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Madame Chaloff #1130198
12/03/07 09:07 AM
12/03/07 09:07 AM
Joined: Oct 2007
Posts: 290
Massachusetts
Guy Offline OP
Full Member
Guy  Offline OP
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Joined: Oct 2007
Posts: 290
Massachusetts
In another forum, I just posted a note about one of Kenny Werner's teachers, Madame Chaloff. She was a legendary Boston-area piano teacher.

I wanted to be sure I spelled her name right, so I did a google search on Madame Chaloff. I was surprised at the number of hits.

Here is an excerpt from one hit:

Question: You spent time in Boston and studied with a renowned teacher, Mme Chaloff. Can you tell us anything about these years and in what respect were they of major influence to you? What did she teach you in particular?

Kit Walker: Madame Chaloff was a legend around Boston, for being not only an amazing pianist and teacher, but also a kind of spiritual teacher. She taught a method of piano technique that had been passed down through generations of pianists, many of whom were quite well known, including Mozart, Czerny, Beethoven, etc. The technique involves using the breath, with weightless arms, and reminds me very much of a kind of martial art, like a miniature karate/kung fu, for the piano. The object is to create a singing tone on the piano. Madame Chaloff had many illustrious students, including Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock, George Shearing, Kenny Werner, Steve Kuhn, and many others. Here is something I recently wrote to another one of her students about my experience with her. It was really quite serendipitous.

It was in 1976-1977 that I was studying with Madame Chaloff. I studied with her for about 7 or 8 months, and she died while i was studying with her. I got there just in time! It's funny, because she used to look at me with those piercing blue eyes and tell me I was killing her! With so much love, though, that I really didn't take it personally when she did pass on. But she was an extraordinary gift for me.

The circumstances of our meeting were quite powerful too. It was my birthday, October 4th 1976 (I was 25), and I showed up at her apartment unannounced. I had only just heard of her for the first time the night before from a friend, and when he told me Keith Jarrett had studied with her, that was all I needed to hear, because Jarrett was and still is one of my all time favorites. I lived in Northampton MA at the time, and the next day, my birthday, I rode into Boston with a friend who was going for a vocal lesson. She dropped me off, I went to a phone booth, and looked up Mme C's address, and just went to her place on Comm Ave and rang the buzzer. (I have never done this kind of thing before or since)... She buzzed me in, and started by telling me I would have to make an appointment for 2 weeks or so later. But then when she saw me, she told me to come in anyway. She felt the back of my neck, as she did with people, because she was deeply psychic, and said "oh, what a beautiful soul" and then told me, "this must be fate". When I told her it was my birthday, and that my name was Christopher (that's my full name), she was astonished, because, she said, she had a grandson named Christopher, and that it was his birthday that day. She also told me she had just kicked out a student for not practicing, which she had only done once or twice before in her life.

So she brought me in, and read my palm, and also read my playing card out of that book she used. I am 5 of diamonds. She told me we had worked together in a past life. I played a little for her, but was so nervous that I played terribly, but she didn't seem to care, she accepted me as her student on the spot. I was so blown away by this meeting, I will never forget it.

So then the next months I took on the task of trying to absorb the essence of the teaching. I felt like a Zen student with a koan from the Zen master to solve. It became my constant meditation. She told me to observe the birds, and I really took that to heart. Trying to get the weightless arms, the breathing, the whole thing. I worked and worked at it. Week after week I would come in, start my piece, get through a few bars, and she would say, no no, that's not it, and we would go back to playing one note, trying to get it to "sing". And then I would go back home, determined to get to the bottom of it.

Whenever I would come into her apartment I could feel a palpable energy field there. I do feel that she was a spiritually enlightened being. It was always with a mixture of excitement and awe that I would come to my lessons. She had this amazing way of making me shake in my boots, all the while however making me feel completely loved. And she would tell me how the tones can be directed to people for healing anywhere in the world, also something that has become a real priority for me with music.

Then a month or so before she passed on, I remember coming to a lesson, and as she was in her kitchen she told me to just play a little to warm up. I did, and she came out and said yes, that's it, now you are getting it. I felt so elated, because I really began to understand it. I had only a couple of lessons more, and I think it was at the second to last one I remember her saying, "well, I guess you won't be needing me any more". And then a few weeks later she was gone. I also will always remember going to see her lying in state, after her passing.

She also catalyzed a life-long spiritual search for me, that has run parallel to my musical life, because after her I began to feel that I needed a spiritual teacher more than a music teacher. That has been a long and winding road, but a very worthwhile adventure, and I really credit Mme Chaloff for starting me out on my journey. Being with her was really my first experience with direct spiritual transmission from a teacher, and since then I haven't been satisfied with anything less than that.

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Re: Madame Chaloff #1130199
12/03/07 12:06 PM
12/03/07 12:06 PM
Joined: Apr 2007
Posts: 7,203
So. California
jazzwee Offline
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guy, my Jazz teacher studied under Madam Chaloff, around the same time frame as Kenny.

So this is the story he told me. Apparently, he didn't play piano when they had lessons. Instead, she kept having him repeat: "The piano is a horn instrument...the piano is a horn instrument". Just like Kenny Werner, my teacher could not understand what she was saying so he quit.

NOW he preaches to his students: "The piano is a horn instrument". wink The whole point of course being that solos should be played with horn-like phrasing and horn-like breathing, being the most natural form that listeners react to.

Kenny's story is that she made him play a single note in each lesson. That was it!

This lady was just so out of this world that no one was at her level of understanding. Yet, she single handedly influenced many major jazz players of the time.


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Re: Madame Chaloff #1130200
02/01/09 08:48 AM
02/01/09 08:48 AM
Joined: May 2008
Posts: 1,458
E
etcetra Offline
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Joined: May 2008
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I don't know much about madam chaloff, but from what I heard its amazing. I really wish i had a teacher like that, who was not just a teacher but a spiritual guide. I felt like that was the part that was always missing in my lessons, it was about practical issues on how to play the piano better.

I always felt like at the heart of my technical problem there is an underlying fear of self-expression.. my teachers told me to dig in when I play, and things did get better, but I never overcome the that uneasiness I felt every time I played.

It seems like every great player had mentors/guides who helped them along the way, and those mentors allowed them to overcome whatever blocks they were facing..

Re: Madame Chaloff #1130201
02/01/09 06:52 PM
02/01/09 06:52 PM
Joined: Jun 2008
Posts: 552
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nitekatt2008z Offline
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I am very glad someone posted their experiences with studied with the late Madam Chaloff. I heard her name many times from my fellow piano classmates when I was at Berklee in the 70's. She had the ability to reach students in "fixing" their technique and approach to playing the piano with relaxation and focus. I was considering studying with her, but I was so busy and overwhelmed with all the jazz lessons and classes, practicing and homework, there was no time to spend with Madame.

If there is anyone who needs "fixing" their piano technique, it's yours truly, me. I found a fine concert pianist, a German woman who corrected my scale technique and some other tips. I am not classically trained and my studies were jazz piano in school, but techniques has to flow no matter what music is performed.

If Madame Chaloff was out there teaching now, I would be there studying with her. If she had "trained" any disciples to continue her work with students, I had not heard of any. Her students had told me she was also their spiritual guide in a since, a guru of piano technique.

I would certainly enjoy hearing about any other students that worked with her and how the lessons were designed and exactly what she expected from them in their development.

katt

Re: Madame Chaloff #1130202
02/02/09 07:29 AM
02/02/09 07:29 AM
Joined: Oct 2007
Posts: 290
Massachusetts
Guy Offline OP
Full Member
Guy  Offline OP
Full Member

Joined: Oct 2007
Posts: 290
Massachusetts
Not long ago, I saw the movie "Madame Sousatzka" (with Shirley MacLaine playing the title role) and it got me to thinking if her character was based upon Madame Chaloff. Sometimes you find tidbits like that on imdb.com, but in this case there wasn't anything of note.

It's a fine movie, and I especially like a part towards the end of the movie, where Madame shows up at Manek's flat and leaves him a small stack of classic books to read. I've seen that with other great players too; it seems they spend as much time reading as they do practicing.

Re: Madame Chaloff [Re: Guy] #1771954
10/17/11 01:41 AM
10/17/11 01:41 AM
Joined: Dec 2010
Posts: 368
Norway
C
cubop Offline

Silver Supporter until Dec 28 2012
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Silver Supporter until Dec 28 2012

C

Joined: Dec 2010
Posts: 368
Norway
I think this thread deserves more attention, so I am trying to get it going again. There is a discussion of Madame Chaloff at ABF forum, jazz thread now, but stuff like this can never get too much attention. I have the finger drop method from other sources, and it is very effective. Together with Russian school methods you have the real killer method. Jazzwee seems to know a thing or two about the Chaloff method, and the idea that the piano is a horn, should be very useful for jazz pianists.
Must do more research on this.

Re: Madame Chaloff [Re: jazzwee] #1771999
10/17/11 05:50 AM
10/17/11 05:50 AM
Joined: Dec 2009
Posts: 2,313
Sydney
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custard apple Offline
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Joined: Dec 2009
Posts: 2,313
Sydney
Originally Posted by jazzwee
guy, my Jazz teacher studied under Madam Chaloff, around the same time frame as Kenny.

So this is the story he told me. Apparently, he didn't play piano when they had lessons. Instead, she kept having him repeat: "The piano is a horn instrument...the piano is a horn instrument". Just like Kenny Werner, my teacher could not understand what she was saying so he quit.

NOW he preaches to his students: "The piano is a horn instrument". wink The whole point of course being that solos should be played with horn-like phrasing and horn-like breathing, being the most natural form that listeners react to.

Kenny's story is that she made him play a single note in each lesson. That was it!

This lady was just so out of this world that no one was at her level of understanding. Yet, she single handedly influenced many major jazz players of the time.


I do love the horn-like phrasing and syncopation. In my JOI course, we sing solos and my favorite players are the trumpeters Fats Navarro, Clifford Brown and Lee Morgan.
I'm interested in your thoughts as to how often horn-like phrasing is applied in solo piano by the greatest. Isn't one of Keith Jarrett's attributes his fluidity ?

Re: Madame Chaloff [Re: Guy] #1772066
10/17/11 07:55 AM
10/17/11 07:55 AM
Joined: May 2009
Posts: 481
K
KlinkKlonk Offline
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Posts: 481
With teachers like this it's all about the spiritual bond. The thing we can learn in retrospect are only concrete things that are hard if not impossible to contextualize unless we've been in their presence. Even Kenny Werner who studied with her in person regrets not being able to phantom her at the time being. What's our chance?

Re: Madame Chaloff [Re: KlinkKlonk] #1772097
10/17/11 08:50 AM
10/17/11 08:50 AM
Joined: Dec 2010
Posts: 368
Norway
C
cubop Offline

Silver Supporter until Dec 28 2012
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Joined: Dec 2010
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Norway
KlinkKlonk, you have some very important points in your post. But I think that with a good background in jazz, and some knowledge and practice of Russian school methods, the Chaloff method, even without Madame Chaloff, should be very useful. Stephany Tiernan, who has studied with Madame Chaloff, has a book and DVD with her methods, and I intend to study that when I get it. There is nothing like the personal relationship with good teachers, but studying their work and their teachings can be very effective.
And a good horn definitely helps.


Re: Madame Chaloff [Re: Guy] #1772267
10/17/11 01:37 PM
10/17/11 01:37 PM
Joined: Apr 2007
Posts: 7,203
So. California
jazzwee Offline
7000 Post Club Member
jazzwee  Offline
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Joined: Apr 2007
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So. California
I'm going to tell you that although my teacher studied with Chaloff, he didn't really teach me anything about any technique from Chaloff. Although the Tiernan book talks about breathing which he does too. So the book is illuminating technically but maybe it's limited to technique. KlinkKlonk may be right about the deeper implications...


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Re: Madame Chaloff [Re: jazzwee] #1772918
10/18/11 12:51 PM
10/18/11 12:51 PM
Joined: Dec 2010
Posts: 368
Norway
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cubop Offline

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Joined: Dec 2010
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Norway
KlinkKlonk is right about the deeper implications. But music is about the deeper implications. Heinrich Neuhaus,very Russian school, makes that abundantly clear in his book. Without the deeper implications, music, and any other form of art will be basically meaningless. Technique is a tool, and the more you have of it, the better. In the performing arts one can say that the human body is the tool you are perfecting, and it seems to me that Madame Chaloff had a clear understanding of that. So the deeper implications should be present in the technique too. Good tools are those best suited for the job at hand.
You dont know if you can do it until you have tried. The first few hundred times can be a bit frustrating, but after that things usually sort themselves out.

Re: Madame Chaloff [Re: Guy] #1773706
10/19/11 06:47 PM
10/19/11 06:47 PM
Joined: Apr 2007
Posts: 7,203
So. California
jazzwee Offline
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Joined: Apr 2007
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So. California
cubob, it may be that some other things I was taught came from Chaloff, but the only thing that was directly attributed to Chaloff was the "horn" thing. Here though, I have a direct connection with a student of hers so some things may have been passed by osmosis (at least I wish smile ). The Tiernan book however, being limited to technique, shares none of those other side things that have come from long interaction with a teacher in person.

Maybe because after awhile we develop our own version of technique, I'm not sure I could switch completely to the "finger-based" technique highlighted by Tiernan in the book. Certainly my own teacher could not be described as Russian school in his playing. And I'm not sure I could observe that in Herbie, or KJ's playing. Hard to tell.

I clearly would want to use it at times though.


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Re: Madame Chaloff [Re: Guy] #1773830
10/19/11 11:21 PM
10/19/11 11:21 PM
Joined: Aug 2004
Posts: 838
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Jazz+ Offline
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Margaret Chaloff didn't invent the horn line concept.

April 24, 1983
OBITUARY
Earl Hines. Father of Modern Jazz Piano.

In his pioneering work with Louis Armstrong in the late 1920's, Mr. Hines virtually redefined jazz piano. With what he called ''trumpet style,'' Mr. Hines played horn-like solo lines with his right hand and spurred them with chords from his left. He thus carved a place for the piano as a solo instrument outside the rhythm section and defined the roles of both hands for the next generations of jazz pianists.

Re: Madame Chaloff [Re: Jazz+] #1773834
10/19/11 11:29 PM
10/19/11 11:29 PM
Joined: Apr 2007
Posts: 7,203
So. California
jazzwee Offline
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Joined: Apr 2007
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So. California
Originally Posted by Jazz+
Margaret Chaloff didn't invent the horn line concept.

April 24, 1983
OBITUARY
Earl Hines. Father of Modern Jazz Piano.

In his pioneering work with Louis Armstrong in the late 1920's, Mr. Hines virtually redefined jazz piano. With what he called ''trumpet style,'' Mr. Hines played horn-like solo lines with his right hand and spurred them with chords from his left. He thus carved a place for the piano as a solo instrument outside the rhythm section and defined the roles of both hands for the next generations of jazz pianists.


I buy that. I don't it was ever claimed she invented it. She just taught it, particularly to influential jazz pianists of today.



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Re: Madame Chaloff [Re: Guy] #2148279
09/11/13 01:41 PM
09/11/13 01:41 PM
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neusys Offline
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I was supposed to go to the Boston Conservatory, 1976. I was fresh out of high school -- North Miami Senior High. Late one night, just finishing a lesson at the conservatory, I ran into a man named Avram David. He took me aside and told me about Mme. Chaloff! I was with her for about seven years. She called me 'Beethoven's Brat.' She did teach me a technique, talked about her teacher, Vengarava, (I think I spelled wrong)the breathing technique, and hand/finger postion -- the fingers curled, wrists placement, and hitting the key so that the hammer would come back to the strings! When it was time to put my hand at the keyboard or play, she would immediately take her hands and put them under my whole hand to see if it was 'light' and not 'heavy.' I remember at times she could tell how 'heavy' I was by the way I walked up the flight of stairs! I was also brought into a circle of people who were into metaphysics, white light, etc. Although I was very blessed to have come into her path and learn this wonderful technique and wisdom of life in this circle, in retrospect, I never really got a full lesson from her. I only performed once at the New England Conservatory, a piece by Avram David. Then I left for Los Angeles in the early 80s. One day, late 80s, I went back to Boston and called her, Avram David answered the phone, and that's when I learned she had passed away. I was given a picture of her at a lesson once. On the back she wrote, 'Lest we forget.' Avram was a person you had to be careful with; I found him to be gruff and he had his favorites. He lived by using anything that could be suspended in mid air, like a key chain, and he would ask questions and let the instrument give that answer, yes or no, depending on the way it swayed. I feel fortunate and blessed in all of this; I know she colored my life and how this event was meant to be in life's growth.


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