The History of the Jazz Piano at the Edinburgh Fringe


The Unitarian church of St. Marks, hard by the sheer cliffs of Edinburgh Castle, has an interior, as you would expect of the Unitarians, entirely unadorned, with any religious image. An odd place to listen to Jazz. There, where the altar should be, stands a great glossy black note of a grand piano.

The musician is the Professor of Jazz Music from St. Andrew’s University. How cool is that!

We begin with Scott Joplin, a bit of the “Entertainer”, and then a ragging of “Tea for Two” in Joplin’s style. We move to blue notes, a bit of Gershwin and then an illustration of Jelly Roll Morton hammering the blue out of the keys with his “version” of Tea for Two, giving it a real stomp. Then there was Fats Waller, decorating his tunes with Mozartian trills, at breakneck speed and morphing into one his great rag-time epics “A hand full of keys”

After that Oscar Peterson boogies, Fats Domino “Lulu back in Town” and then the prof’s own cool cool jazz versions of the songs of Robbie Burns. It was getting better, we now had gospel music jazz, “Amazing Grace” The church was rocking and all those dour Edinburgh Presbyterians were loosening up. A bit of hard core Charlie |Parker, stories of Dankworth, some be-bop from Count Basie, back to Oscar Peterson and some Tiger rag from Art Tatum. Surely any moment now the cocaine would be laid in lines on the ancient Unitarian pews. He closed it with Oscar’s Hymn to Freedom. Oh there were encores! We’d still be there if it was up to me. Look at that! I just wrote a piece on Jazz and I know feck all about it. Edinburgh must be doing me good.

You can get Oscar Peterson playing the Hymn to Freedom on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-mIHk2rM0Q

And a bit of the Prof’s lecture/performance here: http://richardmichaelsjazzschool.com/blog/history-of-jazz-piano-on-bbc-radio

And for more Bits and Pieces check out CONTENTS

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