When San Diego jazz pianist Ed Kornhauser is an old man he’ll have a great story to tell – the San Diego version of “I walked five miles through the snow to get to school.” Ed grew up in Escondido in north San Diego County but wanted a music education enough to get into the highly competitive Coronado School of the Arts.
Ed’s story won’t be about walking five miles through the snow, but about getting up at 5 a.m. and commuting over 120 miles round trip every day to get the education he so much wanted. He’s made good on that as one of the busiest jazz musicians in the San Diego area. Gigging is Ed’s life and a good life it is.
Dedication is Ed’s life, too. In an interview for San Diego’s “Troubador” newspaper, Ed told the story about first playing the tuba for a few very good reasons – he wouldn’t have to buy an instrument but could use the one at school free, he figured nobody else would be pushing too hard to play the tuba, that kind of thing. So he played, note by tuba note, until a night when the bass player couldn’t make it to rehearsal and Ed took a look at the bass player’s music.
What he saw changed everything for young Ed. He saw the notes, all right, but he also saw chords. Chords! Changes! And he began playing more piano and less tuba until he segued fully into the piano with no looking back.
“To this day,” the article goes on, “Kornhauser is more comfortable with the chord changes rather than the notes that comprise a composition. And though he is competent at reading music, he admits that reading through lots of notes on a page without the changes is not his forte.
“ ‘You put Chopin in front of me, I’m screwed,’ he says with a bit of self-deprecating humor.”
The story reminds me of a mathematician I once knew who could solve anything you put in front of him, but admitted to me once that he hated story problems and the words that chilled his heart even after so many years were, “One train leaves Boston at 4 p.m. and…”
Let us leave the math lesson and listen to Ed Kornhauser, pianist extraordinaire, with Matt Smith on drums and Mackenzie Leighton on bass as they set the room on fire with the Mercer Ellington/Ted Persons tune, “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be.”
Amen to that, JazzBabies. Amen to that.