He’s Leaving Home

He’s Leaving Home

yokoharvey Boston is such a transient place, people come and go here all the time.

Pianist Harvey Diamond is a local legend who has lived here for 50 years, even after all that time he too is leaving — relocating to Asheville, NC.

Harvey is one of legendary pianist Lennie Tristano’s last prize students. Harvey has been recorded thousands of hours by his students and fans yet has never officially released his own recording. I can safely say that not many have heard Harvey play piano as much as I have.

The house where I live used to be a recording studio, I moved into the house after the studio went out of business along with a group of other Berklee students. It was ideal for musicians since the studio left several soundproof rooms in which we could practice at all hours. The main room of the studio has always had a piano and has been the setting for many great sessions over the years, Harvey Diamond frequently played sessions at my house so I’ve heard him play on countless occasions.

He plays the “lines” Lennie Tristano played which are essentially alternate melodies to standard jazz tunes. They are melodically and rhythmically challenging. The most impressive thing is Harvey learned them all by ear, he never reads music when he plays them. This is especially impressive given the difficulty of the lines and lack of cliches which would make them easier to remember.

Harvey once told me Charlie Parker left his legacy even in just the melodies of his original compositions, he said the melodies themselves were an insight into the way he improvised. I think the same can be said about the melodies that Tristano re-wrote over standard jazz tunes. Harvey told me some great stories about Lennie, the main thing he always emphasized was Lennie’s love for Charlie Parker.

Harvey said Lennie used to lay on the ground underneath the piano while Bud Powell played and he couldn’t believe the sound he was getting was coming from wood and metal strings! Once during one of his lessons, Harvey was leaning forward while he played (like Bill Evans) and Lennie slapped him in the chest and told him to sit up. In case you didn’t know, Lennie was blind…how did he know Harvey was slouching? I think because he was that attuned to the sound of the piano.

I attended Harvey’s last concert in the Boston area in the end of January and took this picture with him. He played wonderful as usual. I will miss seeing Harvey walking around Boston, hearing him talk about Lennie and the cats, but most of all I’m gonna miss those lines.

8 Responses

  1. Jon Dreyer says:

    It’s been such a joy to play so much with Harvey over the last five or so years. I’ll miss the lines too, and his haunting and surprising harmonies and counterpoint coming from out of nowhere, and all our bizarre conversations driving to and from gigs, and the jokes…I was glad you were at that concert and I’m sure it meant a lot to Harvey that you were there too.

  2. Yoko Miwa says:

    How could I forget hearing the stories that Harvey tells? That’s another blog 🙂 It was great hearing you guys the other night!

  3. Dave Dubinsky says:

    My wife and I were fortunate to recently catch Harvey, John & Scott @ The Javaroom, in Chelmsford. His daughter sings beautifully, as well. As the old cliche’ states, “Thanks for the (musical) memories!”

  4. Jim Gish says:

    It’s been my great pleasure and fortune to have taken lessons from Harvey over the past two years. I’ve learned a lot and greatly value his friendship. I look forward to staying in touch and getting together whenever we can. He has more to teach us all than I could possibly absorb in this lifetime.

    Bon voyage, Harvey! I will miss you.

  5. Hannah Rose says:

    What a lovely post Yoko. It’s so nice to see such an out pouring of appreciation for my father’s musicality and quirkiness. This is not a “goodbye”, just a “see ya later.”

  6. Yoko Miwa says:

    I’ve got nothing but love for you too Hannah Rose! <3

  7. claire arenius says:

    Beauuutiful stories about Harvey! I will miss you, Harvey — but hope to play with you in the summer at the Vermont Jazz Center Summer workshops with Sheila! You are amazing, incredible and I love you, man!

  8. bruce hirsch says:

    I am an old friend of harveys..moving to asheville nc..would like his cell number. Thanks bruce hirsch

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