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"Dave Grusin epitomizes all the very best qualities of jazz."

-- Tom Scott

Whatever the instrument, the matter of practicing is not something Dave Grusin has been famous for - ever.  Confessing to a lack of discipline as a student, he acknowledges "I was kicked through four years of piano." While fellow students were practicing constantly, he forced himself to put in an hour or so a day at the keyboard.

If he'd given short shrift to practicing in college, Dave Grusin admits he's been even `worse' in his professional life.  “I wish I could feel like I had the time to do that. I have friends who are composers-John Williams, for instance-who spend a lot of time at the keyboard playing.”

Of course, the time demands on him as a film composer presented a good reason not to practice, but joking aside, he finds that missing a few days at the keyboard and “you really find out about it!” He adds that the same is true for composing.  “it goes both ways, and I find that the same thing is true about writing. If I lay off of writing, it takes a while to crank back up again. You're going to pay the price one way or the other.”

He feels that practice is more than just a muscular process, and involves the constant renewal of mental discipline, elaborating, “it's kind of an odd thing to compare essentially a muscular process with a mental one. I don't know how muscular losing chops is. I think a lot of that is mental.”

Vibraphonist Gary Burton proposed an interesting concept which Dave Grusin found intriguing, explaining, “I remember being really impressed one time reading Gary Burton's ideas about practicing. He said that it has nothing to do with playing your instrument. Instead, it has to do with getting your mind in a receptive, open kind of place. You know that you already have the technique. It's in there somewhere, so you just have to let it flow. There's something in that Zen approach that I think is very true.”

Dave Grusin greatly admired (if not followed) idol Andre Previn's concertizer's approach, saying “when he was in Hollywood writing film scores, he practiced six hours a day. but even when he wasn't performing I think he spent time every day at the piano. I admire that, but I've never been that kind of person. When I feel rusty, it takes a certain amount of physical time at the keyboard to get past it. I don't put myself in this situation very often, but if I've really got something heavy to play, it helps psychologically when it comes time to do it if I can find out about it and wish at it a little bit.

However, despite all these protestations about practicing and unreadiness to perform in public, no musician who has worked with Dave Grusin closely can be found to concur with his opinion.  Lee Ritenour - whose technique is legendary, and who should not only know the best when he hears it, but can also claim to be as great an authority on Dave Grusin's playing as anyone - puts it in a nutshell.

Citing the fact that, with time,  most artists lose a little musicianship every year, Lee Ritenour has found Dave Grusin to be the great exception to this rule, adding, “he plays the piano magnificently. Better every year.

Go to:  Dave Grusin on Other Pianists      

Photo Credit

2 - Veryl Oakland

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