Comedian H. Jon Benjamin released a jazz album (Well I Should Have… Learned To Play Piano) in November of last year, but I didn’t notice until this week, when it was suddenly all over my Facebook feed. You may recognize Benjamin as a voice actor from shows like Bob’s Burgers, The Venture Brothers, and Home Movies.
The premise, as you may have figured out from the title, is this: a comedian plays piano on a jazz album without having learned how to actually play the piano.
The punchline of the joke, as you may have also guessed, is that it actually kind of works. But to accept it as a robust critique of the genre would be to discount the contributions of Scott Kreitzer on sax, Jonathan Peretz on drums, and David Finck on bass. Finck in particular does a lot of heavy lifting by creating wonderfully melodic lines. The combo as a whole makes it obvious, even to someone without musical knowledge, when it’s time to solo. To be able to have that conversation without discussing anything verbally – and for listeners to enjoy it, even when one of the participants is hilariously inept – is one of the best features of jazz music.
My overall impression: This is definitely worth listening to. For added giggles, put it on at work or a party and see if anyone notices. Also – comedians Aziz Ansari and Kristen Schaal are great in the intro track.