Dean Earl Chapter 1-BOHP - Ralph
Chapter 1 RR: I would like to just start out by saying that it's a pleasure to be in your home, Dean. It's really fun to come down here, and right before we turned this tape on we were spending some time looking through a lovely scrapbook of yours, and it shows pictures of you gigging and hanging out and playing with so many luminaries such as Lady Day, and Sarah Vaughan, and we know that you've played with Sonny Stitt and Charlie Parker, and you certainly are one of the great teachers at Berklee, and you've seen Berklee go through a lot of different changes, and you've seen Boston go through so many changes. We really just wanted to come down and get your own history and anything else you wanna talk about (laughs). So you can maybe start if you wanted by telling us where your from, and how you got interested music initially? DE: Well I started when I was about 5 or 6 years old playing "Chopsticks" on the piano. I found If I hold a couple of notes and the left hand would be harmony, I could play melody against it. RR: Yeah. DE: And the kids around on the block, they would come in with violins and things like that. RR: Oh Yeah? DE: Just trying to play things. Then I got so I could find out I'd listen to tunes like uh, "I Can't Give You Anything But Love". I could start playing it and I'd play with like a stride piano. Boom, Chick, Boom, Chick, de do de do de do.. RR: No kidding! DE: Yeah! RR: You kind of taught yourself that? DE: Yeah, yeah. RR: How old were you? DE: Well, about eight. Seven or eight years old. RR: Wow! DE: And I finally was foolin' around with piano around the school, school basement, and the teacher come down... RR: Uh huh. DE: And she had me play something. She says you take piano lessons? I said, no. So she says, well you tell your father, your foster father to get you to let you take lessons. Cause you can play. RR: Yeah. DE: So I got a teacher that lived in the same building. Lived on the first floor. I lived in Brooklyn at the time, at that time. And he gave me lessons, and as I progressed, he got mad at me because, I played the next page. He wanted me to play try the peice that I already played it, and he got mad and would crack my fingers. Yes... RR: No kidding. DE: Yeah with his pencil, he wasn't hurtin me, but as a kid you think oh boy! RR: You were ahead of him? You should have been teaching him! DE: Laugh! So I'd go on upstairs and my foster father and he'd walk behind me yellin' at me or fussin' about somethin. My father, my foster father wanted to know whats the matter? So I says' he hit my fingers, and they went and talked and I heard them say, He had the audacity to go to the next page. He played it, and my foster father said well he got a lillte ahead of himself, and lets forget the lessons. So I did'nt have any lessons for a while, but I start listening to recordings. RR: Mmhmm. DE: And there was a piano player named Claude Hopkins. RR: Sure... DE: And he played, Three Little Words, and I said, I listened to recording and I started copying it. RR: You didn't need lessons! DE: Yeah! yeah stride piano, boom chick, boom chick, boom chick.. RR: Teaching yourself stride piano. DE: Yeah! and do you know, just last year I started, um I'm ahead of myself. I started workin' around a theme song that I played. Um, just last year a year before. John La Porta wrote TLW, and that was three little words and he had a lesson in one of the jazz books at the school. RR: Yeah, That's great. I first became familiar with Three Little Words in my case listening to Sonny Rollins. He recorded it in the 60's on this wild record and Ray Bryant is the piano player. Ohhh.... So thats how I got into it, but thats a very modern version of it. DE: This is like the stride piano like Fats Waller type. Real stomped on piano. And the pace...you know piano? Um, the style is jazz, swing, funky style of that time of piano players. There's no substitute chords or diatonic or odd type of scales where they would just swing it. In the style like Art Tatum. RR: If your playing like that you don't need a bass player.