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Issue: January 1995
Todd Hildreth.

By Todd Hildreth

I have a confession to make. I'm a big fan of Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz. That's not the confession. The confession is that while I'm listening I imagine myself as the guest. I imagine all the wonderful things I'd play and all the profound things I'd say in the interview. I imagine this all through the program and for the rest of the day and then all the other days of the week. I've been doing this for years and I'm too busy imagining to get any practicing done. On New Year's eve I had a nightmare that I have since come to believe was a sign from above. It went like this:

"Hi, welcome to Piano Jazz. I'm Marian McPartland and my guest today is Todd Hildreth, a fine pianist from Louisville. Welcome to the show, Todd."

"Thanks, Marian. And might I say you're looking mighty fine behind that piano today."

"Uh, gee, Todd, you 're probably up to some great things there in Louisville. Do you have any recordings out?" "Well, I recorded my senior recital, but it didn't turn out too well. Mom had the tape recorder right there in her lap and Grandpa just talked through the whole thing. All you can hear is him."

"Oh, dear ... well, uh, Todd, tell me about some of your piano influences."

"Well, there's Paul Shaffer. I love the way he slides up and down the keyboard. And he's so funny, isn't he? And Liberace! I just love the way he ... what do you call it when he rolls the chords?"


"Yeah, those. And Floyd Cramer! He plays reeeeal pretty."

"Don't you have any jazz influences?"

"Jazz influences? Well let me see ... I tell you what, let's jam a bit and I'l1 let you know if one comes up. I'll start. I've prepared 'I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts,' but I can only play one hand at a time. I hope you don't mind." I begin to play."Darn it! I had this yesterday!"

"Oh, dear! Um, Todd, why don't we play something together. How about 'Billie's Bounce'?"

"Yeah,'Billie's Bounce'! Let's see, I think I've got that in this fakebook here."

"It's'a blues in F!"

"Oh, blues in Fl Sure! Let's see, that starts on F7, then goes to B-flat seven, then back to F and then ... oh, I'll just improvise when I get to that part. That's what jazz is all about isn't it! Improvisation?"

"I think this might be a good time to tell anyone who's just tuned in that my guest today is Todd Hildreth and he"s in the left channel and I'm in the right. OK? DID YOU HEAR ME? THAT'S NOT ME IN THE LEFT CHANNEL,IT'S HM!"

And so we played and I was jammin'! I was improvising all over the place! Iwas jumpin' up and down and singin' and usin' my elbows and feet and gettin' down real good. When we were finished, I gave Marian a big smile but she didn't return it. It seemed like something was bothering her.

"I'rn going to play a solo piece now," she said, kind of mad.

"But Marian, I'm just getting warmed up ... (LOUD SLAPPING SOUND) ... Um, on second thought, why don't you play something, Marian. I'll go put some ice on this."

And so she played and played and played. She played all the way to the end of the show. When it was over, she just got up and left. She didn't say a word to me.

Then a realization come to me slowly; perhaps I had done something to make her mad. Maybe I didn't play well or something. Maybe the sixth time I quoted "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" on my solo was one time too many. (It's a little trick I use when I lose the form — fits over anything.) Maybe I had made a complete fool of myself! Panic set in on me like the plague.

Then I woke up.

Don't worry, Marian! I'm practicing now! Every day! I won't let you down! Save me a space in 2005! Here I come, Marian! Don't worry about me!

See you next time.

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