Posts Tagged ‘jazz piano’


Wednesday, August 8th, 2012


The name of Andy Kahn appears often in this space. That’s because I love his playing, I can’t get enough of it, and I want everyone to hear him. In the 50 or so years of our personal and professional association, I’ve heard him advance and evolve in a thoughtful, intelligent and sometimes exploratory manner. What you won’t hear from Andy Kahn are “licks” of any kind. Not Oscar’s. Not McCoy’s. Not Bill Evans’. Not Chick Corea’s. Not Paul Bley’s. Not Bernard Peiffer’s. Okay, 24 years ago he did quote from a solo by Harry “Sweets” Edison.

What’s particularly gratifying about his playing is, of course, his Great American Songbook repertoire, and that listeners won’t even be aware of licks or the lack of them. Quite simply, Andy Kahn makes a beautiful sound.

Right now, he holds the Thursday night spot at center city Philadelphia’s Prime Rib restaurant, and Fridays at Girasole in Atlantic City. I have no doubt that all or some of the other five nights per week will be eventually filled.


Right next door to the Warwick Hotel’s Prime Rib is a space called Tavern17. Featured there not too long ago was singer Mary Ellen Desmond, backed by pianist Tom Lawton and bassist Lee Smith. It was one of the more wonderful evenings of music I’ve ever had. For the complete story, check out the re-cap on the Community Pages.


How many drummers in history have accompanied Jimi Hendrix, Count Basie, Ray Charles, B.B. King, Charles Mingus and Charlie Ventura? And how many drummers have been on network television five nights per week for almost 30 years? Only Ed Shaughnessy. Ed has written a superb book about his life and his drumming and it’s available from Rob Cook at and other outlets.

The daughter of the late and great Jake Hanna has let us know that the long-in-preparation book about her dad should be available early this fall. Jake was a colorful character and a one-of-a-kind drummer, and I know first-hand that the book is chock full of great musical stuff, and great “Jake Stories.” Check out for release date.


Stephan Peiffer, son of pianist Bernard, and pianist/educator/musicologist Don Glanden are the behind-the-scenes “powers-that-be” responsible for the release of “Bernard Peiffer: Improvision.” Part of the Universal Music “Jazz in Paris” series, “Improvision” is the first “new” Peiffer release in a half-dozen years. This stellar project issues, for the first time on CD, two incredibly rare LPs: “Bernie’s Tune” from 1956, “Modern Jazz for People who Like Original Music” from 1960, and some private material from the 1970s. “Astounding” is the only word for this project and for Bernard. For more details, log on to the Jazz Times Community Pages.


I’ll be doing more work in the near future with Michael Ricci’s web site. Michael was one of the first out of the box, in 1995, with a comprehensive jazz site, and it’s only gotten bigger and better as time goes on. Latest development is a wide-ranging venture that will bring to visitors—via web pages and an app—every jazz and jazz-related event that is going on in your particular town. “Jazz Near You” is slated for a September launch.

How many folks visit Michael’s site? I can only say that, as you read this, my “How to Guide” on how to book jazz into a restaurant or club will have been read by nearly 4,000 people. That’s a lot of readers,and hopefully, a lot of eventual gigs for all.


I doff my cap to Suzanne Cloud, Wendy Simon-Sinkler and all other involved parties at Philadelphia’s Jazz Bridge, who worked tirelessly to put together what I consider to be one of the most important jazz events of the decade. This was a Town Meeting, hosted by Jazz Bridge and the newly-formed Philadelphia Jazz Coalition, and it was a forum to address the great, near-great and not-so great issues that face jazz musicians in Philadelphia and nationwide. Once again, for my take on that memorable evening, visit the Jazz Times’ Community Pages.


My recent visit to Atlantic City was done in secret. I wanted to be alone while visiting old haunts and keep an open mind when visiting new ones. Some nice folks from Caesars’ security staff let me know that business seems to be on the upswing. That is as it should be. It’s the summer season. The beach was packed, the new, Michigan Avenue stores seemed busy; every Jitney that passed me was full and casino floor—even in mid-day on a weekday—appeared to be doing well.

There’s even some jazz to be heard here. Pianist Orrin Evans had a recent date as a part of what was called the “Chicken Bone Beach Fesitval,” and the honchos at what once was the Playboy/Golden Nugget/Bally’s Grand/Hilton—and now the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel—are booking jazz on Sunday nights. Recent visitors included pianists Alan Broadbent, John Coliani and Jim Ridl, often heard in duo formats. How about booking jazz seven nights per week?

With the untimely death of Resorts co-owner Dennis Gomes in February, surviving partner Morris Bailey was looking for another co-owner and has found one in the form of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority. These folks know what they’re doing and hopefully will continue to breathe new life, a new life started by Dennis Gomes, into A.C.’s oldest casino.

The same old problems still exist here, however. Urban blight and decay, abandoned lots and homes are on view, often yards away from billion-dollar hotel/casinos. Regular Atlantic City visitors are used to this. Newcomers are not. Doesn’t anyone down there realize that no one wants to see this in what is supposed to be a resort town? And what happened to the promises that were made from the day gaming was legalized in 1978? Until things are really and truly cleaned up, this town will continue to be in trouble.


Composer/conductor/pianist Marvin Hamlisch’s sudden death at the age of 68 on August 6th was a shock. He did a conducting gig as recently as July 21 and had just completed the score for the musical stage play of Jerry Lewis’ “The Nutty Professor.”

Hamlisch was not a jazz man, nor did he profess to be, but he was the last of a breed of “old time tunesmiths” in the tradition of Great American Songbook composers. Call me a cornball if you will, but you could whistle Hamlisch’s tunes. And you could dance to them. There was elegance, wit, musical logic and exquisite simplicity in many of his tunes. Even Sinatra dug him and tried to make a hit out of Hamlisch’s “There’s Something About You,” written in tandem with frequent partner, Carole Bayer Sager.

Sadly, and I didn’t know of this until his death, Marvin Hamlisch was being strongly considered to replace Philly Pops’ conductor Peter Nero after Nero’s planned departure at the end of the 2013 season. That would have been great for this city. And for music.


Bob Brasler’s obituary did not appear in Down Beat magazine, and the flag in front of the A.F.of M. Local #77 wasn’t flown at half-staff upon his death. That’s because Bob was best known as being one of this area’s most innovative real estate developers and forward thinkers, responsible, in good measure, for Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center.

But musicians loved Bob Brasler, who passed away at the age of 75 in June, and Bob Brasler loved musicians. It didn’t matter what the nature of the social or charitable gathering was. All he needed was a piano player, and Bob would end up singing half the night.

The trio of pianist Andy Kahn, bassist Bruce Kaminsky and yours truly, accompanied Bob frequently through the years, often at the Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis Foundation headquarters (an organization, by the way, that Bob and his darling wife Sibby virtually put on the map) and most recently at his 75th birthday gala. Bob’s singing was an important part of these occasions, with charts, keys, lyrics and song lists submitted to us long, long in advance.

When Bob died, I got a call from Sibby, saying that Bob insisted, shortly before his death, that our trio play at his memorial service. I wasn’t surprised, but I was touched and honored.

This guy put on a show. And a heck of a show it was. He was one hell of an entertainer, and one hell of a human being. Wherever Al Jolson has been residing since 1950, I know he said the following when hearing of Bob Brasler’s arrival: “Brasler’s here? Oh, shit.”

Andy Kahn Meets Vladimir Horowitz

Friday, June 1st, 2012

What do Philadelphia jazz pianist Andy Kahn and classical pianist Vladimir Horowitz have in common?

“Not much,” you say?

The fact is, Kahn loves classical music but doesn’t play classical music.

Horowitz loved jazz, specifically jazz piano genius Art Tatum, but didn’t play jazz.

Both have performed on a nine-foot, Steinway grand piano, model CD503, that was Horowitz’s personal and touring instrument for years. Indeed, the Maestro was so in love with it, he called it “my friend.”

Under the aegis of Jacobs MusicCompany– since 1900, one of the mid-Atlantic regions most respected sellers of pianos–CD503 is now “on tour,” and recently was “in residence” at Jacobs Music in center city Philadelphia.

To celebrate this event, Jacobs artist-in-residence Kahn as well as acclaimed Russian classical pianist Svetlana Smolina, performed on the instrument–and talked about the experience–for a taping of Jill Pasternak’s “Crossover” radio program for WRTI-FM radio in Philadelphia.

Pasternak is well-suited as host of this program, as she’s a Julliard-trained classical harpist, Fulbright Scholar, and spent 10 years with WFLN, Philadelphia’s famed classical music radio station for decades.

Both Kahn and Smolina told Pasternak they were honored, humbled and a bit nervous playing Horowitz’ s instrument. There was, however, no evidence of nervousness in their stellar performances. Kahn did note that the Steinway CD 503 wasn’t very forgiving in terms of its action.

“There’s no faking anything on this piano,” Kahn told Pasternak. “The piano ‘action’ is set in such a way that if you even touch a key, it plays,” adding that its power and dymanic range are extraordinary.

During Kahn’s performance, he tied in Horowitz’ s love for jazz by way of one of Art Tatums’–and Horowitz’s–favorite compositions, “Tea for Two,” a song that the Maestro himself actually played more than once. And given Horowitz’ Russian heritage, Kahn also performed a song with Russian origins, “Ochi Chyornye,” better known as “Dark Eyes.”

I’ve known Andy Kahn personally and professionally for more than 50 years. I’ve never heard him play better.

I took advantage of our long-time association by asking my pal if I might play a few notes on the fabled CD503. I played half of what was supposed to be “Come Back to Sorrento.” What did I sound like?

I sounded like Bruce Klauber playing Vladimir Horowitz’ s piano. Let’s put it this way: At the keyboard, I’m no Andy Kahn or Svetlana Smolina. Both were kind enough not to suggest that I keep my day job.

On June 3, Jacobs Music Company will sponsor another event in conjunction with The Man and His Instrument. A number of the Greater Delaware Valley’s finest young piano students will duplicate the exact program that Horowitz performed on June 3, 1932 at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees in Paris.

Although Vladimir Horowitz died on November 5, 1989, as long as his music is performed–and played on his instrument–his memory, his legend and his legacy will live on.


Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Herman DeJong is really, as they say, “putting on all the pots” on behalf of his fellow statesman, Dutch pianist Peter Beets. DeJong plans a mini-tour of Philadelphia jazz clubs for Beets on June 19th, including The 23rd Street Cafe’, Chris’, and the new Orlieb’s jazz club. No doubt the pianist will be asked to sit-in. Herman has also arranged several, all-important, private get-togethers that will feature Beets.

Accompanying the pianist at the Philadelphia Museum of Art concert on Friday, June 22, are two of the best players anywhere–and I’m certain they’ll provide inspiring backing–bassist Lee Smith and drummer Dan Monaghan. Listed as possible, “surprise” sitters-in are area players Frank McKitty,Geoff Gallante and Alan Lewine.


Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Peter Beets is a Dutch pianist with an astounding technique and a ferocious sense of swing. Other than Monty Alexander, Beets is one of the few out there–that I know of, anyway–who embodies the joy, spirit and sense of swing of Oscar Peterson. OP’s style, and their were many facets to it, is difficult to grasp and even harder to assimilate. Beets has done it.

Though the award-winning Beets has recorded with players like Jeff Hamilton–not coincidently, perhaps, the one-time drummer for OP and Monty–and Curtis Fuller, and has shared stages with the likes of Chick Corea, he’s pretty much unknown in the states.

Herman DeJong, the Philadelphia-based architect/bassist/concert promoter and good friend of jazz, is helping to bring Beets to the U.S. Specifically, Beets will appear at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on June 22.

At this juncture in Beets’ evolution, he’s combining hard and happy swing with a sincere dose of showmanship, ala the greats like Count, Duke, Krupa, Pops, Peterson and the rare others who were able to appeal to those who may not have liked jazz before or since. Stylistically, it will be interesting to see where Beets goes from here.

Take it from me. Peter Beets’ gig at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on June 22 is going to be “one of those nights.”