This book is a culmination of the music that I have written over the past 36 years. This is not all of the music I’ve written but the ones I felt represented major turning points in my writing. I grew up with a piano in the house. No one was really musically inclined and there’s no recollection of anyone seriously playing it. There are vague memories of my mother playing “Clementine” while I sang along, but I can’t confirm that. So the piano was dusted and cleaned once a week, otherwise sitting idle. Then one day I opened the piano and just started to play, making up songs, alone at the piano. No words, just instrumental meanderings. I was untrained and unguided. My ideas were simple and naïve. My grandmother even paid my cousin one summer to give me piano lessons. Despite showing a particular knack for the piano, I hated practicing and hated having to read music. It wasn’t until my late teens that I took an interest in reading and writing music. (But that was several years later.)
I wrote my first Jazz tune while in a college Brazilian Percussion class. The instructor said, “I’d like to perform some original music written by you.” I heard that and jumped on the opportunity. Hearing it performed, I was completely hooked. At that point my destiny was laid out before me. That first tune was a simple D minor Blues called “Blue Asia;” followed that same year by a composition for Gamelan called “After The Rain,” published in 1982 by American Composer, Lou Harrison.
Still unguided, I wrote many “not-so-note-worthy” tunes. (There were a few gems in between.) It wasn’t until under the tutelage of Frank Mantooth that my work evolved and matured. His guidance was key to my confidence as a composer. I enjoyed our private sessions where he questioned my harmonic choices and challenged my ideas. He often praised my work but jokingly chided my bass playing by telling me to stop listening to that “ECM stuff” and start learning how to “swing.” (That is another story.) He referred to me in class as “Jazz Edo.” He continued to call me this after my graduation in 1987, and up until his passing on January 30, 2004.
This book is dedicated to the memory of Frank Mantooth. “Frank, I am learning how to swing.” — Edo