This might seem a little thing but bear with me. My idea is to show how a tragedy such as that of George Floyd’s murder has a domino effect that ripples into places you wouldn’t expect.
See, Philadelphia pianist, composer, singer and author Andy Kahn was sitting at home, minding his own COVID-19 business, dropping freshly recorded tracks onto the web such as “There for You,” when the weekend’s peaceful protests on behalf of George Floyd’s memory turned riotous.
The always busy Kahn – as a soloist or as a pianist with the All-Star Jazz Trio – had been asked by friends, family members, music colleagues, and fans to create and post a live performance online. So he looked to one of the 40 plus tunes he had written with his high school pal Peter Kursman in the past and posted away. “While I’d be overjoyed if it went viral, the only thing that remains reliably viral today is the worldwide pandemic,” Kahn wrote last week. (PS. Kahn is world-renowned for co-writing and producing the chart-topping, disco-era, dancefloor classic “Hot Shot.”
Dedicated to those “in need of someone to help them get through these terribly trying times,” ‘There for You’ dropped before the murder of George Floyd, and before the riots started. What made me think of bugging Andy beyond the fact that I love his music and dig the new, old song, was an incident that took place as part of the looting on Sunday. Jacobs Music at 17th and Chestnut Streets was one of many businesses taken apart and broken into, but, it was the only property to have its wares – a white Roland digital grand piano – dragged onto the street, destroyed and graffiti-ed with the word “Fuck” spray-painted on to it.
In the scope of things – such as a human life lost – a broken piano is nothing. Yet, there’s something sadly symbolic about having music crushed under the weight of hate. And I turned to Kahn who has a deep long-lasting connection to, not only the instrument but Jacobs Music.
A.D. Amorosi: Tell me about this song you dropped on the web. It’s lovely.
Andy Kahn: The song “There For You” was actually composed in 2013. Peter Kursman – the lyricist with whom I collaborate – and I realized that the content of this song was 100% appropriate to everything that’s happening today regarding the pandemic. Without changing a single word from the original composition, Peter dared me to perform it and put it up on YouTube. I have been reticent to participating in the online music festivals and concerts that food the web as of late. Despite being invited by a number of people to do so, I submitted to the challenge. I chose to perform the song exactly as we wrote it nearly seven years ago. In just the first take, I was satisfied with my performance. The lyrics have so much meaning with what’s going on across our nation and around the globe.
A.D. Amorosi: Other than writing and performing songs for virtual play, what have you done around the house to busy yourself during C-19?
Andy Kahn: I’ve continued to coach musicians via video conferencing. Even the ones who were most skeptical at first – saying that the personal interaction would not be there using this medium – they’ve all come around to realize that this is actually the next best thing. Video chats for those studying jazz harmony and improvisation have been a blessing for all of us through this very difficult period in our lives.
A.D. Amorosi: I know you have a connection to Jacobs Music, and I know you must be crushed by the loss of that piano. What say you?
Andy Kahn: I still serve as the Artist-in-Residence for Steinway & Sons at Jacobs Music Company. The sickening images of a piano being thrown out into the middle of Chestnut Street, defaced with expletives on its rim and then attempted to be set on fire ranks among the most upsetting scenes I’ve witnessed. Because of the personal connection I have to pianos In general, I felt terrible for that instrument. They are, in fact, living and breathing organic objects. Just like humans who should never be subjected to such torture, neither should pianos or any other musical instruments that bring beauty to the world.