By Gilles Poyet via Flickr
By Gilles Poyet via Flickr
Jazz pianist Jaki Byard played in the bands of Charles Mingus, Rahsaan, Roland Kirk and Booker Ervin. Then he began making solo and small-band records under his own name. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says, Byard had a rare ability to sound archaic and ahead of his time.
Ted Rosenthal, an early winner of the Thelonious Monk jazz piano competition, has played George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” solo and with symphonic and jazz orchestras. Now he’s recorded a version for jazz trio, as part of an all-Gershwin album. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says, Rosenthal has a feel for the material.
As familiar as “Rhapsody in Blue” is, you can overlook how radical it sounded—this slick symphonic jazz laced with blues feeling—back in 1924 when jazz rhythm could still be rickety. “Rhapsody”’s riffing themes are readymade for improvised variations, and many jazz bands have recorded abridgements that zoom in on the best bits. Bucking that trend, Ted Rosenthal’s trio plays the whole 17-minute thing. It’s a showcase for the pianist and bassist Martin Wind, who divvy up the melodies. Drummer Tim Horner sometimes sounds hemmed in by his written parts.
Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead celebrates the life and style of pianist Art Hodes in the reissue of the album, “I Remember Bessie,” the songs of Bessie Smith.
Art Hodes relished playing the role of the old piano professor. By the 1970s, he was an anachronism, pulling off techniques lost to many younger pianists — like playing those ripples up and down the keyboard in the midst of everything else going on: the effect is like a passing wave while you’re standing in water.
Not many classical pianists maintain blogs where they ruminate on everything from eating a terrible bowl of meatballs while on tour with Joshua Bell to seeing Twilight: New Moon (twice) and hearing strains of a Schubert song.
But then, not many classical pianists are Jeremy Denk.On today’s Fresh Air, Denk talks about playing Beethoven and Ligeti, who “took the piano to places it had never been before, and makes demands of the pianist and the mind that had never been made before.”
Tomorrow:pianist Jeremy Denk
It’s raining here in Philadelphia. Chucho Valdes is cheering me up.
Very few pianists travel with their own instruments, so they’re generally at the mercy of whichever piano resides in a given concert hall. Each pianist is in search of a perfect sound, and it’s fascinating to see how they go about chasing it.
Jazz Pianist George Shearing, on writing the standard “Lullaby of Birdland” — “I wrote it in 10 minutes — I always say 10 minutes and 35 years in the business — over a steak in my dining room when I lived in New Jersey. I went back to that same butcher a thousand times trying to get that same steak again.” Excerpts from a 1986 interview with Shearing, who died yesterday at the age of 91.
Super-size Me: Most pianos have 88 keys. And most great piano music comes from the middle of the keyboard — only rarely do the player’s fingers venture onto the tinkly keys at the top of the keyboard, or the booming bass notes at the bottom. But a craftsman in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia, thinks the instrument has room to grow; and he wants to nudge the piano out of complacent middle age. He has designed a grand with an unprecedented 102 keys.