A Keith Emerson Playlist: Pianists

May 18, 2016

As anyone who knew him will tell you, Keith Emerson loved to listen to and talk about music—of all kinds. And although the names of organists who influenced him are well-documented—the earliest was Brother Jack McDuff with the track “Rock Candy” from Live!, while Jimmy Smith and “Big” John Patton (check out the album Along Came John) were perennial faves—we thought it would be fun to share a few of Emerson’s favorite piano tracks with you.

Important among his personal collection were albums recorded from the ’40s through the ’60s by artists such as Wynton Kelly, Art Tatum, Bill Evans, George Shearing, Oscar Peterson, and Dave Brubeck (a major figure for him). The following, however, is a handful of cuts of which Keith was particularly fond.

Dave Brubeck: “Blue Rondo a la Turk” from Time Out; the classic quartet navigating an innovative piece that skillfully used 9/8, which, later, is integrated with a swinging 4/4.

Floyd Cramer: “On the Rebound”; a country-tinged pop-instrumental from 1961 by a Nashville player who worked with Elvis Presley and Patsy Cline, among many others.

Thelonious Monk: The Thelonious Monk Orchestra at Town Hall; Keith was particularly a fan of the arrangements on this release.

Oscar Peterson (with Joe Pass and Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen): “Sweet Georgia Brown” from The Paris Concert; a high-speed chase over and through the changes of this well-known standard.

Dudley Moore: “Waltz for Suzy” from Songs Without Words and “Waterloo” from Song for Suzy; two distinctly different tracks—the first based around a haunting melody and the second, a Latin-jazz feature for the pianist/comedian.

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