Jazzing it Up: Krishna Canning ’16 Improvises Original Pieces at Senior Piano Recital

Starting with a low, ominous melody, Krishna Canning ’16 gradually began to play faster and louder, adding higher, choppy notes and creating a disjointed melody. As the song progressed, Canning incorporated the recurring deep melody as he continued to play a multiple of scales, ending on a drawn-out jarring chord.

This improvised solo pia- no piece was one the eleven original works that Canning performed last Saturday afternoon in the Timken Room of Graves Hall for his senior re cital.

Canning also performed “Some Funky Monkfish,” which was inspired by a classic jazz pianist named Thelonious Monk. Based off of Monk’s “Straight, No Chaser,” the piece featured a head-bobbing beat from the bass and drums as Canning would crawl up to the upper register of the key- board, before suddenly jumping down, utilizing the piano’s entire range. The piece ended with a final clash of the drums.

“I [initially] wanted to write an entire tune and arrange it for jazz band, which is a big group so it was kind of a daunting task,” said Canning. “So I ended up not doing that, but I wanted one part in the middle of it to sound like an old swing part, like an old swing jazz band because there’s some pieces where you hear this weird modern thing, and so I realized the part I written actually sounded a lot like a Thelonious Monk song, so I sort of wrote [the rest of the song] to be more of his style.”

In the later half of the recital, Canning switched from traditional jazz pieces to more contemporary jazz and rock compositions like “Lapis Luster.” The piece opened with a somber piano solo, and with a cue from Canning, the other instruments joined in as well

as the vocals by Blake Camp- bell ’18. Canning added high trills as he sang his own part, before ending the piece on a sustained chord and a lingering note from Campbell.

“I had originally come up with these chords that were smooth and that I liked the sound of them. And there’s two different parts to the song,” said Canning. “One [part was] more upbeat with a heavy pull band groove, and the other part was more laid back and had a lot of space. I liked the sound of it, but I couldn’t come up with a melody or a lead part to it, and then one day, the vocalist, Blake Campbell, was sort of improvising around [the chords] when we were jamming out, and she came up with some really good ideas, and eventually she wrote the melody and lyrics, and the title comes out of one of her lines.”

Canning played his first jazz piano piece when he was about seven years old, inspired by his father who is an avid jazz music listener. Since then, Canning loved the freedom jazz and improvisation offered him.

“What’s cool about im- provisation is that you can pretty much do anything. It’s founded a lot in music theory, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be, sometimes you can do stuff outside of what people are expecting to hear. I really like music theory, I think that stuff ’s interesting, and so sometimes I’m playing around with a concept of what I learned, but [it’s] also [about] making it your own, like hearing something in your head and whether or not [the tune] comes from listening to other musicians or something internal, it’s cool to hear something in your head and then play that right on the spot,” said Canning.

Entering Andover his Lower year, Canning began study- ing jazz piano with Bob Baughman, Adjunct Instructor in Music, where he learned music theory and technical concepts. Canning also learned jazz techniques from his friend Arthur Doran ’15 who graduated last year.

“My piano teacher [at Andover] taught me a lot of new things about jazz that I didn’t even know were a thing be- fore,” said Canning. “Also Arthur also played jazz piano, but he showed me a lot of things he was into and his modern take on traditional jazz ideas, and that helped me transform my approach.”