Bob’s Burgers’ Jon Benjamin Has Recorded An Entire Jazz Album Without Learning How To Play Piano
It's called "Well, I Should Have...Learned How To Play Piano." It is a work of genius.
Jazz is one of music’s most divisive genres. To its fans, jazz can be a poetic, almost spiritual exploration of music’s possibilities. To its detractors, it’s a bunch of random doo-wops being played willy-nilly by some jerk with a saxophone who’s only pretending to know what they’re doing.
One of the reasons people feel so strongly about jazz is the perception that the genre is closed-off and elitist towards people who don’t “get it”. But a radical new album from American voice actor and comedian H Jon Benjamin could prove to be the thing that finally bridges that gulf. Benjamin’s debut album, Well, I Should Have…Learned How To Play Piano, is the crossover masterpiece the jazz world has been waiting for.
Recorded with three of American jazz’s most accomplished musicians on bass, drums and saxophone, the boldly experimental album features Benjamin, a self-described complete stranger to the world of jazz, on piano. Recorded at the legendary Soundtrack New York studios, Well, I Should Have… is a haunting, groundbreaking work of strange and melancholy genius.
“Jazz is the ocean … I am just one wave forming one curl, crashing once onto some remote beach somewhere in time. And that wave makes a small imperceptible change in the slope of the sand, upon which at some point in time a baby turtle will walk across, leaving his trail for just an instant, before the tide washes it clean,” Benjamin says of the album.
“More to the point, I do not play piano and I made this jazz album. Some tell me, ‘Hey, Jon, tone it down’. Some even say, ‘Really, Jon?’ A few have said, ‘Get the fuck away from me or I’ll fucking punch you in the face’. I know the risks in making this album. I know what it is like to do something that no one else would think to do.
“Most would call this reckless. I call it jazz.”
While Benjamin’s unique, unpredictable piano style is undoubtedly the main drawcard, repeat listens offer nuggets of pure gold for the committed. The sound quality is impeccable, and the smooth, vivacious jam sessions are sporadically interspersed with faint sounds of Benjamin screaming things at his fellow musicians, like “Gotcha!” and “You can do better!”
In an interview with NPR, Benjamin is modest about his achievement, admitting he still has room to grow. After revealing that he has begun piano lessons, he had this to say: “I mean, look, there’s a distinct possibility that I’ll be very good. I don’t know how it’s going to turn out. I just started doing the lessons, so I might be incredibly good.”
But the fact that he has tapped into something raw and powerful is undeniable. As he puts it, Well, I Should Have… showcases “real, untapped un-talent”.
However this plays out, we can be certain of one thing: the world of jazz just got blown wide, wide open.
You can buy the album here, if you have $10 to spare on a piece of musical history.