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Chapter 18: Ten Types of Performers and Their Recordings
Malcolm (Mac) Rebennack (born in Louisiana in 1942) grew up playing piano and guitar. A session player in high demand, he began producing and arranging in his early twenties. A move to Los Angeles brought session work with the legendary producer Phil Spector. It’s not difficult to see how being raised in New Orleans might lead to an interest in voodoo. And from this interest came the self-appointed alias Dr. John Creaux the Night Tripper. Such a big, exotic name garnered a big, exotic cult following. Over the years that followed, he has recorded with such artists as Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Mike Bloomfield. His unique style is punctuated by a blend of blues, rock, boogie, and jazz.
As a teenager growing up in Texas, Scott Joplin (1868-1917) was known all over Texas and Arkansas for his improvisational piano skills. His specialty was a new form of piano music called ragtime, named for its “ragged” syncopated rhythms. His playing at the Maple Leaf Club inspired his first important composition, “The Maple Leaf Rag,” an enormous hit all over the world. A few years later, a second hit was born in “The Entertainer.” You may remember this song as the theme used in the motion picture The Sting. After his death in 1917, he and his music were all but forgotten until a 1950 book titled They All Played Ragtime first called attention to the genius that he was.
Cooking up a collection
Stir the beans, warm the cornbread, and mix up the following recordings in your stereo for a taste of Southern-fried masterpieces:
« Ray Charles: Genius and Soul — 50th Anniversary (Rhino).
T Floyd Cramer: Best (BMG).
J' Dr. John: Anthology (Rhino).
Scott Joplin: Complete Rags, William Albright (Music Masters).
New Age music’s audience can be divided into two camps: those who love it and those who loathe it. A relatively new genre, this relaxing mood music generates sell-out records and sell-out concerts all around the world. And what instrument is better suited for relaxation than the piano or electric keyboard? Well, certainly not the drums.
Part VII: The Part of Tens
Not until after high school did George Winston (born in Montana in 1949) start playing keyboards. Influenced by blues, rock, and R&B, he became interested in the organ and electric piano. But after hearing Fats Waller play, he switched to the acoustic piano, where he has cultivated his own rural, folk piano style. His first solo album, Ballads and Blues, came out in 1972. Then, after many years of silence, he emerged with a Windham Hill recording contract and produced many highly successful albums. His major influences include Floyd Cramer, Ray Charles, and Vince Guaraldi (the man who gave us the Peanuts theme). In fact, Winston devotes part of every live show to the music of Guaraldi.
Yanni Chryssomallis (born in Greece in 1954) was a member of the Greek National Swimming Team with little time for music or the piano. At the age of 14, he came to the U.S. After graduating from the University of Minnesota with a degree in psychology, he found work as a session player and even composed some commercial jingles. His first solo album, Optimystique, was released in 1980. Today, his albums and concert appearances are huge sellers worldwide. He is the first artist to ever perform a live concert at India’s Taj Mahal palace. His compositions have been heard on ABC’s Wide World of Sports and the Olympic Games. The degree in psychology? That’s how he knows what the public wants to hear.
Enhancing gour mood
Put one of these recordings in the CD player, sit back, relax, maybe even take a nice long nap:
I. George Winston: Winter Into Spring (Windham Hill); Linus and Lucy The Music of Vince Guaraldi (Windham Hill).
V Yanni: Live at the Acropolis (Private Music); Tribute (Virgin).
Sure, playing the piano is fun, but how can sitting around the house, banging away on the keys be considered a job? Perhaps it can when you produce the classic songs and classic shows that these three musicians did. With their piano as a desk, they went to work and have kept America singing ever since.
Chapter 18: Ten Types of Performers and Their Recordings 285
Some consider Edward Kennedy Ellington’s arrival in New York from his birthplace in Washington D.C. to be the most important event in the jazz scene of the late 1920s. Initially aligning himself with the styles of James P. Johnson and Jelly Roll Morton, Ellington (1899-1974) could adapt to virtually any style, accompanying such distinct players as Coleman Hawkins and John Coltrane.
A true musical pioneer, he developed his own trademark style of jazz orchestration and led one of the most important bands of the swing era. Ellington wrote volumes of classic songs, including “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” “Sophisticated Lady,” and “In a Sentimental Mood.” Throughout a career spanning nearly five decades, Duke remained contemporary and surprisingly modern in his style and techniques.