andy is a Yamaha Artist and sought-after educator, serving as an assistant professor of music at The University of Michigan teaching jazz and contemporary improvisation and the Assistant-Director at The School for Improvisational Music
Both audio and video formats are available for this podcast episode. Of course, you can listen to the audio version of this episode through any of the popular podcast directories (iHeart Radio, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Pandora) OR directly on the JazzPianoSkills Podcast Website where you can also watch the video of the show as well (which I strongly recommend).
Now, It is my great pleasure and honor to welcome to JazzPianoSkills, Andy Milne.
Visit JazzPianoSkills for more educational resources that include a sequential curriculum with interactive Jazz Piano Courses, private and group online Jazz Piano Classes, and a private jazz piano community Jazz Piano Forums.
Thank you for being a JazzPianoSkills listener. It is my pleasure to help you discover, learn, and play Jazz Piano!
Dr. Bob Lawrence 0:32
Welcome to jazz piano skills. I'm Dr. Bob Lawrence. It's time to discover, learn and play jazz piano. Today you are in for a real treat. I am joined by jazz pianist, composer, and educator, Andy Milne. Andy is a Juno Award winner, and has been a distinct and respected voice at the heart of New York's creative jazz scene for over 25 years. Collaborating with dancers, visual artists, poets, and musicians spanning jazz, classical pop, folk and world music. He has recorded and toured throughout the world with some of the very best in the jazz industry. And his educational background is extensive, which includes being a former student of jazz piano legend, Oscar Peterson. Andy is a Yamaha artist and sought after educator serving as an Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Michigan teaching jazz and contemporary improvisation, and the assistant director at the school for improvisational music. both audio and video formats are available for this podcast episode. Of course, you can listen to the audio version of this episode through any of the popular podcast directories, I Heart Radio, Spotify, Apple podcast, Google podcast, Amazon, music, Pandora, and many others. Or you can listen directly on the jazz piano skills podcast website, where you can also watch the video of the show as well, which I strongly recommend. Now, it's my great pleasure and honor to welcome to jazz piano skills. Mr. Andy, Milne.
Andy Milne, welcome to jazz piano skills, my friend. Thank you, Bob. Thanks. Good to meet you. Great to be here.
Oh, man, thrilled, you know, and you and I've been going back and forth for a couple months trying to get a date nailed down and get some time. I know you're incredibly busy. And so I appreciate I appreciate us carving out some time to hook up finally and get together and do this.
Andy Milne 2:50
Yeah. And ironically, when we you scheduled this, I didn't have a gig tonight, but I do actually have.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 2:58
Yeah. And you're and you were thinking, Man, I want to cancel but I better not cancel. I
Andy Milne 3:03
bet. We didn't talk about how long was going to be started that well. I think we're early enough in the day. I'm okay.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 3:10
Yeah, you are man. only be about an hour of it. So you're good. You're good. So, listen, I
you know, I know you're up there in Michigan, right University of Michigan. Yes. Which, you know, fortunately, I'm, you know, being a jazz musician and a lover of jazz. That's my number one priority, but I gotta be honest with you, dude, I'm a big Notre Dame fan. And when I found out that you're at Michigan, there was a side of me that was going like, dude, I'm not having him on jazz panels. He's He's a Michigan Wolverine. I can't do I can't do that to my Irish.
Andy Milne 3:44
You know, I've only been here a couple of years. So there's really I mean, I'm not even wearing blue. You don't have you don't have a Michigan what the big am on are Yeah, I'm not really going out that like like that. And I came from, I came from the east coast, originally from Canada, but I mean, like, I lived in New York for a long time. And the schools I was teaching it, there was definitely no sports culture, not even a team of any kind. So it wasn't really part of my ethos. In fact, the first time I went to the stadium here in Ann Arbor, the big house Yeah, the big house was to get my COVID shot. Actually to get my wife's COVID shot and then
Dr. Bob Lawrence 4:30
they went back to Oh, that's Oh, man. That's funny man that like Misha Come on, man. They were just like big time basketball in the final in the March Madness. Yeah, I heard about it. Spoken like a true jazz
Andy Milne 4:46
song. Yeah. When when the when the music programs get as much attention as the sports programs all I'll be okay. Yeah, there's parity.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 4:54
Alright, man, I'm on board with that totally. So well listen. You know, the kick things off here. I want you to take some time right now and introduce yourself to the jazz panels community kind of give us a background, your your childhood, how you got into music and the history of Andy and how you found yourself here at the University of Michigan. So I'm gonna turn the mic over to you and let you tell your story. So please, wow, wow, that's, that's the whole hour, then. I'm gonna go get a cup of coffee. Yeah,
Andy Milne 5:31
I mean, I started playing the piano when I was about six years old. Okay. And at the time, I had maybe heard some jazz, but I don't think I'd quite heard some jazz at that point. I think I actually started I was funny. I started taking piano lessons. I'm the second youngest of 10 children. And so everybody in my family took piano lessons. Not everybody loved it. My mother kind of required it to sort of, you know, as part of her was development, right? So, right, I was, but I wanted to take lessons. So I was I was, like, take piano lessons. And as a little kid, so started it was I grew up in a small town, I hadn't heard any jazz, I didn't have a jazz teacher, it was you know, so I was taking, you know, classical lessons through a teacher that was, you know, affiliated with the Royal Conservatory of Music in Canada. And at the time, my, my, my, one of my older sisters, I don't think she was married yet at the time, maybe she was, but her husband or soon to be husband. He really wanted to, he never had an opportunity to take piano lessons. And he was living with us over the summary were my summer job. But he, I think he decided he would take lessons with me because it you know, it's kind of person who's very, he's been very successful in his life and gone on to achieve lots of things, learn to speak multiple languages and this kind of stuff. But as a young kid, he didn't have access to piano lessons. And so he decided he wanted to take piano lessons with me. So he would go to my piano lessons with me, before he went to this job, you know, so these are like 7am piano lessons, you know, and he would go and, and, and as an adult, he had the cognitive ability to really excel in the theory side of things. Wow. But he wasn't really that gifted as a player. So I was sort of smoking him as far as the on the piano skills side of things. But he was really smoking me in the theory side, but it was kind of funny relationship where you got this guy who's 20 years old, and a six, six year old kid, taking lessons site to intandem, you know, but so I started out, I started taking these lessons, and I really enjoyed music and, and that same brother in law, my brother in law, Jim, he went, you know, eventually, he turned me on to jazz and he, he gave me my first few recordings. And so from that point on, I was kind of curious and hoped and not really sure how to process the music, but it was it was definitely something that I I was very much drawn to and attracted to. So I started to just play along with records. That was really what I did. And so I had a les McCann and record, les McCann records, I had some Oscar Peterson, Duke Ellington, McCoy Tyner. And so these were these first recordings that my brother in law gave me that I just played along with, I didn't have any perspective to know whether I was playing along with something that was like, where to place it in the trajectory of the of the evolution of the music, where, you know, what, what the heck was I doing? Or, you know, what were these pianos doing. And so, it was kind of just blindly just, you know, following this thing, and then at the same time, I started a couple years later than I started playing the saxophone in elementary school. So then I said, playing saxophone recordings. And again, sort of not really sure what the hell I was doing, but kind of just like soaking it up, you know. And so that kind of pattern can, you know, continue to just continue practicing, and I started getting some books and, and beginning to decipher things. And then, I guess, when I started high school, I became much more serious about about sort of sourcing out a jazz teacher or somebody that could kind of get me going. And, and then so that I kind of followed straight through, you know, and then went to university, York University at the time, Oscar Peterson was a big sort of presence there. Right, at least that was the appeal for me going to York. And aside from the fact that I was already in Toronto, and it was sort of I didn't really have to move. But I mean, I decided to go to York and you know, kind of see what kind of interactions I can have an Oscar. And ironically, I didn't have like, it wasn't like I saw Oscar every week for a piano lesson kind of thing. I think people could have get that impression, but it was much more of a group environment with myself and about four or five other musicians that would meet with him, and many other faculty that were fantastic Tuesday. So I had a lot of great influences there during my time at York.
And then it was sort of just happenstance in a way really because I wasn't even plugged in, in a way where I was super conscious about this, but then this is in 1990. So as I was coming to finishing my last year of university, everybody in Toronto and musicians that I had become familiar with, were all sort of saying you got to go to bath, you know, and this is this program of Bath at the time that for the years kind of leading up to that had been run by Dave Holland. And so I was like, Well, yeah, really? That's what it sounds like. I think they do, you know, so everybody was kind of coming back raving, you know. And so I applied, and that year that I applied, and in 1990, that was the year. That was the first year that Steve Coleman took over as artistic director of Banff. And so I went and got accepted, but I mean, I did at that time, they were doing live additions in certain cities and whatnot. And so they came to Toronto and Steve, Steve came to Toronto, did it to the end of the auditions at actually York University where I was attending university. So the first time Steve and I met was in the audition that I did for him to get accepted to go to bath. And I didn't know anything about his music, I don't think I had one recording. Wow. And so I just thought I was planning for this guy. Meanwhile, he's this heavy force that I'm about to, he's good about it, like shape transformed my trajectory for the rest of my life, you know, and I had no idea. I'm just sitting there playing I forget what the hell I was playing just, you know, you know, fumbling through some music. So, I mean, I, you know, got accepted, the band went to Banff my relationship with Steve really blossom there. And he really recognized in something in me that he was like, Okay, I like this kid, or he's got some abilities in these areas. And he's and I was, I would practice, like, the music that he was showing us. And concepts that he was showing us like just sitting in a practice, like all night, you know, like it was, it was a pretty intense summer event.
And then at the I had already decided, before I went to Banff that I was going to move to Montreal at the end of that summer because I had been going to Montreal to perform with the vocalist Renee Lee. And I that sort of came about through a friend of mine who was working with Renee had just moved to Montreal was working all the time. And what I saw in Montreal was this place where younger musicians were gigging, and gigging with like cross generational in a way that didn't seem to happen in Toronto at the time that I was growing up where it was pretty much the musicians who were established, worked with one another, right. And if you were younger, breaking in, there wasn't really room, many of the gigs that I got to do to play with and gain experience with some of these more experienced and, you know, real venerable, sort of names on the scene in Toronto, that came about because I hike I was fortunate to get a gig as a leader at this venue called the underground railway. And this venue, they loved me and so I had like, squats, I steady gigs there and it was a nice venue, a beautiful restaurant, had nice piano and the music was featured. And it was like six nights a week and I come in, I could come in and play for like, I'd get like a two week stint. And at the time, Diana Krall was still living in Toronto. Then Diana came in for two weeks. And then I came in for two weeks. It was bizarre. I mean, it turned out a little different for her than differently but, but it's just bizarre how that was the kind of cadence that we had. So I would hire all these great musicians that you know, that were former teachers of mine or current teachers of mine, right, you know, Don Thompson, Lauren Laski, Pamela Barbara, Barry Allen, all these all these great players in Toronto that I would never get called to be on their gigs. At certainly the way I was playing at that time. But I had a gig and so I hired them and I could play my own tunes, I could play their tunes, I could play standards. And and so that was really awesome, because I didn't know what I was doing. But I was getting some really valuable experience for sure. And then, you know, went to Banff that summer after after those experiences. But interspersed in there, I started working with Renee Lee doing this. Billie Holiday lady did Emerson's barn grill musical theater productions. So there was like, we probably it was like this tour around Montreal, essentially where we would play these feet cultural houses called Maison de la culture in the city of Montreal. So we would play these venues for like a three night run on the weekend for probably like eight to 10 weeks, you know? Wow. So I was I was traveling back and forth to Toronto and Montreal finishing school, but doing these gigs on the weekend with Rene and gaining some great experience and also kind of getting introduced to the scene in Montreal. So I was like, you know, and I think I want to move to Montreal. So go to Banff have this transformative experience meeting Coleman getting introduced to his ideas, and then I moved to Montreal and I'm there for a year. I'm on the scene, and I'm kind of building, you know, really valuable beside man experience that I wasn't getting, you know, in that same way in Toronto. And then over the course of that year, I'm, you know, maintain a relationship with Coleman, and he's like, you got to move to New York, you know, and I thought I hadn't even thought about it, you know? Wow, yeah. Never, it never really occurred to me, you know. And so, I started thinking about it, you know, and so I decided to move to New York. So at the end of that year, I moved to New York, and I still, you know, kind of going back and forth doing gigs in Montreal, but I moved to New York and sort of jumped in and then started join his band, and worked with Steve for the better part of a decade. And as I work with Cassandra Wilson at the time, as well. And so it was, it was a great, it was a great time to really be be able to begin developing in a more targeted way, I suppose, because I am acquiring, you know, experiences in these different domains. But I'm also a part of something that's really specific. And it's, it's got a very disciplined approach to the music, but it also has a very demanding approach to your role in that in that environment. And so, for me, that really kind of helped galvanize, like, where I was going, at least I kind of came along for the ride and realize where I was going. And so from there, it sort of really shaped what I got interested in in terms of my approach, music musically, I think beyond the piano, but but really just musically in terms of really being focusing on rhythm and thinking about right.
Thinking about form in a different way. And and then, you know, from there, you know, meeting musicians through that relationship led to a lot of different other collaborations and then other musicians that I've been familiar with those things kind of continue to evolve. And I at the time, I was also working with vocalist from Detroit and Carla Cooke. I worked with Carla for a long time for that period. amandus.
Yeah. And also then worked a little bit with other folks in from Steve circle, Greg Osby, Robin Eubanks. And Cassandra wasn't as I mentioned, and then I guess, you know, then I joined Carlos Ward's band, somewhere in that period in mid to late 90s. And then I started working with Robbie Coltrane a lot that period. I mean, Ravi and I had been friends and we were working together and Steve's groups. So and then, and then I started transition from morale Robbie's band into Ralph lscs band and Ralph and I had actually met as students. At Banff the same we were there the same year. And so we became close friends, and I joined his band, sort of after playing Robbie's band with Ralph and, and then sort of been in his band for, you know, but over probably about 10 years now, I think as well, wow. And then, so, just fast forwarding then I suppose how I got to University of Michigan, is I can lead that back to Banff in a way because one of the pianos to when I was leaving out a ton of stuff like the piano, the piano studio that summer, consisted of myself, Ben Waddell back who's a very close friend who I have a duo piano project with. He's from France. He's a genius. Fantastic pianist and a real innovator. Ethan Iverson, who is you know, for most notable for being in the bad platforming, the bad plus, George collagen, who's you know, Craig player is out in Portland now, but plays multi multi instruments. You know, Ellen Rowe, who is my colleague here at the University of Michigan. And Bill Peterson, who's down in Florida, a great player, right. JOHN statue was a great player who was who was a colleague of mine, we went to university together for one year in Toronto before he moved to Montreal. He's from Edmonton, a great player. I think he lives out west now. And I think there's maybe one other pianists, I'm spacing. But, so but the point is Elon and I met him. Right. And, you know, then when the new University of Michigan was looking for a piano faculty to replace Benny green, she reached out to me and said, Would you consider coming here? And I was like, ah, I never thought about it. Right? Because I was quite comfortable in my life. I was teaching at the new school and I was teaching at NYU, right? And I lived in Harlem, and I was like, Am I don't really need to move to the Midwest. Thank you. Right. So it was not really something that I was very charged, but I but I was also going through some health issues at the time. And so I, you know, started reevaluating where my life was going, and sort of what I was putting myself through, in that sort of you know, hustle with Doing these two teaching gigs and touring and recording and whatnot. And so it started to look more like pretty fortuitous timing for me to be asked to do this come to fill this position. So that's that's sort of how I got, you know, Dan Arbor was through that route. Mind you, I'm leaving out a few steps in terms of the groups that I've had. Right. Right. And the projects that have said,
Dr. Bob Lawrence 20:24
Yeah, well, you know, that's like, you know, looking at your bio online and reading what you've done. And, you know, you've you've already lived like three lifetimes.
Andy Milne 20:35
I mean, if I lived three lifetimes, and I suppose you know, chick Korea has lived 1000 lifetimes
Dr. Bob Lawrence 20:41
that right, exactly right. But hey, a couple of things that you mentioned that I want to go back to. One. You came from a family of 10 children. That's awesome, man. So where are you in that line of 10? Second from the bottom? Second, second youngest. Yeah. Wow. Now, are they all musicians? Is your family? No, no,
Andy Milne 21:06
no. Music is something that's important to my family. But it's more like a social gathering kind of thing. And it's almost like my family gets together and we'll meet sing songs, or do skits, even like this kinds of that's a big sort of thing that especially my nieces and nephews seem to have really picked up and on this kind of component of how our family engages socially, but right, but they're not professional musicians in any regard. But they value music for sure. Oh, that's what I love. I love to sing and play instruments and stuff, but it's it's an amateur hobby kind of thing.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 21:39
Okay, so yeah. So you're the, you're the you're the lone wolf out of there. Right that that.
Wow. Yeah. That's, that's awesome. Now, the other thing I want to mention, you mentioned Oscar Peterson, and that you, you know, we're in kind of a setting where you got to engage and interact with him, even if even in a group setting. I think a lot of listeners would like to know a little bit more about that. What How is he like, as a as a educator, and what was his what was his, you know, we've all heard his recordings and his amazing plane. But how, how did he articulate that verbally? To you? And and to the other pianist? You know, how did he communicate how he approached the study of jazz and in the plane of jazz piano,
Andy Milne 22:27
he spent more time approach helping us approach the way in which we think about the music, rather than for me specifically as a piano thing, that the piano thing was more of an illustration, he would do that by illustration. So, I mean, first of all, this is a towering figure, right? Like 2019, you know, 20 years old. The basically the reason they play is because seeing him a guy growing up a young black kid in Canada and seeing this kid, and seeing this man who's like this international jazz icon and some of my first recordings being him. I mean, I've seen him, you know, I've seen him at that point, I'd seen him perform several times. And here, he walks into the room, and it's like this larger than life, godlike figure, and you're just you're melting your man, I can't even I can't even imagine, man. Yeah, so you're melting. And and he's in no way trying to contribute to that melting like he's this warmest, you know, affable, just really nurturing cat who's not in any way trying to vibe you, right? I mean, this I definitely had experiences with, you know, more mature musicians and whatnot out there where they like, they may not be prone to giving you that sort of nurturing nod, you know, right. They're just sort of more of a hard knocks kind of relationship to mentorship, right? Which I can also respect. Sure, but Oscar definitely wasn't coming from that place. So that was helpful in he, you know, it was huge, because it just kind of made it so that I could, you know, kind of settle in and go, Okay, so what do you got to show us? So start starting with that, right. But so, you know, I think, but he said things that really made me think, okay, learning the music is this, you have to I mean, you have to know the music. I mean, this seems like a statement that's like, Oh, yeah, that's obvious, right? And it is obvious, but the way he the way he kind of like left it there on the table for you to kind of unpack was really impactful, because then I go away, understanding that. And, but not even going away understanding having to think about it for two weeks before it kind of, ah, I get it. And so now I own that in a much more meaningful way versus if he'd spelled it all out in a class, you know, right. So learning, learning, learning the music, and I think that for me, that meant unpacking the piece and really becoming kind of interchangeable with it almost. And you know, so that you almost can't distinguish yourself from the piece because you've really become acquainted with it and learning more about the music in terms of where does it come from? Right now, he pianistic Lee speaking, he didn't have to say, here's how you play the piano. He just showed me. And the thing that I always go to when I people ask me this question about his influence on me as a teacher was like the, the fact that I hear in these practice rooms at school playing usually at that time, certainly your the jazz musicians, they didn't have the best pianos in the entire the school that were rehearsing it. And it was, you know, just the average but fairly beat up. Right Yamaha you right up right of some kind, you know, you know, it was beat up, you know, wasn't in tune you and you had the cover off to try to get the project over the drums like it was work, you know, right. As a university piano, yeah. You know, and Oscar comes in and sits down and sounds like us computers. On the same bench I'm sitting on, you know, and, and, you know, I got up, but I mean, he says, his play sounds like Oscar Peterson. And I'm like thinking, Okay, so you're telling me it's not the inbhir? The bosendorfer Imperial grant that makes it? So? Yeah, I'm like, cross that off. Right.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 26:27
Yeah. I'll tell you a funny story about that. Are you familiar with Dan Hurley? Dan Hurley you know, University of North Texas as a faculty member, you know, he's written a lot of jazz books. And, you know, like the classic book that is out there, the jazz language. But anyway, Dan tells the story that he was playing a gig at at the state fair at Iowa State Fair. He's playing with some musicians out there and the Iowa State Fair had a headline had Oscar Peterson coming in as the, you know, headliner to play Oscar Peterson right at the Iowa State Fair, right. It's a great gig. Yeah, you're right. So he says, he tells his stories, he sees Oscar Peterson and Oscar Peterson goes into this tent. There's a tent there on the on the fairgrounds, right. And Dan says there's this piano over in the corner of the tent. And Oscar Peterson is in the tent all by himself. And he just goes over and sits down on that piano and he starts playing warming up and dance and you know, I'm kind of just sticking my head in the back of the tent and kind of listening. I'm just totally blown away. You know, hearing Oscar Peterson play. an Oscar gets up and he leaves the tent. So Dan goes in there and said, Man, I want to sit down right now at that piano. Same piano Oscar Peterson just played. He said Bob, he said, first of all, it was a piano that was at a state fair in a tense so that should tell you something. Right? It was just like an old upright piano on the corner. What year was this? Oh, I you know, I don't know. Yeah, right. Right. And he said, and that piano was like the worst piano in the entire world. It was horrible. But Oscar Peterson sounded like Oscar Peterson just like we just like what you're saying. So you're right. It wasn't the piano. It's Oscar Peterson.
Andy Milne 28:27
Yeah. Yeah. And and then, you know, that's so funny is that it's a hell of an image too. But you know, but it's it's so funny. Because it's like, you know, I mean to think, are we as pianos we kind of generally quest to play the best instrument that we can.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 28:44
Andy Milne 28:46
And, you know, even as a kid, I didn't I didn't know a lot about pianos, certainly. But I could tell when, when I heard a piano that sounded pleasing to my ears. Right. And, and I guess the few times that I had, because I could I could definitely tell the difference between even even a modest grand versus nut bread, I could definitely Oh, sure, you know, distinguish that and I didn't have anybody sort of explaining that to me. I just, I could sense it, you know, so that, you know, that sort of lives on is this kind of like desire to be able to play a great instrument, but then, you know, seeing Oscar and hearing Oscar playing on a subpar instrument that I was, you know, for sure struggling with and seemingly to the my eye, he didn't seem to be struggling now. I mean, I never I never worked up enough nerve to say, hey, how do you like this piano? You know, cuz he may, you know, whether he would have said, Oh, that sucks. Or, or he maybe would have said it's fine, you know? Yeah, but wrong with that. Yeah. But I mean, I think the thing is, what he what he illustrated was that oh, you know, he could transcend that and the sound therefore is not on in the in the piano as much as it it's a new it's a new and it's in your hands. And I didn't know that. And I learned that at that moment, you know, right. And so, it's, it's interesting, because then you think about illustrations of that on other instruments, right notice, you know, most notably, maybe the saxophone, you know, in terms of, you know, you could have a horn player pick up somebody else's horn and still sound like themselves, even though their act, of course, they covered they spent all this time thinking about mouthpieces and reads and write, you know, I gotta get this horn, I got to, you know, take the lacquer off, like all this stuff, nerdy stuff that horn players go through. It's, it's like, at the end of the day, somebody has their sound, it's still gonna come through because it's a, it's partly the way they phrase, it's partly the notes they choose, it's part of their ideas, but it's also just, they've got, they've got a sound that can kind of come through and transcend a mouthpiece and a read, even though they would prefer correct asserts, right, you know, you know, boar and all this stuff, and the thickness and stiffness,
Dr. Bob Lawrence 30:56
yeah. It's like, they can make adjustments on the fly, right, they just can make adjustments on the fly to allow their, their voice, their sound to come out.
Andy Milne 31:06
And also, they've been working on their sound, it just so happens, they're working on an old chip, typically on one instrument, but they're still working on that sound. And that's right, which central so that's why you'd hear, you know, especially that, I think, in an earlier time that music were, their personality was probably a lot more prevalent that sometimes is today where people can often gravitate towards one player, and become, you know, so enamored by a player that it's like, now we all want to sound like this person. And Ryan, we're losing the sense of all this nuance where you get the differences in that palette of horn players, and I think pianos have that we don't have the luxury of of playing our own acts all the time. Therefore, it's even more important that it comes from within, correct. So that was really the that really sort of opened that door for me through Oscar that I had not previously given any any consideration. So did
Dr. Bob Lawrence 32:01
he ever say to you, did he ever say to you, hey, Andy, sit down here and play something for me now. I'll give you some feedback.
Andy Milne 32:08
It was more about how I was playing with the group. Okay. Yeah, it was, it was generally more about how I was playing with the group because it was because that was the context. It was like, I think five of us in the room. And so that anything that he was going to share with me was going to be in service of how to contribute to the band. Right. Which is, which is, you know, I mean, it would have been fantastic to have been able to say, Do I get, you know, one on one piano time with this guy or no, but that wasn't, that wasn't because his visits to campus were like, uh, there was like an event. It was like the, the the President was coming to campus or something like this. It was like, right, it was like, No, and sometimes it was unannounced to. Oh, are you maybe just barely get it? Like a heads up for a couple like, an hour? You're gonna be at rehearsal, right? Because Oscar is gonna be here.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 32:56
Oh, my gosh. Yeah. You know, I just been in the room with him, like you said, right. Just the towering figure that, you know, Oh, my. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I can't even imagine and I can't even imagine if you would say, Hey, sit down and play and we were like, Are you out of your mind? I'm
Andy Milne 33:13
funny, funny add eiendom to this relationship is then would say maybe five years ago. Four or five years ago, I became good friends with Oscars, widow Kelly. Right. And the first time she came to see me play. He said, like, you know, right from the state, and I come and we hang out at the break. And I said, Kelly, I gotta tell you, kind of nervous playing for you. And I mean, it's so it's so funny, because she's not a pianist. It's not their thing. You know, I said, but it's just like, you are this link to the reason I play and write a little nervous play on a Friday. Cuz you've heard some piano?
Dr. Bob Lawrence 33:53
Yeah. Like, she heard, like, ask her in the living room, you know, I mean, yeah. Like, I can't even imagine, you know. Yeah, that's, that's, that's a remarkable, that's a remarkable experience that you had, quite honestly, you know, that to have that experience to be able to interact with, with a legend truly a legend in that way. It's, it's, it's phenomenal.
Andy Milne 34:18
And it's it was it was actually a great kind of starting place to to expand on those kinds of, like, similar kinds of experiences that I think it takes a while to get used to, frankly, and I, you know, actually a good friend of mine when we were sort of coming up and cutting our teeth in Montreal, we playing a Beatles is now closed, most venerable club there in Montreal. And we would frequently you know, kind of mess with one another by saying, Oh, so and so just came in, right because often people would be in town right? be doing Session they had a big gig at the at the the last days are something like this. Now Yeah, festival time was not really it was it was too much of a scene but but but just generally during the year like he never knew who was popping through for something Right, right. And so they would often come down to battles to see what was going on. So it was not out of the realm of possibility that anybody who you would do choose to sort of drop insert name here would actually be who would have just walked in. And so it was kind of this game we would play to see if we could actually mess the other person up. Because, you know, we were still young guys who at this point, it's like, it's gonna like transform who might who I am to think, oh God, so and so's here and so we Herbie was always the one we would use to kind of go to, but I mean, I don't think we ever came in, but I, you know, subsequently played for Herbie on many occasions and and thinking of like, well, that's, you know, not for him, like a private concert. But But you know, in other words, he's in earshot, he may be standing in the backstage or side of the stage kind of thing, or in his dressing room, you know, and so you're Audible, right? But, and sort of kind of have that experience, early to kind of with Oscar, it's shaping that. And then and then practicing with George Mitchell in Montreal, trying to get this. Get this, you know, to sort of unlearn this anxiety thing that we can take on right, right and become, I remember Joanne Burkean, she said to me, she goes, who do I need to come to Toronto all the time when I was coming up, and then we became good friends. And she'd come over and give me a lesson I'd make didn't make my wife and I would make dinner for and we'd, you know, so we've been good friends for a long time. And so Joe hammock, she'd say, you know, when I walk into the room, you're the same person.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 36:46
And I was like, Yeah, right.
Andy Milne 36:49
Yeah. Like physiologically, you're the same guy, you get the same bones and same blood pumping through your veins. Right. Right. chemically, you might think you changed a little bit, and you probably have something that has a reaction, but he is basically the same guy. So what's with the switch? Right. And so that those kinds of lessons were really important, right? Yeah, very, and Oscar started that pathway up, because prior to that, I don't think I really was tweaked, you know, and now I don't get I don't get nervous. And it's, it's, it's, it's been a long time since I felt like I was nervous about something like that. Maybe I might be nervous about playing with somebody, but it's usually another pianist. Right. You know, like, I did a duet with Fred Hirsch several years ago, right? And I said, Fred, I'm kind of nervous. I said, Come on, man. He
says, We're good friends. I said, Yeah, no, but you know, it's, it's silly, cuz he's like, Man, you can play many. He says, you can play things in one hand that I can't do in both. I said, Well, maybe I don't know. But yeah. Oh, my goodness, gracious. Well, you know, speaking
Dr. Bob Lawrence 37:53
of one hand, I remember when Oscar suffered that stroke, right and lost the, basically, was the use of his left hand. Pretty much. Yeah, pretty much right. Yeah. I
Andy Milne 38:05
remember seeing him at the blue node after that. And it was a he's still kind of he compensated right. You know, he was he sure
Dr. Bob Lawrence 38:12
did, because I can remember listening to him going like, man, he still kicks everybody's butt with, you know, with one hand. Yeah. That happened to Mulgrew too. Right. Yeah. So, well, a couple other little things I want to bring up. You know, I saw the jazz Album of the Year, man. That's a pretty big honor. Right, the Juno Award. Yeah, yeah. I'm actually nominated for one this year, actually, again, again. Like for folks that are listening that may not know right, that's the that's the Canadian basically the Canadian Grammys, right.
Andy Milne 38:48
Yeah. Or I like to think of the Grammys is the American junos. No, but yeah, yes. poking like a Wolverine. Yeah, Michigan Wolverine, like a Canuck. I think is like, Yeah, I know that. But that's, that's the that's the context for the for the genome, you know, which it's funny I did an interview just yesterday did that was kind of leading up to the junos because as I was saying, I was nominated for one this year. And they're like, what does this mean to you? And I'm like, Wow, it means a hell of a lot more now than it probably would have 20 years ago because I've lived a lot more right I've I've had lots of you know, ups and downs and things to celebrate and things to sort of lament and so it's it's kind of more meaningful now. So like, certainly that two years ago when I got the Juno it was a it was huge, you know, because it was the first time ay ay ay, but first time I've been nominated. And B It was like a record that really it was fairly transformative on my own in my life and, and everything that went into it was it was a big, it was a big accomplishment. So it was nice to kind of cap that.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 39:56
Yeah, it's gigantic with with Brian award, but that Yeah, absolutely. sitting right back there, you can kind of see it in the background.
There you go a statute that I see it. Yeah, there you go. Yeah. Right. Awesome, man. Well, that's
that's quite an honor. And I, you know, for the listeners out there, if they just go out and do a Google search for you, you got all kinds of videos out there in recordings of you playing, and it's fantastic. So I want to encourage everybody listening to absolutely do that and go check it out, because tremendous player now, some things I want to also bring up, I saw something online, where you did a little talk, and I want you to kind of expand on it here. I think the name of the talk was, why should an artist embrace boredom? boredom? Yeah, remember that talk? Yep. Yep. Okay. So let's talk a little bit about your philosophy there, why an artist should embrace boredom?
Andy Milne 40:58
Well, I think, you know, it's even more important now than ever, because we have many distractions, right, who continue to prevent us from sort of exploring creative problem solving. And I think when we're left without stimulus, right, we have two choices, we shut down, or we begin to notice things, we begin to draw connections, we begin to unpack things and extract things. And I think that you having boredom is actually a perfect recipe for setting the stage for kind of finding creative solutions I find, you know, like, you think of something as mundane as having to go to the bathroom. So you're in a meeting and you say, excuse me, I have to go to the bathroom for you know, and you. And while you're in the bathroom, you sitting there doing your thing, or you're standing there doing your thing, whatever, you know, and whatever, whatever your preference. And,
and you all of a sudden go, Oh, I got it. Right. And you come back into the meeting. You go, excuse me, ever, but it just I just thought about this. What if we put this with this? Yeah, that's a great idea, man. Yeah,
I think it was just in the job, you know? Yeah. Right. And so it's like, I think there's, there's a lot to be said, from, you know, like young people, my generation, your generation, and folks older than that, who will say, Yeah, when I was a kid, we didn't have all these things to play, right. And it's true, though, you know, I mean, they're not that, that you can't find creative solutions with these tools and with these, quote, unquote, distractions, but there is a lot a lot to be said, for the ways in which we invent from nothing, right, and we've invent out of necessity, you know, a necessity can almost be because there's a lack of something, you know, a lack of resource. I was watching a great sort of film interview, video interview yesterday, I'm trying to remember this guy's last name is a film composer, but he has built a studio in LA that has this pipe organ from the Fox was it had been in the Fox Studios. And it was this great breakdown of the pipe organ, but not a church pipe, organ letter, theater, pipe organ. And, and the ways in which these things were so just Meticulously crafted and engineered to be able to read a virtual orchestra or in the 30s, right. 1930s. I mean, it was, it is some deep stuff, you know, right. I just think, you know, that was like, okay, we need music. Well, we need an orchestra, or we're moving beyond the piano, we got to putting this organ in a theater and the stuff that this thing could do. It's like, right, you got to, you know, when you it's I don't know, if you would say it's totally a byproduct of boredom, but I think it's definitely a byproduct of need,
Dr. Bob Lawrence 43:58
or absent. How
Andy Milne 43:59
do you how do you how do you invent from that? I just think when we get distracted, we miss out on on these wonderful
Dr. Bob Lawrence 44:08
kind of responses. One of That's right, you know, I i've always, you know, I tell students all the time, that creativity comes from limiting your resources, not expanding them. Yeah. You know, it's kind of like the you remember the old TV show MacGyver? Do you remember that show? Yeah. You know, I love that show. Because, you know, he'd be like, in a prison cell, and you have like a rubber band and a paperclip in it. And he had to figure out how am I going to break out all I got is a rubber band and a paperclip. And somehow he would, somehow he would figure out how to use that rubber band and paperclip to break out of that jail cell. So I mean, I think that's what you're getting that right. That's, that's the ultimate. That's the ultimate time that we need to be creative that we end up the creativity has spawned.
Andy Milne 44:51
Yeah, and I think when you problem solve routinely, then you're more lubricated in that way. And that reflex becomes right Something that you can draw upon and pull out a toolbox, kind of that will. And so I've always liked doing that. It's funny, because friends will sort of tease me and say, you've got this MacGyver thing. It's funny you bring him up, because? Because? Because, no, because I think, yeah, but you know, it's like, I problem solve that way continually. And it's so funny, we were talking about the technology stuff before we went live. And it's like, right, many things. Many things in this technology zone are like, you know, you got some piece of gear that you want to hang on to, you got some piece of gear that's new, that you're gonna kind of try to put together and they don't actually like talking to each other. And you've got to find some hack, and some workflow that can, can can repurpose something or, like, I refuse to get rid of this thing, you know, it's right. wrong with it, you know, it's just that you're somebody is trying to make it obsolete. And I'm like, No, no, no, it's fine. Yeah, it's exactly right. You know, and so there's this constant challenge to sort of, you know, you know, bring in the new, but not toss out the old, but they don't necessarily, and technology is a great metaphor for that, because of how quickly things can become cascaded out of circulation, you know, and but I think that that mindset, I just think it's important, partly because you think artists, well, you know, we're studying the music and the art that came before us, right. And in order to sort of contextualize that we have to be able to draw connection, oh, my goodness, which is this invisible functionality, or it is invisible relationship that you have to be able to graft into the present in the future. And so that's right, we're constantly having to make those kinds of connections otherwise, we live in this vacuum.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 46:50
Correct? Absolutely. Correct. And that's, you know, that's a lot of times, that's what's missing for young folks today, especially in music and in jazz, specifically, you know, I tell young students all the time that the curriculum, the blueprint, if you will, for us to become an accomplished jazz pianist, has already been laid out. its historical evolution is a historical blueprint. So study that study that history. So you know, the transformation that the evolution of the art form, so that you just can't jump in. You cannot just jump into the art form in 1990. Right, yeah. Right. I'm gonna start at 1990.
And forget everything else that's come before that.
Andy Milne 47:40
Yeah, you you miss you miss kind of, you know, fairly cogent reasons for the way 1990 presents itself,
Dr. Bob Lawrence 47:49
you know, exactly right. Right.
Andy Milne 47:51
Yeah. No, that's, that's a frustrating kind of, but it's hard because everybody comes in where they come in. Correct. And, and so there's, like, you know, there's a kind of a identity crisis, I think that exists where you're, but that's how I understand myself, or that's how I understand the music. And so like, you're constantly having to sort of try to pry things away from people and say, No, no, we're not throwing it away. Correct. We're just trying to help you see something that's, you know, right, lived live prior to that and realize, oh, that wasn't the art originator, you know, correct. Right. But I think, you know, the problem is, like, marketing and hype get in the way and it sort of formulates this, you know, false narrative that people have to sort of then deconstruct,
Dr. Bob Lawrence 48:38
right, right. So you're here you are at University of Michigan. And you know, your title if I'm correct, Assistant Director at the school for improvisational music. Is that right?
Andy Milne 48:50
Well, that's not at the that's not at U of M. That's a totally separate. That's a totally separate enterprise. Yeah, my title at U of M is an associate professor.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 49:01
Okay. Got Yeah. All right. So we'll talk about that. Talk to me about that. The School of Music, the school for improvisational music.
Andy Milne 49:09
So the school school for improvisational music. I'm the assistant director of that, and that is like a summer summer workshop, that program that myself and Ralph Alessi run, but it Ralph started it now 20 years ago, okay. And so it's taking improvisation from all of its forms, not looking at it strictly in in a general way, thinking about it from the point of view of playing tunes from playing open from composition, and try to like merge a lot of these sensibilities and foster a greater understanding for listening and for, you know, sort of reactive collaboration and thinking about it from a lot of different angles stylistically. And so the faculty there's, you know, largely New York based practitioners who are who really are, you know, sort of deeply embedded in the in the scene, but they're also, you know, real. They're on the forefront of, of really, you know, exploratory kind of music, but at the same time, they're very rooted in the tradition. And so it kind of constantly orbiting that relationship. You know, it's called the workshop is called sim school for improvisational music. And so we've been fortunate to be able to bring and attract students from all over the world, actually, it's it ends up being this two weeks in Brooklyn where we have, you know, players, ranging from people who are in their 50s and 60s, to people who might be in high school. Wow. And then a lot of college age students for sure. And, and from like, from literally all over the world from all over Europe, South America, Asia, North America, it's pretty, it's pretty, you know, not an entire entire world, of course, but but, but certainly, it's a wonderful kind of diverse group of people that have coming together every summer, we didn't get to do it last summer, of course. And this summer, we're unfortunately not going to do it because everything was so up in the air that two of us running it, we just kind of didn't have the bandwidth to kind of go, how are we going to pull this off, because it is such a thing that we just felt like, it really works in person, because you were playing together, right? or playing together in groups of all kinds of configurations. And sometimes we'll have a mass piece, it's like, 30 people, and it's improvised. It's not, it's not written, right. So it's not like we can do like a composite track on one of these apps and put and sort of pull it together and create that same sensibility. So we just kind of shelved it. But it's, it's a wonderful thing. And I look forward to us being able to do it, probably, I would say for sure in summer 2022. And, you know, we bring in lots of guest artists that are, you know, aside from the core faculty, so it's it is Sam is it's, you know, it's a lot of work, but it's, it's really, it's been an impact of you know, and it's meaningful. So it's, it's an interesting kind of complement to what I do, in, in sort of more ongoing, you know, pedagogic ways. were teaching the same students for years now. Yeah, right.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 52:15
Well, speaking of pedagogy, I'm going to do a little rapid fire segment with you here, right? So yeah, I'm gonna I'm gonna throw out some jazz piano skills. And I just want you to kind of talk off the top of your head with how you approach how you approach studying these skills, how you approach practicing them. And, you know, basically the do's and don'ts that you would also offer up to the listeners. So let's start with the very first jazz piano skill that everybody hears about all the time, man. Let's talk about scales and arpeggios. What's, what's the Andy Miller take on scales and arpeggios?
Andy Milne 52:57
I mean, I think they help they help you develop some fingering. I think, you know, they're also good for warming up. But I think is something I have to tell myself too. You hit a practice what you play, sorry, you're going to play what you practice, practice, right? So so you have to kind of make an informed decision about what what it is you're going to be repeating at home, because that's going to come out on a gig. Very good point. And so sometimes not practicing scales for their content. But, you know, merely for the for the movement is one thing, but that's it, you can't separate the two. Right? So I think practicing things in varied ways. I mean, scales and arpeggios are great, but just keeping keeping them varied. Because you want that variation to sort of be part of your expression.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 53:51
Right? Yeah. Because the reality of it is just going up and down the scale or just going up and down on our page, you know, it's just not going to automatically transform itself into musical ideas for for you. It just won't, right.
Andy Milne 54:03
Yeah, if you can unpack it, that's great. But I mean, yeah, we want to work it to a certain degree that it actually is a useful tool. So I don't otherwise it doesn't it's, it's not even there yet. This is useless material.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 54:17
Right? So do you, I'm assuming you still practice traditional scales and arpeggios in the traditional way. But you do unpack them in some unconventional ways, you know, maybe what thirds? How do you how do you go about practicing some scales and arpeggios when you sit down to do any scale and arpeggio work?
Andy Milne 54:37
I practice them in groups. So I don't necessarily run a whole scale. I practice like just
Dr. Bob Lawrence 54:42
Andy Milne 54:45
I'm going up, like maybe up to a fifth and down and, or, and just in terms of the way I might cycle them, so that I keep them a little bit more varied. You know, rather than just going up chromatically, right. And just like running the whole piano, right? Um, so I try to keep them I try to keep them a little bit more varied.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 55:03
Yeah. So I always like to. Yeah, I always like to with students, I always encourage them to have a different that their entry point and destination points should always be different, you know? Because you want the IRS engaged. So you know, if I'm going to play a scale to the seventh one, now I'm listening for the seventh, right? You know, if I'm, if I play the scale to the ninth, or if I play to the 11th, or maybe I'm playing from the third, maybe I'm playing from the third to the ninth, or from the fifth to the 11th, or, you know, seventh to the 13th. So, yeah, I'm always, I'm always asking students to always challenge themselves with different entry points and exit points. So the ears really are locking into hearing those. Right. So there's an element of ear training along with that. That's good. Right like that. Yeah, you know, so, okay, voicings, here's another skill that I find that jazz piano skills students wrestle with a lot of time, you know, jazz voicings that's making it like fishing, fishing line real fast, right, tangled up, tangled up pretty quickly. Right. So how do you approach voicings and what are some do's and don'ts that you can offer to the jazz panel skills, listeners on voicings?
Andy Milne 56:10
Well, I think the one thing that's really important to remember is that more is not better. Right? You know, it's just because you have more fingers pressed down doesn't necessarily mean you have a more sophisticated chord. So learning how to, you know, you know, remove some doubling for sure, I think that's always a thing that I noticed with students who are getting started, there's a lot of doubling. Right. And there's a lot of, you know, of course, root position stuff, which is not like root position is not evil unto itself. It's just evil if it's baked into this boxiness. And I think boxiness is what's really the most, you know, offense right into the here is if you can, if you can eliminate boxiness. Right? Right, then you start to work with more smooth, smoother movement. And I think that's that that's the secret. It's not whether you have a lot of extensions or not, I think if things are well spaced, so I like to think of it like a sandwich, you know, it's like, okay, you have a piece of bread and the bottom piece of bread in the top where there's my hand piece of bread bread, and then what's going to go inside. And so I know I've got some sort of root structure or a root melody, that right needs to maintain a certain melodicism. Right, and I've got a melody on top, whether it's the melody, it doesn't even matter. It's a right be just a melody that the right, you maintaining its own cohesive phraseology. And so between those two outside edges. Now, what am I, how am I going to, you know, what kind of sandwich Am I gonna make? What's the creamy filling? And, and so that's the density. That's the color. Right?
Dr. Bob Lawrence 57:54
Andy Milne 57:55
And then there's voice leading within that, but I think it's starting with those two outside edges. So often, I might have students who say, just play me the piece, or just play me two ideas, right? On the outside, right? You know, and it's often a very strange phenomenon where a student could do a bunch of stuff, but then when you ask them to do very little, they freak out. I go, I've never done this before.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 58:16
Isn't that funny? That's Yeah, that's that there's such irony in that right. Yeah, it's so funny, man.
Andy Milne 58:23
So I think about I think about that, as I sort of starting point to get to get this sort of awareness of the outside, right, because, to me, that's what the ear always hears anyway. Right. It's like the things it's like, you know, you got a class photo, it's the kid who's like, looking the other way, picking their nose on the court, that the people point out. That's my kid. Right. So I think that it's important to kind of be mindful of those edges and not dismiss them as sort of like,
Dr. Bob Lawrence 58:50
Yeah, no, and I always encourage students to you know, I had a teacher that always used to tell me, he encouraged me all the time, you know, trust the ears, right? Trust. Yeah. You know, he used to always say to me, does it sound good? And I would go, yes, it goes. Good. Does it sound bad? Yes, it is within it's bad. You know, and, and we kind of students kind of get wrapped around the theoretical aspect of a voisine. As opposed to what what are the ears? What are the ears telling us here? You know, yeah, and,
Andy Milne 59:22
and, sorry, and what piano you play, according to what instrument you play, and
Dr. Bob Lawrence 59:28
that's a huge that right? That's a that's a big deal. And, and then also the the genre, you know, you know, genre music you're playing. I always tell the story that when when I first got the Texas and it literally I think it was like the first week I was in town I got called to do the sub and play piano in a country western band here in Fort in Fort Worth. And I thought to myself, how, how hard can that be? harder than you thought it is where the story's going. I see Yeah. How hard can that be? And oh, that lesia? No. Oh, you there? Okay. Good. Yes. I thought how hard can that be? And I went out to play that country gig man and the steel guitarist and sitting next to I'm playing on my jazz voicings and the steel guitar player sitting next to me, man, he was like, What the heck are you playing? And I sweated bullets that whole night because I had to transform everything on the spot, you know, had to transform how I was voicing based on the genre music I was playing.
Andy Milne 1:00:34
Yeah. And I you know, it's because you started with the question talking about jazz. But certainly, that is the can be the Achilles heel of a student of jazz or jazz practitioner who's not sensitive to the fact that that's a sound. It's a language and its lives in its own right environment. And I just can't always get shoehorned into every musical setting. And so, right, there's a sort of a tipping point where you have to kind of tailor it to what the context that you're in and sort of upper extensions, or dense seconds and stuff. Don't necessarily, you know, right always work in forms,
Dr. Bob Lawrence 1:01:14
right. You know, in fact, I just got an email from a student before we connected here this morning. And he was confused he asked about, well, so when playing piano he goes, because he asked me about some voicings and I, literally, about voicings and I laid out some shell voicings left handed shell voicings form, and I laid out some two handed voicings form. And they were rootless voicings and so his question, he fired back at question right away and said, Well, wait a minute. When playing solo piano do not always have the one I have to make the root present at all times. And I said, No, you know, it's not, it's not an either or situation where the route has to be present, or the route does not have to be present. And again, having to trust our ears with regards to how is it sounding with what I'm playing? But but that's a that's another element of it, you know, because he brought up the roots, you know, a lot of times we become route dependent, right? Yeah.
Andy Milne 1:02:16
And I don't even necessarily mean the the route, like if it's a C chord, it's a C in the bottom, but what is on the bottom? Right, how is that moving? But But I think there's you brought up an interesting kind of dilemma where often, students will come into my studio, and they'll be like, sit down and play a piece or doing an unzoom or whatever, and I'm praying. Excuse me, I don't see a bass player in here. Just, you know, know, so well, could you throw a route in every now you know? But they'll say, oh, I've never played the tune. This was way before. How do you? How do you practice you practice with only like, I practice with I real? I'm like, well, that's not really practicing with anything that's like, rice put on a record, for starters. But but that's not I mean, that's not what I said, Would you go do a gig with AI real pro?
Dr. Bob Lawrence 1:03:06
Andy Milne 1:03:06
You're like, No, I said, well done. Right? What's what is that? That's just that's just an annoying? It's just an annoying Casio tone. It's not. I don't I don't, you know, I'm not like a big fan of that. using that as a way to write your present music, I think I think it's not, you know, it's right. It's a tool to kind of go, Oh, that's how that song goes.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 1:03:30
It's, it's a tool. It's like, I always describe it as like a flight simulator for pilots. You know, it's not the real deal, right? It's not a real, it's not the real plane. It's not the real, it's not the real weather situation that you have to fly through. But it is a simulation. And that is Yeah, it kind of gives you a perspective. But yeah, you bring up a great point, you're playing in a room and there's not a bass player. Come on, please. You know,
Andy Milne 1:03:55
yeah, at some point in the in the eight bars, I need to hear a root. I have good ears, but at some point, I'm going to be Where the hell are you? You know, I want to get right. You can't be completely rootless. No, I mean, you got to be you've got to ground this on someplace. And so I but I always find that a very particular dilemma that young students sort of are faced with when they when we engage for the first time I'm like, but you know, it this is this absolute were like, Okay, I'm playing on the shelf or something. That's, that's great, if that's where you are, right, but look around and that's not where you are. And to me that being in the present, it doesn't matter whether there's a bass player, whether you're talking about bass, whether whether we're talking about a bass player being in the room or not, whether we're talking about playing an electric piano or an acoustic right, we're playing an in tune out a peon tune piano, we're talking about playing fast, slow with a singer without a singer, right? in a room is super cavernous. Right? You know,
Dr. Bob Lawrence 1:04:55
Andy Milne 1:04:56
Whatever it is, like, you know, somebody who doesn't know that. And like whatever that whatever the present circumstances are that being in the presence, skill set, right? It extends across all those possible right choices. Right. And so that's why I think practicing to be that way to think in the present all the time. Correct, is it's the gift that gives on all those fronts, because now you're not, you're not limiting until like, well, he's had to put the roots in every now and then like, that's not totally the point. Correct. It's, it's that illustration is like, okay, what's going on? In terms of the support of the of the right harmonic structure at that moment? Yeah. But it's like, it's more of a reflection of like, are you listening? Well,
Dr. Bob Lawrence 1:05:45
that was just gonna say it is all heads. It all goes right back to the ears, right? Yeah, it all goes back to the ear. So yeah. Okay. So now, here's another, here's another skill, I want to throw out. articulation, articulation? How do you address how do you teach students, they're at the University of Michigan? Or that you're working with privately? How do you help students wrap their mind around their ears around in their hands around? how to properly articulate jazz?
Andy Milne 1:06:19
at different stages in everyone's development? I think it's partly to do with what they can hear. Because if they can't hear an articulation, if they can't distinguish between the subtlety of two different articulations, I don't know that you could play it. It's like language that if you can't hear the difference between how I pronounce two different words, right, right. You're not the subtlety is lost on you. Right. And so we have to, we have to refine our ears as much as we do our hands. Right? I think it's important that when you're listening to music, so I've given some students assignments to ask them to listen, you know, really deeply and work on, you know, singing something working on singing, that articulation singing with the recording and recording themselves singing with the recording, so that they can see, can I hear the difference? Right? And if they come back and say, I can't, then we listen and say, Oh, actually, you can but you didn't? You're not. Maybe appreciating that you can? Because here's, here's you six months ago, right? Yeah. And so I think that we start with, we start with trying to be able to hear it, because I think you can't play something that you can't, you don't know what you're going for. Yeah. So assuming that we've done that work, then it's then it's a matter of like, okay, maybe it is a transcription of something that you really want to sort of, align yourself with a certain way of approaching so that you can sit down and kind of, you know, deal with something specific, it's as though it's playing, it's as though you're playing classical music in a way, right? Because you're trying to sort of create a target and, and a consistency that you can go for, I think it's harder to do without maybe taking that step in between, versus just eliminating that and wanting, wanting to improvise it from the get go.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 1:08:08
Right? You know, again, you know, your, your encouragement of listening, right going in listening to recordings and such you not, I've told students to I've used this analogy that, you know, if I wanted to, let's say I had a goal to speak French, I wanted to learn how to speak French. I would go out and I would get every tape, every recording of people speaking French that I could, and I would listen to them speaking French, as I'm driving around in my car, cooking in the kitchen or whatever. I wouldn't even care what words they were saying. It wouldn't matter to me what words they were saying. I would just be trying to get that articulation down that field down that delivery down in your head. That's right, the cadence, right. So I worry about the words later. I just need to learn to articulate,
Andy Milne 1:08:57
right? Yeah, yeah, I have, like, I have a student who's just graduated, she was Masters student, but she's a classical pianist who just really, you know, decided I really want to know more about this. And she and I work together and she'd come to my studio class. And, you know, all the jazz students really liked her. And she really kind of enjoyed having her in the class. Because it was it was a really interesting reflection on their experience. It's seen through this person who's actually hadn't listened to this music at all right? And yet sort of wanting to understand it, but it's like, you have to start listening to it, you know, and so, she's now back in Hong Kong, and she's like, you know, going to do a, a doctoral program in next year, but in classical performance, but But still, you know, over this next several months, her middle kind of outstanding assignment for me is to do much more listening to the point that she can distinguish between the sound of Fats Waller and the sound James P Johnson, sound of, you know, an Albert daily or the sound of Johnny O'Neill or something like this and being able to listen to these players and hear, you know, not just oh, they're playing a different piece or this recording quality is different, but there's something in the way in which these players, their their weight and their articulation and their and, and, and this and the style in which they play to for sure, but right but because so many of these things that we would talk about in classical improvisation, it was like, really putting things in advance of where her ears were out for the music, right? Because she might hear something and have an association based upon a time in history, or a right place in the world, right, you know, which is on one level useful from a musicology standpoint, right. But it isn't useful, as much when you actually have to imagine the doing. Because it's not, it's sort of more about a that's like a soundbite rather than what's what's the movie really about? Right. Right. And so that was, you know, kind of interesting to kind of work with her to get that's neat. Yeah, a deeper relationship with her ears. Yeah. Because it's not just like the technical. It's also what does it How does it make you feel, you know, right, because there's something in that, that whether the player has specifically decided I want to make you feel this way or not, right. They don't necessarily have to make that decision. There. Is that in there? Is that an emotional component to the way in which their hand meets the instrument?
Dr. Bob Lawrence 1:11:46
No doubt. Right. as musicians listening again, it's so crucial, right? Spending time. passive and active listening. Right? Yeah, right. Even passive listening, having it on? Yeah, you know, why you're like I said, like, why you're cooking in the kitchen. Have it on? And,
Andy Milne 1:12:03
yeah, I think if it's the only if you only ever do passive, then then you're missing out on the fact that you know, you got to go deep, right?
Dr. Bob Lawrence 1:12:09
Yeah, absolutely. For sure. Both of them account, you have to have both, you know, and it's it's no different than, you know, if, if there's a if there's a young individual young man that wants to be a, you know, great basketball player, and if you asked him if you ever watched Michael Jordan, and he said, No. You'd be puzzled. Right? Like, what? You know, so, okay, here's another one, just real quick. And I say real quick, but this is maybe the heaviest one. How do you approach? How do you approach we already touched on creativity a little earlier with the with the MacGyver comparison, right, but how do you approach teaching? Helping students learn how to improvise? Right, this is this is a big hurdle, right? How do you help them jump that hurdle and begin exploring and developing their improvisational skills?
Andy Milne 1:13:09
Well, I mean, that if we're talking about anybody, not necessarily a jazz, like a sort of a typical jazz piano student, right? This the student that was just referring to in a way that that part of that experience is like, where do you start, you start by saying, All right, you have some music in your head. Now, with that music that you have, in your head, I want you to play me the essence of that music. You know, I kind of create little modules where it's like, okay, I want you to play the essence of that, or I want you to, I want to restrict your resources, right? And sort of related to the boredom thing, you know, why restrict your resources and say, Okay, now, only play this interval, but express that melody, right, only play this rhythm, but express that melody, you know, only play staccato, only play legato, like, whatever, you know, you can place these restrictions on, but I think it's like that, again, is becomes that turning point where like, you're actually improvising because you're having to devise an answer that is not already laid out for you. Right? And so but sometimes I start that way with someone, especially this student I was talking about, you know, we used classical repertoire that she was familiar with, and say, Okay, now we're gonna unpack this, I don't need to hear the whole piece. I'm just gonna unpack these eight, Bryce. Right, you know, and I wanted to see if you can take this material and begin to repurpose it. Right? So I often start that way, even if it's somebody who's coming improvisation with a bit more context than someone like the student I was referring to that we're you know, having having Little bit of listening context where you're like, Okay, yeah, I've listened to a bunch to play this piece of music, right? You know, but like, okay, set it up, right? Okay, right? No, no, what do you mean? No, no, don't play, don't just play the last four bars, set it up, you know, I need you to get from all the way down the street to here. You can't even see my house from there. But I need you to kind of describe it to somebody, as you're walking over here.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 1:15:25
Right? And, and, you know, to your point, you know, we've talked about we've already touched upon this as well, right? More doesn't mean better. Right? So you can take two notes, right. And I always use like, stray horns, you know, C jam, blues, and you know, liquid, look what they do with the note G and the note C. Right? That you can improvise with two notes, rhythmic interest with those two notes and say something you can get down to you can get down to the street with those two notes.
Andy Milne 1:16:00
Yeah, yeah. And that's the thing. Again, the limitation like you put you put that on, whether it's somebody who's given it to you to put on or you or you just create it yourself.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 1:16:10
Yeah. Because I think that I think the imagery that the student, the young jazzer gets in their mind, as soon as you say improvisation. I think the imagery that they get, is the hand moving rapidly up and down the piano. Sure, right. And it's our job to say, Whoa, yeah, let's pump the brakes here a little bit.
Andy Milne 1:16:33
It's the low hanging fruit. Right? Like, it's like, it's very easy to see that and conclude. That's what improvisation is. Right? It's, it's shredding. Right? Right. It's very easy to conclude that because that's, that's what is what would distinguish it from? in a way that's like, it's also what's gravity is sort of what grips people in a way, like, Oh, my God, look at look at all that activity, you know, right, right. And not seeing the fact that there can be this improvisational gesture that's this little one off, embellishment. Correct. So like, you might give somebody a piece of music that's like, incredibly difficult to execute. And they got them focusing on it, like, through the 16 bars, or 24 bars or 29 bars, or whatever it happens to be, right. But there might be this one moment for three beats, right? Where they have this opportunity to express themselves just briefly before they get back to what what's written, right, even acknowledging the sort of weight and impact of what their response might be to that three beat, right, pause. Right is improvisation that is worthy of being respected as much as listening to Coltrane, you know, no doubt. And I think that that's, I mean, they're not in the same magnitude for sure. But there's but put to sort of eliminate the importance of those little improvisational gestures and not seeing the sort of effort that went into that. And the sort of right courage that went into that. I think that's a big thing. It's like so that's the other thing. I'm sort of leading myself. It's like, yeah, teaching courage, or encouraging courage. Encouraging, you know, that's very good. that's a that's a very big thing. You know,
Dr. Bob Lawrence 1:18:19
yeah. No doubt about it. No doubt about it. So, man, you know what, Andy, we could we could go like, for three days here, right? If they, yeah, if somebody would bring me a pizza, I could sit here and just
talk all day, man, this is fun. But I know you got a gig to get to. And I got I got a couple hours. But
yeah, so where does you know, you let folks know how to get in touch with you if they want to reach out to you your social media you have? Do you have Facebook, Twitter, all that stuff?
Andy Milne 1:18:56
I do have the Facebook and the Twitter. I tend to be a little I'm pretty low key in the social medias. I'm old school guy.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 1:19:05
I'm with you.
Andy Milne 1:19:07
I mean, I do I do check it but it's like the kind of thing where if you get new much faster if you just go to my website and email me, Andy Milam calm. Great. That's, that's a quick way to sort of, sort of see what I'm up to. More or less, you know, I don't say I don't say I'm sharing. I'm not really an overshare. Yeah, that world, right. If you want me to share, you do this, and I'll share quite freely, but like I try not to be sort of like, you're not necessarily going to know what I'm up to right now. Right? That Well, you
Dr. Bob Lawrence 1:19:37
know, I'm so old school man, my wife. I'll answer a text for my wife and she'll text me back and say that was three days ago.
Andy Milne 1:19:50
You're even more old school than me. I mean, I have.
I have a landline. My house is wired for for wired Ethernet, but it's They'll use Wi Fi. But
and, and I do I do text message. But the funny thing about that whole idea of like that was three days ago or three weeks ago, right? People have messaged me on Facebook and saying, Yeah, I'm coming to town. Let's get together. And I would see that message like six weeks after they'd been here just cuz just email me I would have got together.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 1:20:25
Yeah, yeah, we can hang up. We can hang man. I'm the same way. So you know what, what's funny is I just reached out to you, I just sent you an email man. Yeah, gracious, sent one back. That's, we're old school, get email, email is advanced for us. So you know,
Andy Milne 1:20:41
it's just it's easier to keep track of I it's like, I can go to one place and I keep track of emails from seven or eight different accounts. Facebook, it's this tiny little thing. I'm not gonna i'm not i got big thumbs. I got big thumbs. I mean, it's like I got Randy Weston Fred Flintstone thumbs. I don't.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 1:21:03
That's awesome. So listen, man, it has been a thrill. It's a joy to start our friendship. And it's a thrill to have you on jazz piano skills. And we're gonna have you back, man. Cuz like I said, you got to like about three lifetimes here to unpack for us. So we're gonna have you back on soon. if that's okay with you, man. That'd be fun. Yeah. Awesome. Well, listen, thank you so much for being on jazz piano skills. And I want to again, once again, encourage everyone, all listeners out there, please go to Google. Search up Andy, Andy, Mel, and check out all the videos, tons of performance out there, read his bio, look at his stuff. It's, it's awesome. It's really tremendous man. So thanks for all that you do, educationally and musically to help promote jazz and to help train the next Young Lions of jazz that are coming up and you're going to continue this tremendous art form. So on behalf of the entire jazz world, I want to say thank you for all that you do. Oh, well, back at you. I appreciate that. Pretty much. Awesome, man. All right, folks. That's it. And we will see you all next week on jazz piano skills. Thanks so much. Thanks, Andy. Thank you. Well, I hope you have found this jazz panel skills podcast, with special guest Andy Miller to be insightful, and of course beneficial. One of my mentors and teachers I have friends and used to say to me after every lesson, never forget the greatest thing about music is the people you meet through it. And the privilege of meeting and spending time with Andy simply confirms our sentiment 100% don't forget if you are a jazz panel skills member I will see you online Thursday evening at the jazz panel skills masterclass 8pm Central time to discuss this podcast episode featuring Andy male in greater detail and to answer any questions you may have about the study of jazz in general. As always, you can reach me by phone 972-380-8050 extension 211 by email Dr. Lawrence at jazz piano skills.com Dr. Lawrence at jazz piano skills.com or by speakpipe found throughout the jazz piano skills website. Well, there's my cue. That's it for now and until next week. Enjoy the journey. Enjoy the pearls of wisdom shared by Andy Miller. And most of all, have fun as you discover, learn and play jazz piano
Jazz Faculty, University of Michigan
A fearless, versatile explorer, Juno Award winning pianist/composer Andy Milne has been a distinct and respected voice at the heart of New York’s creative jazz scene for over 25 years, collaborating with dancers, visual artists, poets and musicians spanning jazz, classical, pop, folk, and world music. He has recorded and toured throughout the world with Ravi Coltrane, Ralph Alessi, Carlos Ward and Carla Cook, and has collaborated with a range of artists including Andrew Cyrille, Sekou Sundiata, Avery Brooks, Bruce Cockburn, Fred Hersch, Ben Monder, Dianne Reeves, Jen Shyu, Tyshawn Sorey and Jamie Baum. A former student of Oscar Peterson, Milne was at the center of the M-BASE Collective as a core member of saxophonist Steve Coleman’s bands, as well as performing with Cassandra Wilson and Greg Osby. After a formative apprenticeship with Coleman, Milne stepped out on his own to conquer his own musical frontiers, eventually forming his longstanding quintet Dapp Theory in 1998.
Milne’s most celebrated project, The Seasons of Being, showcases a 10-piece ensemble featuring Dapp Theory, plus five distinguished guest improvisers. Commissioned by Chamber Music America, the music explores the body, spirit and mind on music, using the diagnostic principles of homeopathy to captivate the emotional characterization of each soloist. It premiered at Millersville University and Jazz at Lincoln Center in 2015. The recording, released on Sunnyside Records in 2018 was awarded the 2019 Juno Award for Jazz Album of the Year:Group. This special project follows the dynamic 2014 Dapp Theory release Forward in all Directions, produced by multi-Grammy winner, Jimmy Haslip.
In 2014, with support from The Japan Foundation and New Music USA, Milne premiered Strings & Serpents at Lincoln Center. The interdisciplinary collaboration combines two pianos and two kotos, with animation depicting The Rainbow Serpent Mythology. A synthesis of Japanese and Western structures in terms of melody, form, improvisational language and rhythm, the work merges musical and visual forms into a unified experience. Strings & Serpents will release their debut recording and tour North America in 2018.
In 2011, Milne composed, performed and produced the score to William Shatner’s documentary film, The Captains. The relationship led to Milne scoring six subsequent Star Trek-themed films directed by Shatner. In addition to appearing in one of the films, Milne released The Captains soundtrack CD in partnership with Shatner and was a featured performer at numerous Star Trek conventions with actor/singer Avery Brooks. During this period, Milne attended the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute at UCLA under the direction of George Lewis, and in 2013 was invited to compose for the American Composers Orchestra’s JCOI New Music Readings.
To date, Milne has released ten recordings as a leader or co-leader. His early Dapp Theory recordings helped forge a foundation for the creative diversity he would explore in subsequent projects. Forming Dapp Theory in 1998, Milne cited his desire to “tell passionate stories, promote peace and inspire collective responsibility towards uplifting the human spiritual condition.” Milne used rhythm to bend listeners’ minds and bodies, mixed R&B, jazz, rock, pop and hip-hop influences, and incorporated free-style and composed lyrics to promote a profound sense of social commentary within the music. One of the most compelling expressions of these ingredients was Milne’s ambitious collaboration with Canadian folk-rock icon Bruce Cockburn on the 2003 Concord Records release, Y’all Just Don’t Know.
In 2008, Milne was awarded the French-America Jazz Exchange from Chamber Music America and formed Crystal Magnets, a duo piano collaboration with French pianist Benoît Delbecq. Inspired by the 5.0 surround sound format, Milne set out to compose for the medium and record in harmony with that environment. During their recording residency at The Banff Centre, Milne and Delbecq exploited the unique potential for placing specific compositional elements in distinct regions of the surround sound mix. In 2009, Songlines Recordings released Where is Pannonica?, which The New York Times lauded as a “strangely beautiful new album” from two “resourcefully contemporary pianists, both drawn to quixotic interrogations of harmony and timbre.”
Milne released two unique piano recordings in 2007. Both CDs received wide critical acclaim, presenting complementary reflections of his questing musical personality. Dreams and False Alarms [SongLines] features deeply considered re-workings of long-remembered pop/rock/folk/reggae classics, reaffirming and expanding Milne’s creative process as a jazz improviser. Scenarios [Obliqsound] presents a more textural, almost cinematic series of intimate duo encounters with harmonica virtuoso Grégoire Maret. Their duo developed naturally during Maret’s four years as a member of Dapp Theory. Also in 2007, Milne collaborated with tap dancer/choreographer Heather Cornell to create Finding Synesthesia, which premiered that year at the London Jazz Festival. Together they combined a wide and unexpected range of sounds and influences, integrally weaving tap into the texture and sound of the orchestration.
Milne is a Yamaha Artist and sought-after educator, serving as an assistant professor of music at The University of Michigan. and the Assistant-Director at The School for Improvisational Music.