Once the English pianist Harold Bauer gave a concert in San Francisco, and an F-sharp got stuck just after he’d begun his last piece. He struggled with the note, trying to disguise that from the audience, trying to keep it from ruining the piece, trying to get through. When he came offstage, his manager said to him, “Harold, I’ve listened to you up and down the world for twenty years, and that last piece was the most moving performance I have ever heard.” Which means that audiences are rarely on the same wavelength as performers. In fact, two very different things are going on at once. The musician is wondering how to get from the second eight bars into the bridge, and the audience is in pursuit of emotional energy. The musician is struggling, and the audience is making up dreamlike opinions about the music that may have nothing at all to do with what the musician is thinking or doing musically. If audiences knew what humdrum, daylight things most musicians think when they play, they’d probably never come.
— told to Whitney Balliett, “Easier Than Working,” American Musicians 312-13.
The Dear Departed Days:
December 1946, Jimmy Ryan’s, New York City: Ed Phyfe (drums), John Glasel (tpt); Bob Wilber, Wellstood, Charlie Traeger (bass). Photograph by William P. Gottlieb.