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The Pianist Jon Weber Offers ‘From Joplin to Jarrett’ – NYTimes.com

The Pianist Jon Weber Offers ‘From Joplin to Jarrett’ – NYTimes.com


And Scott Joplin begat Jelly Roll Morton, who begat James P. Johnson, who begat Fats Waller, who begat Earl Hines, and on and on. That is a rough sketch of the jazz piano genealogy described by the pianist Jon Weber in his fascinating and essential show “From Joplin to Jarrett: 115 Years of Piano Jazz,” at the Metropolitan Room on Thursday evening.

That history suggested a river gathering tributaries until it reached a delta, symbolized by Keith Jarrett, whose unaccompanied solo marathon concerts in the 1970s summarized much of what preceded him.

From an academic perspective, this one-hour program was an enlightening music history tutorial, delivered with enthusiasm and wit by a musician with no axes to grind and who is utterly devoid of professorial grandiosity. But because Mr. Weber can play up a storm, it was also a thrilling demonstration of one man’s passionate attachment to his chosen instrument.

Mr. Weber, who has hosted the NPR series “Piano Jazz” and is one of the most imaginative and gifted cabaret musical directors, has a deep understanding of how technology and the media have revolutionized the relationship between the musician and the audience. Yet he knows exactly how technical to get without sounding like a textbook.

Like many jazz musicians, Mr. Weber, despite a formidable talent that allows him to play in any style and key, is humble when contemplating the leaps made by his artistic forebears. When he reached Art Tatum and played his “walking chords” over a jet-propelled right hand, he said in awed tones that he had only 1 percent of Tatum’s ability. But that percentage seemed much higher in his phenomenal demonstration.

He showed how the sounds of instrumentalists — particularly on brass, clarinet and guitar — influenced piano styles. In broad outline, it was also the story of how African influences surpassed European styles, and how jazz improvisation, with Louis Armstrong leading the way by playing music that “came directly to his head,” overtook written composition. By embracing jazz, he said, America stopped being what he called “Europe Jr.”




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