The steadfastly swinging pianist John Sheridan is seriously underrated because of two virtues, often misinterpreted. John never makes what he is doing at the piano look hard; he never sweats or tells us — in words or body language — that he is Accomplishing Something Really Difficult. No, Sheridan sits down at the piano, makes an offhanded remark or a quick joke, identifies the previous tune, gazes at the keyboard for two seconds, and then is off into another wholly realized creation. Unless John is telling a shaggy-dog story or relating something that pleases him deeply, he also looks very serious most of the time. That, I think, has made listeners forget that under that serious exterior there is a deep romantic soul, a very expansive heart — all of which comes through in his playing.
Sheridan’s musical scope is as broad as his mastery at the keyboard. If you listen casually, you will hear his bright clarity steady swing; listen deeper and hear subtle harmonies and his lovely but not over-elaborate improvisations, his beautiful touch.
Here is a very brief solo recital — captured at Jazz at Chautauqua (now the Allegheny Jazz Party) — a half-hour of pleasure, recorded on September 20, 2013. Hear and admire how easily he moves from one composer to the next, one “genre” to another, always exhibiting a wonderful clarity, sounding just like John Sheridan . . . a very great gift to us.
Ellington’s BLACK BUTTERFLY (which I associate forever with Joe Thomas on a 1946 Keynote Records session):
COME BACK, SWEET PAPA (with fond thoughts of Louis’ Hot Five and, later on, bands led by Yank Lawson and Bob Haggart):
THE LEGEND OF LONESOME LAKE (Eastwood Lane, for Bix):
IN A MIST (the young man from Davenport, himself):
THIS YEAR’S KISSES (Billie, Lester, and Irving Berlin):
I’M PUTTING ALL MY EGGS IN ONE BASKET (Mister Astaire but also Louis, twice):
Thank you, John, for inviting us to join you on these excursions.
May your happiness increase!