Posts Tagged ‘piano’

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.


Friday, August 26th, 2011

Almost everyone who has an interest in such things knows that Atlantic City is in big financial trouble. Those in the Greater Delaware Valley area who like to gamble, a little or a lot, now need only drive up or down the block in order to play blackjack or the quarter slots. The “in the know” contingent who have been following Atlantic City’s situation since gaming was made legal in 1978 say that the one-time king of resorts needs some kind of shot in the arm—make that a minor miracle—to survive and continue to compete as a year-round tourist destination.

They may have found one. His name is Andy Kahn. He is an entertainer. He plays piano and sings.

One of Atlantic City’s draws, for almost a century, has been its entertainers. In its pre-casino heyday, A.C. played host to virtually every star in the universe who performed live. Where else could one see the Three Stooges, Gene Krupa, Louis Prima, Duke Ellington, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, and Frank Sinatra in person in one day?

Today, there’s not much room for innovation in the area of booking talent. The legendary big names are gone or retired and the demographics have certainly changed since 1978. So, in terms of entertainment, the Atlantic City casinos only have revue shows, rock bands, the occasional comic and disc jockeys from which to choose.
The rejuvenated Resorts Casino Hotel—the town’s first legal gaming hall—seems poised to move away from the norm in many areas and take some chances. In the booking of performer Andy Kahn, Resorts’ bet paid off. His one-nighter was a resounding success.

Over 100 people of all ages seemingly came out to hear Kahn sing and play recently, within Resorts’ Starlight Room, which moonlights as comic Joe Piscopo’s popular club on weekends. On this night, the audience did not hear a disc jockey or rock music–not that there’s anything wrong with that. What they did hear was over 90 minutes of the ageless and timeless music of the great American composers, i.e., Gershwin, Cole Porter, Harry Warren, Johnny Mercer and the like, performed by a multi-talented pianist/singer, who proved to be an affable and enthusiastic performer with obvious star quality.

Other artists through the seasons, notably the late Bobby Short and today’s Michael Feinstein, have used a similar, “Great American Songbook” repertoire as the basis of their programs, but Andy Kahn approaches things in a different way. Interwoven between tunes are anecdotes about the composers and their lives and times, all held together by heartfelt singing and jazz piano chops that Short and Feinstein could only dream of. His jazz rendition of “I Love Paris” was a standout.

It all works, and the Resorts audience couldn’t get enough.

Kahn has extensive experience, since childhood, in virtually every area of the entertainment industry. He’s worked as an actor, jazz pianist, cabaret performer, author, composer, recording studio executive, producer, engineer and talent scout. He was at the forefront of the disco movement via, among many other things, his production of the number one disco record of 1978, “Hot Shot,” as performed by Karen Young.

But in following Kahn’s career for almost 50 years, I’d have to report with some accuracy that singing and playing the great tunes, as he did at Resorts, remains his first love. Even if he were booked doing this 300 nights of the year, I doubt if he’d ever look upon it as “a job.” And there’s no chance for boredom, either. As the legendary Sam Butera used to say about his own shows at Resorts, “Each show is entirely different.” So are Kahn’s.

The management at Resorts is to be congratulated for taking a chance on something new. Their gamble paid off, proving that it’s virtually impossible to fail with the timeless and ageless elements that constitute the elegant repertoire of Andy Kahn. It’s important to remember that Kahn is not peddling nostalgia. He’s selling quality, and it’s because of quality that these compositions remain fresh, and have lived on, in some cases for nearly 100 years.

I’d bet that Atlantic City audiences can’t wait for Kahn’s next show. I’ll be at the head of the line.