Texas Piano Players: A Legacy (Part 1)

The piano might not be the first musical instrument you think of when you think of Texas (Stay with me Van Cliburn fans...). The mystique of the guitar and the Texans who play(ed) it, including Blind Willie Johnson, Lightning Hopkins, and Albert Collins to name just a few, is well-deserved and thoroughly chronicled. The saxophone is also a popular axe of choice for many in this state. Houston saxophonist, big band leader, and educator Conrad "Prof" Johnson (now the subject of the recent award winning documentary Thunder Soul), is a part of a larger chorus of celebrated and multifaceted reed players who were crucial part to the development of American rhythm and blues, funk, and free jazz. (Can you imagine Ray Charles' classic sides without Texan sax players Don Wiklerson or later David 'Fathead' Newman?) But thanks to several pianists who in the early part of the 20th century helped develop if not outright invent the rhythmic concepts, bass lines, and melodic phrasing that infused pre 1950's rock and roll and jazz, the piano completes the holy trinity of quintessential Texan instruments.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Chris Becker
Contact: Chris Becker