the last rent party…a tribute/fundraiser for my grandfather…

i kept my mouth shut about it for months…perhaps irresponsibly so…because while this was an intensely personal event for me, it was a public event…one that a wide variety of people have interest in…well, i can only make up for my negligence by shining a light on those who have done the work that i have not…

i cannot say enough about Mr. Ethan Iverson’s excellent contribution…considering the depth and breadth of the research he’s done, it’s not surprising that his renditions of my grandfather’s work was the most mind blowing of the night…god, i wish i had video to show you…anyway, here’s a sample of his preparations…

It’s a life and death matter, the clave, and what makes it so is its unyielding consistency and precision. It’s just like the ride cymbal beat of a good jazz drummer: you put the drummer in front a cymbal, give him a stick, and if they are a professional, they will deliver a “spang-a-lang” that is immutable. If the drummer is an artist as well as a professional the interpretation of the beat will be as distinctive as a snowflake.

In stride piano, the left hand going “oom-pah” is like that clave or ride cymbal beat in its unyielding consistency and precision. It’s very hard technically: there is a big jump between the “oom” and the “pah,” and the pitches change constantly.

There are examples of “oom-pah” in Liszt and Chopin, and some of them are very hard indeed. (In Chopin’s Op. 25 etudes, No. 4 in A minor and the “Butterfly” in Gb are good examples of proto-stride.) However, you don’t need the grooving, “clave-aspect” for Chopin and Liszt. In stride piano it is essential. It’s like the Energizer bunny with soul. Probably for eternity, James P. Johnson will be the gold standard for the stride “feel.” (link to full text of his blog post)

if you’re a fan of the bad plus like i am, i highly recommend subbing his feed…

the NY Times even wrote up the event…especially making note of a new artist who’s work i hope to discover more of…

The evening’s revelation was Aaron Diehl, a pianist in his mid-20s who has played with Wynton Marsalis and Wycliffe Gordon. His style, on “Scaling the Blues,” “Over the Bars” and the second movement of Johnson’s “Jazzamine Concerto,” was modest, secure and insinuating, with an iron sense of time. A few different pianists worked in their own tunes as Johnson tributes; Mr. Diehl’s was a slow, gorgeous blues.

Mr. Diehl’s website is here

anyway, a big thank you to Smalls Jazz Club for working with The James P. Johnson Foundation to put this all together…

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