Festivals and jazz parties make it possible for me to greet old friends again and bask in their music, but a great thrill is being able to meet and hear someone I’ve admired for years on record — people who come to mind are Bent Persson, Jim Dapogny, Ray Skjelbred, Carl Sonny Leyland, Rebecca Kilgore, Hal Smith (it’s a long list) and now the wonderful pianist John Royen, whom I met for the first time at this year’s San Diego Jazz Fest.
For John’s New Orleans Rhythm, the first set, he was joined by Dan Levinson, clarinet and tenor; Marty Eggers, string bass; Katie Cavera, guitar; Hal Smith, drums. I hear someone’s therapy dog, or an audience member was whimpering with delight.
SOME OF THESE DAYS:
That was Friday. We didn’t see John, and Conal Fowkes took his place at a set; we heard that John had decided (not really) on an internal home improvement, and had had a defibrillator installed at a nearby hospital. This surprised me, because his beat has always been terribly regular.
But he reappeared magically on Sunday, looking like himself. Virginia Tichenor graciously ceded some of her solo piano time so that he could play. And play he did.
His solo playing was both assertive and delicate, spicy yet respectful of the originals. John’s relations with the audience are so charming . . . and his playing, while not always fast or loud, is lively — lit brightly from within.
The Lion’s HERE COMES THE BAND:
ATLANTA BLUES, or MAKE ME A PALLET ON THE FLOOR:
and John’s delightful improvisations on MY INSPIRATION:
There will be a Part Two: John with Joe Goldberg, Marty Eggers, Riley Baker, and a brief visit from John Otto. An honor to encounter the Captain, who creates such good music.
May your happiness increase!