It never rains and then it pours. In the last two months I have played more two piano repertoire then in my entire life up to now. During February I was busy with a series of rehearsals culminating in a two piano recital with classical and cross over jazz works on the program and then yesterday I had the immense pleasure of playing all improvised and impromptu jazz standards with a long time idol – in my house – on my pianos.
During my high school years in Bloemfontein I took lessons from Johan Cromhout and owe so much of what I am able to enjoy and do in music today to his big influence. He frequently told me about his teacher at school: Nadia Burgess. She had as big an impact on his life in music; especially to make his love for jazz take flight. This love was passed on to me and thanks to two generations of pianists who loved both the classics and jazz I am able to feel equally comfortable in both genres of music.
Ever since my school days Nadia Burgess has been been an example of hard work and dedication – but at a distance. She moved to Australia in the late 80’s and her success in the jazz and the very specialised crossover music field awarded her a Doctorate in composition from the esteemed Sydney Conservatory of Music. She was the fantasy figure who would infuse Johan and I with her cool jazz cassettes (yes that is how long ago it was!) of Australian radio and her playing, compositions and ever positive personality that any person would find an instant inspiration.
I met her when I was 15 for the first time and saw her and Johan jam and dreamed of the day I would be able to play so spontaneously and have as much fun. I only saw her 20 years later when she visited South Africa again. Our mutual respect for Japie Human (a common teacher of all three of us) and a spontaneous “click” in personalities instantly solidified our friendship and it has grown ever since. I have had the pleasure to visit her down under and could experience the integrity of her work ethic first hand.
After Nadia’s last visit in 2012 our dear Prof Japie passed away and last night was her first chance to play on his piano that is now the centre piece in my studio along side my Steinway. We had such fun playing standards and like intimate friends could finish each other’s musical sentences. To me it was like hearing my mother tongue after living with new languages for years. That sounds I grew up with – listening to her recordings was now live in my own studio. She was as blown away by our ability to blend ideas and compliment each other’s playing.
I am forever grateful to this magnificent lady who passed her knowledge on with love and light and equally so to Johan for extending the tradition. Hopefully I can continue this most positive of effects and so pay hommage to great teachers all over our beautiful planet.