Sunday, April 27, 2008

New Orleans Piano Wizards

Ever since I first heard Jelly Roll Morton playing the piano, I fell in love with the New Orleans piano tradition - a mix of blues, ragtime and the Spanish tinge as reported by Mr. Jelly through his extensive lectures on the early tradition. However, although Morton was one of the first to record this music (- his famous solo recordings for Gennett in 1923-24), he was not the last 'professor' of the keyboard from New Orleans. Below I'll insert three videos of renown followers of the New Orleans piano tradition.
The first video features Professor Longhair performing his own "Tipitina"

Professor Longhair (real name was Henry Roeland Byrd, 1918-1980) was a founder of this funky piano style, which he once described as a combination of rumba, mambo and Calypso. He had his career both as a soloist and as a member of various rhythm and blues bands. He taught another New Orleans legend, Dr John, who performs his version of "Tipitina" below

Dr John (real name is Malcolm John Rebennack, b. 1940) was born in New Orleans and began his musical career as a session musician in New Orleans in the 1950s. He originally concentrated on guitar before his left ring finger was injured by a gunshot. After the injury, Rebennack concentrated on bass guitar before making piano his main instrument. He gained fame beginning
in the late 1960s and early 1970s, with music that combined New Orleans-style rhythm and blues with psychedelic rock and elaborate stage shows that bordered on voodoo religious ceremonies, including elaborate costumes and headdress.

James Booker (1939-1983) was also influenced by Professor Longhair and explored a variety of popular songs, ranging from jazz standards to rock. Rather than playing tunes in their original idioms, he integrated this repertoire into a virtuosic style that combined elements of blues, boogie-woogie, gospel, stride, latin, and classical piano. Enjoy a performance of his own composition, "Pixie"


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The man was a monster. One of the finest pianists ever to emerge from New Orleans!! You never knew what to expect from the man. He could start off doing a nursery rhyme and turn it into one of the most complex piano pieces you've ever heard. Eccentric and brilliant. There may never be another as gifted as James Booker again. IMHO.
Slim L.

7:22 PM  

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