Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tickle My Ivories: Pianists Everyone Can Appreciate

If you're like me, then you have a strange fetish for musicians that play the same instrument as yourself. For me, that is piano. I've never had formal training, but growing up with an opera singer and professional pianist/organist for a mother, well, something is bound to rub off.

Of course, my mom being the classical nut that she is, I grew up listening strictly to Chopin, Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Rachmaninoff, and other amazing composers that are also dead. So I had to discover a lot of this on my own; the first real rock piano player I was exposed to (and enjoyed) was NOT Billy Joel, Elton John, or Bruce Springsteen. It was a middle-eastern born boy with an overbite from Godtopus himself.

Freddie Mercury
You can't deny his charisma, or his songwriting. Hell, Mercury is a legend.
Queen, Don't Stop Me Now

Jerry Lee Lewis
This man doesn't need an introduction. And if he does, then you need some serious schooling on the roots of rock, honey.
Jerry Lee, Great Balls of Fire
*Note Dick Clark, and how ancient his ass must be.

Nick Cave
For me, Nick is the epitome of an artist, one whose means of creation just happens to be music. That, and he is deliciously curmudgeonly.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The Mercy Seat
*This is from a Japanese TV show, and is a hilarious set-up for Nick's performance; do yourself a favor and listen to the exchange between Nick and the host. Also, check out the fucking amazing piano that he is playing. I'm lusting after it something fierce.

Tori Amos
I worship at the altar of the Almighty Amos. I always have, and I always will; I don't give a shit what direction she takes. But this song, from her most recent collection, is a really interesting choice. My inner Southern girlie does what the kids call "squee" when I hear this.
Tori Amos, Big Wheel

Diana Krall
I really wanted to do a jazz pianist post, and that still might happen, but I had to add two of my favorite jazz pianists because this list would feel so incomplete without them. Diana, who by default would be the coolest woman ever simply by being married to Elvis Costello (shut it you), is not only cooler than cool, but can play her ass off. Not many people can do a Joni Mitchell cover, especially Case Of You, and not only pull it off, but in my opinion give it just the right amount of emotional impact. She kicks.
Diana Krall, Case Of You

Natasha Khan
Run, do not walk, to check out Bat For Lashes. This song isn't as piano heavy (it has more organ), but the rest of the songs on the album are much more plunk. This one is just badass, and the video rocks. How can you not love mask wearing bikers that do wheelies and claps on beat? The answer is, "You can't."
Bat For Lashes, What's A Girl To Do

Ray Charles
The TRUE king. Truly, for truth.
Ray Charles, Georgia On My Mind

Armando "Chick" Corea
Chick is my other jazz pianist addition, and this video is pretty charming. His touch is amazingly light, facile, and extremely quick. Also, he might be cheesy, but you cannot deny Bobby McFerrin's incredible talent. This duet is really nice, especially for any jazz lovers in the house.
Chick Corea and Bobby McFerrin, Armando's Rhumba

Ben Folds
My hometown boy! If you have never seen Ben in concert, you are missing out on probably one of the best live shows. Try to see him in the smallest possible venue.
Ben Folds Five, Brick

Marketa Irglova
Oscar winner. Actress. Musician. That's a hell of a resume for this up and comer. Marketa's voice is simple and proficient, and her voice is somewhat ethereal and childlike. Very nice combination.
The Swell Season, The Hill
*Please excuse the video; it had the least cheese factor. Sheesh.

Honorable Mentions:
John Lennon
Trent Reznor
Cat Stevens
Billy Joel
Bruce Springsteen
Tom Waits
Thelonious Monk
Art Tatum
Natalie Merchant
Zakk Wylde


Daniel said...

Good post. I was going down the list thinking "include Ben Folds" and there he was, and thus you were spared my wrath. One of the best live performers Ive seen. And by sheer coinkydink, "The Luckiest" is playing on my shuffle right now, which causes me to tear up when I'm working away from my good lady..

TK said...

Wait... no Roddy Bottum? This list is a sham, I tell you! A SHAM!

OK fine, it's pretty damn good.

kelsi said...

that bit about growing up listening strictly to dead composers? and then discovering queen?

did you live my life?

awesome post. awesome musicians.

Jez said...

Good bend on a topic not mentioned often.

What's better than roses on my piano? Tulips on my organ.

Did you see what I did there?

Okay, so my favorite "keys" player is going to have to be Benmont Tench (in case you didn't know, he plays for Tom Petty). But again, the people you mention in the main post are primarily piano players running the show, so that makes sense. Not sure how Springsteen gets lumped in there. He's more of a guitar player. I have never seen him play a piano, I guess, is why I'm confused.

Boo said...

daniel: thanks bro. and Awww, you are missing your lady parts. Sweet.

tk: You always gotta complain, don't you? Well, this post is about pianists as band leaders DUH. :) But, yeah, Roddy is the shit.

kelsi: seriously? awesome is right.

jez: Ah. The doubter. I would refer you, my dear Jez, to this link.

Boo said...

Oh, TK, and that is why Page McConnell didn't make the list either, although I adore him. But that could just be leftover drugs talking....

Felicia said...

Awesome post Boo, you included some of my favorites: Queen, Tori and Ben Folds. I totally dug that new Tori tune when it came out and Ben Folds is grossly UNDERrated!

MelodyLane said...

I love Tori. She rocks. I have yet to purchase the new album though. It is still growing on me. Ray Charles is the man.

For a nice performance of Trent and his piano, check this out. It is an acoustic recording in his home studio of "Something I Can Never Have". It is one of my favorites.

If you have yet to see this, which I somehow doubt, you should enjoy it.

Boo, you rock.

Anonymous said...

Thelonious Monk gets an "honorable mention"?

Fucking weak...

Boo said...

ah, yes; my fellow jazz snobs. Like I said, I'm going to do a jazz pianists post. But thanks for that truly constructive comment! Cheers.