Friday, April 20, 2018

Solo piano artistry - and then some

Pianist Bobby van Deusen is a master of the keyboard, blessed with an astonishing musical range in terms of genres, sound dynamics and sheer artistry. And those elements were all on display on Friday, April 20 at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Venice.

The Philadelphia native, now based in the Florida Panhandle, is best known for his work in the ragtime, stride and Dixieland genres. But his reach goes much deeper and wider.

On this afternoon, he performed Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" and lesser-known "Sunflower Slow Drag;" "The Last Date," written by his good friend Floyd Cramer, who was a first-call studio pianist in Memphis and Nashville; "Baubles, Bangles & Beads" from the 1953 Broadway musical Kismet (and soon recorded by Peggy Lee and Frank Sinatra), and a stunning cover of "Take the A Train," inspired by Duke's 1978 70th birthday concert version at Carnegie Hall. 

The lively afternoon also included vocals and crowd sing-alongs on several popular standards, such as "Bye Bye Blackbird" and "King of the Road."

The powerhouse highlights included two George Gershwin tunes: "Our Love is Here to Stay," which was the last tune he wrote in his prolific career (and van Deusen's all-time favorite tune), and "Rhapsody in Blue." 

The concert gem was the first-set closer: van Deusen's 15-minutes-plus medley of the music from Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera." It prompted a standing ovation.


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