Pianos have been a part of the scene since what we now call Jazz, moved from the streets of New Orleans to the brothels of Storyville.
The piano has been the instrument of choice for a number of great names from the past: Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Dave Brubeck, Bill Evans, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk – and many, many more.
And the keep coming. I’ve been fortunate to catch three young pianists in the past few months – all in their 20’s and 30’s.
Helen Sung was in Bellingham with Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra last fall and after the Mount Baker Theatre performance, she and two other members of the Orchestra made their way to the Lighthouse Bar and Grill to jam with local musicians for a couple of hours. She plays as though she is using 8 fingers on each hand.
Soon after that, Kasey Sulkin brought Cuban pianist Jorge Luis Pacheco to the Sudden Valley Dance Barn for a solo performance. The following night, he appeared as part of a trio at a special Whatcom Jazz Music Art Center performance. And, the night after that at Western for another solo performance. After the first one, I made certain I attended the others.
And, finally, just a few weeks ago Emmet Cohen performed on the Whatcom Jazz Music Art Center stage with his trio. I was there early and was wondering who the high school student was wandering around. Then he sat down at the piano and blew us all away.
Piano Jazz is alive and well.
P.S. There’s a 15 year old in Mount Vernon with great potential that I’m keeping an eye on.