88 Keys to Freedom: Segues Through the History of American Piano Music

88 Keys to Freedom: Segues Through the History of American Piano Music

Special thanks to Nurit Tilles, Joseph Kubera, Nicole Gagné, Bill Duckworth, Jonas Mekas, and Tom Hamilton.

And, in no particular order, many other fine composers of piano music: Larry Polansky (Lonesome Road/The Crawford Variations, 1988-1989), David Borden (Double Portrait, 1986-1987), Anthony Davis (Behind the Rock, Under the Double Moon/Wayang IV,), Virgil Thomson (the various Portraits), Marion Bauer (Sun Splendor, 1926, for two pianos, also arr. for orchestra), William Schuman (Voyage – A Cycle of Five Pieces for Piano, 1953), Samuel Barber (Love Song, 1924), Phillip Ramey (Canzona for Piano, 1982; Tangier Nocturne, 1989; Toccata No. 1, 1986; Canticle for Piano, Left Hand, 1989), Robert Palmer (3rd Sonata, 1979), John Alden Carpenter (Tango Américain, 1920), John La Montaine (Sonata, Op. 3, 1942), Wallingford Riegger (Blue Voyage, 1927), Elie Siegmeister (Theme and Variations No. 1, 1932), David Burge (4th Sonata, 1961), Hunter Johnson (Sonata 1933-1936; 1947-1948), Mel Powell (A Setting for Two Pianos, 1987), Walter Piston (Concerto for 2 pianos and orchestra, 1959), Quincy Porter (Concerto for 2 pianos and orchestra (1954), and Morton Gould (Dance Variations for 2 pianos and orchestra, 1952).

And, also in no particular order, many other fine composer-pianists: Meredith Monk (Phantom Waltz, 1989, music from Ellis Island, 1981), Michael Harrison (creator of the “harmonic piano”, his 70-minute magnum opus Revelation with never-before-heard harmonies in pure intonation), Les McCann (soul jazz and gospel jazz, Les McCann Plays The Truth, 1960, The Gospel Truth, 1963, both Pacific Jazz, Swiss Movement: Montreux 30th Anniversary Edition, 1969, Rhino), Floyd Cramer (famed country-western pianist), the many excellent players of New Orleans piano – including Professor Longhair, Dr. John, Huey Smith, Allen Toussaint, Teddy Wilson, Count Basie, Willie “The Lion” Smith, Billy Taylor, Ellis Larkins, Horace Silver, Nat “King” Cole, Otis Spann (brilliant Chicago blues improviser), Mary Lou Williams (Zodiac Suite, 1945; Black Christ of the Andes, 1963; Mary Lou’s Mass, 1970), Erroll Garner (especially his Fantasy on “Frankie and Johnny”, 1947), Lennie Tristano (especially the “cool” style of his “Crosscurrent,” 1949), George Shearing (his refined block-chord or “locked hands” style mixed with bop, Afro-Cuban and boogie influences, especially in “Lullaby of Birdland,” “Conception,” “Consternation”), Hank Jones (not easily in any category, his bop lines are clear with a splendid touch, especially his album Bop Redux on Muse Records), Bobby Timmons (funk jazz with Powell and sometimes Meade Lux Lewis influences, esp. Moanin’ on the Milestone label), Wynton Kelly, George Duke, Billy Kyle (“Pastel Blues,” 1939; “A” Flat to “C”, 1943), Jay McShann (“Hootie Blues,” 1942), Zez Confrey (“Poor Buttermilk,” 1921; “Kitten on the Keys,” 1923), Bernadette Speach (especially her Sonata, 1986), James Tenney (Chromatic Canon, 1983), and, if I may, “Blue” Gene Tyranny (The De-certified Highway of Dreams, 1991, Nocturne With and Without Memory, 1988, The Drifter, 1994, Extreme Changes Just Before Sunset (Mobile) for audiotape and piano, 1987, Spirit for computer-edited harmonics and piano, 1996, Meditation for electromagnetically-stimulated piano, 1961/2002).

From 88 Keys to Freedom: Segues Through the History of American Piano Music
by “Blue” Gene Tyranny
© 2003 NewMusicBox

NewMusicBox provides a space for those engaged with new music to communicate their experiences and ideas in their own words. Articles and commentary posted here reflect the viewpoints of their individual authors; their appearance on NewMusicBox does not imply endorsement by New Music USA.