Introduction to Wide Open Jazz

Greetings fellow jazz-junkies, music aficionados and other folks searching for a little bit of meaningful life between the exit signs. My name is Peter Madsen and in real life I'm a professional pianist, keyboardist and composer that once a month will be masquerading as a music-writer for AAJ. Being that this is the maiden voyage of this monthly event I thought I would take the time to introduce myself and tell you some of my ideas for this column. 

It all began thirty-five years ago when my poor mother wanted me out of the house and sent me for the preverbal weekly piano lessons. She had heard that studying the piano would raise your IQ and I guess she figured I needed all the help I could get. Little could she have imagined that she would be starting me off on the path that would give my life its' greatest meaning and depth and offer me the opportunity to play and record with some of the finest jazz musicians in the world. I still can't quite believe how many incredible experiences I've been blessed to receive. 

I began studying classical piano at age eight; double bass at age eleven; and jazz on both instruments at age thirteen. I played my first professional gig three years later. I graduated with a degree in music from the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire and shortly after moved to New York City where I still live twenty years later. 

I've had the great fortune to work with a diverse array of jazz-stars young and old including to name just a few: Stan Getz, George Coleman, Oscar Brown Jr., Sonny Fortune, Arthur Blythe, Ravi Coltrane, Vincent Herring, Bill Frisell, Mick Goodrick, Dave Liebman, Eddie Henderson, Greg Osby, Warne Marsh, Ralph Moore, Rick Marguitza, Rufus Reid, Ray Drummond, Cecil McBee, Ben Riley, Jeff Watts, Mel Lewis, Smitty Smith, the Mingus Big Band and many others. I've also been very lucky to have recorded about fifty albums with many other greats including: Stanley Turrentine, Benny Golson, Joe Lovano, Kenny Garrett, Don Cherry, Lew Tabakin, Fred Wesley, Maceo Parker, Thomas Chapin, Tom Harrell, Marty Ehrlich, Chris Potter, Anthony Cox, Toninho Horta, Billy Hart, Victor Lewis, Lewis Nash and many others. (God this list is way too long - sorry about that) The last bit of personnel trivia I will subject you to is that I've toured Europe and Japan almost fifty times each and have recorded my own albums for a record company in Germany called Minor Music. I also love to compose and have written over 200 pieces, many of which have been recorded. 

When I first moved to New York many musicians told me that I would have to choose only one style of jazz to play and that I would never work if I spread myself too thin. But I could never quite listen to these crystal ball owners. I truly love playing in a wide range of creative musical styles. I love bebop as much as I love funk music. I truly enjoy playing with avant-garde musicians that let me put strange objects in the piano to create unusual sounds as much as I enjoy accompanying a great singer like Oscar Brown Jr. I'm as excited by the European ECM style of jazz as much as the soul jazz of Stanley Turrentine. I could listen to Cecil Taylor as easily as Jelly Roll Morton or Bill Evans. I also love Delta blues as much as I love the music of Brazil or Africa. 

So why is this guy telling me all this you're probably wondering? Well, my greatest wish is to share with you my excitement, pleasure and knowledge of playing improvised music in all it's wide open possibilities. I hope that some of my experiences might be a good starting point for this column to explore some of the various wonderful creative music and musicians that have touched me as well as millions of others around the world. 

I also want to let you know that I am open to suggestions for the column and would love to hear from you to find out what your ideas and desires might be. Please keep in touch and always remember that music is the healing force of the universe.