Tag Archives: barrelhouse piano

ELEGANT SAVAGERY: ANDY SCHUMM at THE PIANO, “SHAKE IT AND BREAK IT” (St. John’s Lutheran Church, New York City, May 18, 2022)

We need good news, so here’s something that will gladden the hearts of listeners who like barrelhouse originality: Andy Schumm, so wonderful on all his instruments, will be releasing his first solo piano CD (on Rivermont Records) later this year.

Here is Andy’s riotous piano feature — I call his style Elegant Savagery — at the second (glorious) US appearance of the (glorious) hot orchestra, the New York Classic Seven, on May 18, 2022, at St. John’s Lutheran Church on Christopher Street, New York City (thanks to Janet Sora Chung).

Andy is a spectacular pianist, and what I mean by “Elegant Savagery” has something to do with the confidence and energy with which he approaches the keyboard. His power, his range, his fearlessness. (Some pianists are timid, as if they were anxious: press the keys down too firmly, someone will notice and they will lose the gig.) He is a swashbuckler, a Douglas Fairbanks of the Steinway or perhaps Yamaha. But he does not pound. His aim is beautiful. He knows where he is going, so notes and runs are clear, ringing, not smudged or vague. And he’s improvising: there’s music on the piano in the photograph, but he’s on his own path in the video.

The heat he generates is awe-inspiring; he is orchestral in the best way. And he does the neat trick the greatest artists do: he has heard and absorbed everyone, from Joplin to Confrey to Melrose, Schutt, Seger Ellis, Cassino Simpson, and Alex Hill and beyond, Morton and the stride gang — ferociously precise barrelhouse like a Mack truck on a steep downhill incline (although his tempo is admirably steady) — but he sounds like himself.

Can you tell that I admire his approach and what he creates? Listen.

I can’t wait until the CD (with notes by Andy, in both senses) appears, but in the meantime I will admire his playing whenever I can. (You know, of course, that he is a splendid cornet, clarinet, saxophone, and drum wizard as well . . . )

Thank you for being, Maestro, and for so generously sharing your selves with us.

May your happiness increase!


Pianist Virginia Tichenor (casually fierce) and plectral shaman Craig Ventresco offer meditations on Joe Oliver’s RIVERSIDE BLUES (composed by Thomas A. Dorsey) — which contains blues and hymns superimposed. (MABEL’S DREAM has a similarly-shaped Trio section, in mood if not in chords — perhaps both of those multi-strain compositions owe much to brass-band march music.) 


 Silverware and dishes crash; someone in the audience unwisely attempts to whistle the melody.  But none of this deters Virginia and Craig from their intense, holy, funky pursuits.  Frank Melrose approves.  Thanks once more to SFRae Ann and her magic camera!