Sunday, January 31, 2016

James P. Johnson (1894-1955), Pioneer Stride Pianist, Was Born February 1; In 2015 he was inducted into Jazz at Lincoln Center's Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame

                                                                                                              Victory Stride: The Symphonic Music of James P. Johnson; The Concordia Orchestra; Marin Alsop, Conductor; Music Masters 67140 (1994)

The African American composer and pianist James Price Johnson, profiled at, was born on Feb. 1, 1894 in New Brunswick, New Jersey. 

In his liner notes for Victory Stride, Scott E. Brown points out that James P. Johnson was called the Father of Stride Piano: "James P. Johnson was an astounding musician, arguably the most important black musician in New York during the decade of the 1920s. He is best known in jazz as the Father of Stride Piano, a two-handed, solo piano style that developed out of ragtime and flourished in the Northeast, especially Harlem, during the 1920s as the first true jazz idiom. He has influenced many successive jazz musicians, including his students Fats Waller and Duke Ellington."

Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma wrote the liner notes for the CD Got the Saint-Louis Blues: Classical Music in the Jazz Age, Clarion CLR907 (2004), which includes a performance of Johnson's Yamekraw: A Negro Rhapsody (15:49) by pianist Paul Shaw and the VocalEssence Ensemble conducted by Philip Brunelle. Dr. De Lerma relates that Johnson's music studies with Bruto Giannini were followed by piano lessons from Eubie Blake. He continues: "Toward the end of the 1920s, Johnson began devoting time to the study of orchestration, counterpoint, and harmony."
In his liner notes, Scott Brown agrees that Johnson was intent on becoming a serious composer: "Of all his accomplishments, James P. Johnson most wanted to be remembered as a serious composer of symphonic music utilizing African-American musical themes. When the Depression ended the decade of the Charleston, James P. Johnson semi-retired from active Harlem nightlife to concentrate on symphonic composition."

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