Arts & Culture


The influential educator and virtuosic pianist will be paying tribute to his mentor and former teacher with a series of “Improve Your Improv” Seminars in 2019, kicking off in Boston in March

In his career, Dave Frank has recorded a series of stunning solo piano albums and, through his Dave Frank School Of Jazz, has inspired a countless number of aspiring musicians throughout the world.

Born and raised in Long Island, New York, at four Frank had his first piano lessons from his mother. He learned about jazz from John Larosa, his teacher for three years starting when he was 12. The turning point in his life came when he was 15 and met the legendary Lennie Tristano, starting a lengthy series of significant lessons.

An innovative pianist who matured during the mid-to-late 1940s, Lennie Tristano was also one of jazz’s great teachers. Dave remembers, “From him I gained a complete jazz foundation on piano. We went through a comprehensive curriculum that he developed that included technique, ear training, singing recorded solos, and all of the major concepts of improvisation from playing on tunes to improvising freely. I studied with Lennie for seven years and it was phenomenal. I basically learned everything about playing music in Lennie’s living room.”

While Dave performed at clubs on the jazz circuit in Long Island and Manhattan, he also began teaching when he was only 16 with Tristano as his model. He co-founded the New York School of Jazz with a few other musicians in 1983. For three years at the school (which had a recording studio), he taught jazz piano and improvisation on all instruments. Dave next served as an Associate Professor at Berklee College Of Music in the piano department from 1987-2006. “Being at Berklee was a great experience. I enjoyed teaching people from all over the world and during that period I studied with the great Charlie Banacos.  When I left Berklee in 2006, I moved to New York City and started the Dave Frank School Of Jazz.”

At first his school was run at the Yamaha dealership in Manhattan for three years. But by 2009, the landscape for teachers had changed due to the advancement of modern technology. “The Skype technology is fantastic for teaching jazz, particularly piano because of the visual nature of the instrument. While I will always give in person private lessons, these days I am working around 80% of the time with people all over the world via Skype, including students from the Philippines, China, Japan, Argentina and many other countries.”

Over time, Dave Frank has developed his own fresh, logical and innovative way of teaching jazz. “Many students have the creative impulse but they might have holes in their playing foundation that may prevent them from realizing their creative ideas. The first thing that everyone needs in order to play jazz is a complete foundation which consists of technique, theory and ear training. I set goals with my students and then give them a practical step-to-step way to achieve those goals. One needs a strong technique in order to transmit their creative ideas along with a complete working knowledge of jazz theory, harmony, chord scales, and other areas so as to be able to internalize the language of jazz. For six months to a year, I have students work on a gradual curriculum including a technical exercise, a theoretical exercise, and ear training exercises. Once the basic foundation is mastered, students can enjoy a lifetime of creativity and the ability to create their own music in the moment infinately. It’s a GROOVE!”

Dave has a long list of accomplishments. He wrote (with John Amaral) the best-selling jazz instruction book, Joy Of Improv (Hal Leonard). Its two volumes are a curriculum for aspiring jazz players. The follow-up project Breakthrough To Improv is a blues video that takes students through 15 different steps that introduce the elements and concepts of blues improvisation.

His brilliant solo piano playing is well showcased on six CDs: Solo Piano (Breeze), Power Of The Piano, Ballads and Burners, Turning It Loose!, Portrait Of New York (the latter four recorded for Jazzheads), and his most recent recording, Cookin’ In Concert  also on Jazzheads. As a Jazz Ambassador for the State Department for ten years, Dave had the opportunity to travel to many countries where he conducted workshops and performed at concerts including Spain, England, Holland, Belgium, Brazil, South Africa, Switzerland, Argentina, Nicaragua, Peru, Costa Rica, France, Canada and throughout the US. Along the way he has performed at the Winnipeg, Montreux, North Sea, Jazz Alive and Jazzheads Jazz Festivals.

Dave Frank has now been teaching jazz full time for over 47 years. His website,, includes 44 free master classes that will be of great interest to musicians, each one being an in-depth class that deals with specific musical issues or the music of a particular musician. “I teach a lot of Lennie’s and Charlie Banacos’ concepts along with the ones that I have developed through the years.” His website has thus far had over 2.5 million views with an average of 1,000 views a day.

With Lennie Tristano’s birthday being March 19, Dave Frank looks forward to continuing his musical legacy in the best way possible. Included in his upcoming tours will be a week of master classes and concerts in Boston at Berklee, performing with tenor great Jerry Bergonzi, participating in a panel discussion about Lennie Tristano with altoist Lee Konitz (the most famous of Tristano’s students), and playing at an evening concert with Lee Konitz and Jimmy Halperin. After that Dave will be touring the United States with stops in Long Island, Dallas, Seattle, central Massachusetts, Wash DC and other areas of the country to be named soon, teaching and playing the music he loves. The fall will see Dave as guest teacher at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music and doing a solo concert at the Opus Jazz club in Budapest, Hungary.

Dave Frank, who in addition to his solo concerts co-leads a quartet with tenor-saxophonist Richard Tabnik, looks forward to the future. “I love devoting time to helping students play jazz and develop their creative journey. The joy of teaching jazz is that a simple improv concept can often turn someone around right on the spot, immediately fixing many of their musical faults. It is a powerful feeling seeing other people’s abilities and music open up right on the spot! I’d like to continue doing what I’m doing now into the future, reaching as many people as possible through my playing and teaching. Playing jazz is a natural human ability for everybody!

To arrange an Improve Your Improv Seminar in your area, or to inquire about worldwide private skype lessons you can reach Dave directly at All 44 of his free master classes are available for anytime viewing at the Master Class archive on the website. The Dave Frank/Richard Tabnik Quartet plays live every month at Hari NYC in NYC.

About the author


News and art, national and local. Began as alternative weekly in 1990 in Buffalo, NY. Publishing content online since 1996.

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