Posts Tagged ‘piano’


One Never Knows, Do One? Fats Waller a True Entertainer

May 20, 2010

Thomas Wright Waller (May 21, 1904 – December 15, 1943)

On this day, over a century ago, Thomas “Fats” Waller was born to Adaline Locket Waller, wife of the Reverend Edward Martin Waller. At the tender age of only six years old Fats began to play the piano which later led to his mother teaching him classical music on the organ of his father’s church. Fats, being the colourful character he was, wanted to play more than just classical pieces, and took on the task of teaching himself to play Jazz, the music of the time.

In 1918 he won a talent contest playing “Carolina Shout” a tune by iconic stride pianist, James P. Johnson, which he learned from watching a pianola (a self playing piano) play the song. James P. Johnson later took on the task of becoming Fats’ mentor after hearing him play the pipe organ. Not long under Johnson’s direction, did Fats’ skill on the piano begin to flourish. With Fats’ greatly improved skill as a pianist, Johnson introduced him to his first Harlem rent party. Much of Waller’s success can be contributed to the exposure he got from playing at rent parties where tenants who were having trouble making their rent would open their apartment doors and charge a fee to see Fats perform.

Fats was one of the most popular performers of his time receiving great critical and commercial success with famed pieces such as “Honeysuckle Rose”, “Ain’t Misbehavin'” and “Squeeze Me”. With his great fame came great danger. After leaving a performance in 1926 Waller was forced into the back of a car at gunpoint where he was driven to the Hawthorne Inn where he was lead inside and sat behind a piano and told to play. Waller began to ease a little upon realizing that the intention wasn’t for the gunmen to kill him, but instead to have him perform as a “surprise guest” at their boss, Al Capone’s, birthday party.

Fats Waller continued to entertain enthused audiences throughout the 30’s and early 40’s until his unexpected death at the young age of 39. He died of pneumonia on Dec 15, 1943 somewhere near Kansas City, Missouri while he was traveling by train.

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Mary Barry releases first full-length recording in French.

February 3, 2010

Fulfilling a lifelong dream, local singer/songwriter Mary Barry is about to launch her first full-length album of French ‘chansons’ or songs at her Chansons d’Amour Concert at the D. F. Cook Recital Hall on February 13, 2010.

Entitled, Chansons Irisées, (pronounced eer-ee-zay) or songs of iridescence, the album is a charismatic compilation of Barry’s own French compositions as well as her interpretations of songs by Québecois poet Christine Bernard and the icon of French Chanson, Édith Piaf.

A mélange of sweet melodies, sophisticated jazz, rollicking cabaret and exotic worldbeat, this album is a sensuous and soothing journey through the ever-changing fortunes of the human heart.

“Many years ago, I went to Québec City for three days and stayed seven years! I played music every night and it was there that I discovered Edith Piaf and Jacques Brel, whose music really moved me. I also met artists like Christine Bernard and Marie-Lili (whose songs I recorded on this disc) as well as Bruno Fecteau, who arranged and produced this recording. Chansons Irisées is a tribute to these amazing artists and to that belle époque of my life.”

Recorded in Studio Sismique in Québec City, under the direction of Bruno Fecteau, the musical director and arranger for Gilles Vigneault, Barry’s Chansons Irisées is a tour de force of exquisite musicianship, each soundtrack a stunningly complex and beautiful soundscape that both mesmerizes and moves.

Chansons Irisées is the fourth album for Barry, a multi-award winning singer/songwriter who was named Newfoundland and Labrador Female Artist of the Year in both 2007 and 2004, as well as Jazz/Blues Artist of the year in 2007. She is also a two-time ECMA nominee. In addition, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has just selected Mary Barry to represent the province at the Olympics.

An accomplished pianist, vocalist and songwriter, Barry has garnered consistent critical acclaim since releasing “These Days” in 2003.

“…by now we all know that East Coast music encompasses more than traditional Celtic music. A case in point is St. John’s native Mary Barry, who writes and sings songs in two languages spanning jazz, blues, roots, country, cabaret, chanson, and worldbeat…with a versatile, expressive voice that strikes to the heart of whatever style of song she is performing.” (The Record)

Barry will be celebrating Valentine’s Day by launching Chansons Irisées at her Chansons d’Amour concert on Saturday, February 13 at the D. F. Cook Recital Hall on the campus of Memorial University in St. John’s. Barry will be accompanied by Brian Way on piano, Charlie Barfoot on guitar, Susan Evoy on sax and clarinet, Kate Bevan-Baker on violin, Jack Daw on acoustic bass, and Rob Lee on percussion.

Free parking is available on site. Tickets are twenty dollars and will be available at Fred’s, O’Brien’s and the Travel Bug.

Chansons Irisées is currently available for purchase in St. John’s and will be soon available online.

For more information on Mary Barry and her music, please go to her website at


Ruben Gonzalez: A story of two careers

December 18, 2009

On December 8th 2003 Ruben Gonzalez the Cuban Pianist passed away in Havana, at the age of 84. Ruben’s accidental music career lasted over 5 decades and despite arthritis was given new life dispite his intended retirement.

Ruben began his music career in his home town of Las Villas after dropping out of medical school due to financial difficulties. He moved to Havana in 1940 where he played  in various bands and released his first recording in 1943. During the 50’s he toured with Orquesta América around Latin America where he became well known. In the 1960’s Ruben became the pianist for Orquesta de Enrique Jorrín with whom he would play for the next 25 years till Enrique Jorrin’s death and Rubens retirement in the late 1980’s.

In 1996 Ruben was contacted by American music producer Ry Cooder, who tried to persuade him to come out of retirement and record with him. Ruben had reportedly not owned a piano in 11 years and was suffering from arthritis was hard to persuade but eventually agreed to Cooder’s proposition. He went on the make seven solo albums before his death and played on the international hit album The Buena Vista Social Club, which popularized his music around the globe.

To hear some of Ruben Gonzalez’s music play these videos

December 15th is Notable as it is the Date When Two of the Greats of Jazz Died.

December 15, 2009

On December 15th 1943 Jazz Pianist Thomas ‘Fats’ Waller was on a cross country train journey across America when he contracted pneumonia. Just before arriving in Kansas, Missouri Fats passed away. News of his death spread quickly to the station where by chance Louis Armstrong was waiting in another train. T is reported that Armstrong was distraught after hearing the news and wept for several hours.

One year later, Glenn Miller boarded a flight at an RAF base in Clapham, England bound for Paris. He was on his way to entertain the troops who had just liberated Paris from occupation. It is believed that the plane went down somewhere over the English channel although no wreckage or bodies were ever found. This has led numerous conspiracy theories to surface about his death and its causes.

To find out more about these legends of jazz you can visit the following sites,

Thomas ‘Fats’ Waller

Glenn Miller

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