Seymour Lipkin, Piano Prodigy and Conductor

Mozart: Piano Sonata, K.V. 576, Mov. 1

Seymour Lipkin considered it a “moral responsibility” to stay true to the intentions of the composer and to not take a piece in a direction of one’s own choosing. He took this to such lengths that he would have actual dialogues with dead composers, as recounted in his New York Times obituary from an interview originally published in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Seymour Lipkin Talks About Piano Music

Lipkin (May 14, 1927-November 16, 2015) came to fame in 1948 when he won first prize in the Rachmaninoff Fund Piano Contest at Carnegie Hall. But he had already received some acclaim three years before, when as a teenager he entertained the Allied troops with violinist Jascha Heifetz.

Chopin: Nocturne in F sharp Major, Op. 15, No. 2

Lipkin turned to conducting after his initial success as a pianist. He served as assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic and was conducter of The Long Island Symphony and Joffrey Ballet. He also served on the faculty of the Juilliard School and the Curtis Institute of Music.


Andy White, Drummer Who Filled in for Ringo

“Love Me Do” with Smithereens

I’ve had back-to-back drummer posts, and the two couldn’t be more dissimilar–one the visceral metal drummer, Phil Taylor, and the other, the dutiful session man, Andy White (July 27, 1930-November 9, 2015).

Andy White Talks About The Beatles Recording Session

White is sometimes called “The Fifth Beatle,” having filled in for Pete Best at an early Beatles recording session. Actually, by the time of this session, Ringo had already replaced Best on drums, but the producer (either George Martin or Ron Richards, depending on whose story you believe) wasn’t yet certain of Ringo’s abilities and so called in the reliable White on the Fab Four’s debut single, “Love Me Do,” and its B-side “P.S. I Love You.” The Smithereens invited White to reprise his performance on their album B-Sides the Beatles.

Scottish Drumming with Andy White

White, a Scotsman, was a busy session drummer, performing with fellow Brits Herman’s Hermits, Tom Jones, Rod Stewart and Anthony Newley. According to his Wikipedia post, he also played in a backup band for Marlene Dietrich’s cabaret show under the direction of Burt Bacharach.

Phil Taylor, Early Drummer for Motörhead

“Overkill” Live, 1979

One of my motivations in starting this blog was to challenge myself to listen to music I wouldn’t normally listen to, and metal definitely fits that category. I’m aware of some band names and musicians, but only in a gossipy, “Behind The Music” kind of way.

“Ace of Spades” Live, 1981

So now I am listening to metal in appreciation of the drumming of Phil Taylor of Motörhead. Watching him play in the video of “Overkill,” I can appreciate the appeal, especially when I channel my inner-teenager. All the pent-up anger, frustration, rebellion and energy I felt at that age gets released in a fury of double-bass kick-pounding and drumhead bashing.

“Philthy Animal” Taylor

Taylor (September 21, 1954-November 11, 2015) was an on-again, off-again drummer for the band, playing from 1975 to 1984 and returning from 1987-1992. He influenced metal drummers to come, including Lars Ulrich of Metallica, and helped lay the foundation for the subgenre thrash metal through his hyper-fast playing.

Allen Toussaint, New Orleans Songwriter and Piano Man

At the 2007 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

Being a child of the 60s and 70s, I’ve seen “Toussaint” on more than a few record covers. And without even knowing it, I’ve heard many songs and recordings that were made possible through his talent. Let’s see: “Working in a Coal Mine,” “Fortune Teller,” “Southern Nights,” Dr. John’s break-through album are just a few.

“Southern Nights”

Allen Toussaint’s prodigious musical output has been covered innumerable times by a wide range of artists–The Rolling Stones, The Who, Glen Campbell, Devo, The Doors. He hones his craft through decades of live performances, session work, songwriting and producing.

“Yes We Can Can” at KUT Austin

Toussaint (January 14, 1938-November 10, 2015) was a devotee of Professor Longhair’s style of piano playing, but he evolved it into his own elegant style. Despite the New Orleans’ “Big Easy” reputation of loose, rollicking music, Toussaint was known for his exacting approach, as related by a fellow musician in a BBC interview.

Toussaint was awarded with the National Medal of Arts by President Obama in 2013.

Don Rendell, British Jazz Saxophonist

Don Rendell-Ian Carr Quintet, “Pavane”

The son of two musicians, Don Rendell began his music career at 15, when he started on alto sax. He eventually switched to tenor sax, for which he’s principally known, but also played soprano sax, clarinet and flute.

Don Rendell Talks About British Jazz

Rendell’s first professional gigs were playing at U.S.O. clubs during WWII. During the 1950s, he toured Europe with Stan Kenton and Woody Hermann, and led a band backing Billie Holliday for her UK performances. In the 1960s, he formed the Don Rendell-Ian Carr Quintet, which performed and recorded together for seven years.

Rendell on British Jazz, Part 2

Rendell (March 4, 1926-October 20, 2015) was a music educator and taught at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama from 1984.

Tony Van Frater, Guitarist for Oi! Punk Band Red Alert

Red Alert “In Britain”

Tony Van Frater was lead guitarist for Red Alert, a punk band from Sunderland in the Northeast of England. The band formed as a quartet in 1979. It recorded one album, “We’ve Got the Power,” in 1983 for label No Future. (It turned out to be a prophetic name, as the label went bankrupt and left the band high and dry.)

Excerpt from “Sex, Drugs and HIV”

After the demise of No Future, the band drifted apart, but reformed in 1990, recording “Blood, Sweat ‘n’ Beers” (love that title!) in 1992. Van Frater was associated with a number of other bands, both as a guitarist and bassist. He played with the Angelic Upstarts and Cockney Rejects, whose drummer, Keith “Stix” Warrington, had played with Red Alert.

Cockney Rejects “East End Babylon” Trailer

Red Alert, Cockney Rejects and Angelic Upstarts are all examples of oi! punk, a subgenre that sought to reclaim punk’s working-class roots, fearing that the university crowd was appropriating and intellectualizing it. (I wonder if hip-hop artists felt the same way about Beastie Boys?)

Nat Peck, Trombonist for Glenn Miller, Dizzy Gillespie

Clarke-Boland Big Band, “Volcano,” 1969

Trombonists are not used to the spotlight. I should know. I toiled in ultra-obscurity as a grade school, high school and college 2nd chair trombonist. Even spectacular ones–like Nat Peck–are not front-and-center despite the essential role they play in the overall sound of a band. Watch closely to catch a fleeting glimpse of Peck in the videos included here.

“Con Alma” with Dizzy Gillespie in Denmark, 1970

Peck (January 13, 1925-October 24, 2015) performed with one of the few trombonists to achieve marquee status–Glenn Miller. He was the last surviving members of Miller’s Army Air Force Orchestra, which played during the final years of WWII. After the war, he studied at the Paris Conservatoire using his GI Bill benefits. As quoted in his obituary in The Telegraph, he lived a “Jekyll and Hyde existence–by day a serious classical music student and at night in all the bebop joints in Paris.”

Interview with Nat Peck on Glenn Miller

In Europe, he recorded and performed with Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge, Duke Ellington, Michel Legrand and Josephine Baker. He played in the pit for the Paris premiere of West Side Story.

Leon Bibb, Baritone Broadway and Folk Singer

“Rocks and Gravel” Live

Leon Bibb was a Broadway music performer who turned to folk singing after having difficulty finding roles for African-American men on the stage. This switch occurred as the Civil Rights movement expanded the audience for folk music. He performed at the first Newport Folk Festival in 1959.

“Sinner Man” in Luis Bunuel’s The Young One

Bibb (February 7, 1922-October 23, 2015) was a contemporary and friend of  Paul Robeson, who was godfather to his twin son and daughter. He performed frequently on Hootenanny and was host of a 1960s Someone New, a New York-based TV show that featured up-and-coming artists.

“Swing Low Sweet Chariot” with Son Eric Bibb

Bibb is the father of Eric Bibb, a noted acoustic guitarist now based in Finland. Father and son occasionally recorded and performed together.