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Around The World In 80 Blades - a shaving journal

Aww, that's nice to hear! I do sometimes wonder if my rather meandering musings are of interest to anyone, but even if it's only a few I'm happy to know somebody gets something from them! Of course, as someone who works in fairly niche genres of music I'm used to that dynamic. That said, it's been a good weekend for positive feedback; I played a couple of concerts (very different from each other in almost every possible way) that really seemed to connect with the audiences, which is really rewarding, so your kind words are icing on the cake, and much appreciated!

Blade#40: Gillette 7 o’clock Green Permasharp, continued​


Round 3: 1948 Gillette Aristocrat, previously ‘Lord Charles Beresford’…​

At last, the shave I’ve been hoping for from this razor! Between nailing the shimming and improvements to my technique, and this blade which I think is coming into its own now, it all felt pretty dialed in, and was a lovely balance of smoothness and efficiency. Yay!

So, since the stakes are low and it’s my party (and I’ll cry if I want to!), I’ve decided that the only thing to do with regards to this razor’s jazz name is to move Duke (Ellington) into pole position. He is the aristocrat of jazz, after all. So, the Aristocrat becomes Duke, and the Jr will get a new name (and it won’t have to wait long!). Since we’ve already discussed Duke at some length, we can move directly to the Honorable Mention section!

For the sake of symmetry, I’m going to go with George… for (who else?) George Duke! A crossover artist, fusing jazz with pop, funk, and soul music, playing keyboards as much as piano and eventually singing and producing as much as either, he was nevertheless a deep and influential musician and deserves the nod.

But wait, there’s another George I need to pay tribute to, the extraordinary George Shearing! Born blind to working-class parents in Battersea, London, he was noted for his harmonic sophistication and his particular locked-hands block-chord technique (borrowed from the great organist Milt Buckner, but Shearing made it his own). His success and influence led to a knighthood for “services to music” in 2007, which makes him the only “legitimate” aristocrat on this list!

Round 4: 1955 Gillette Aristocrat Jr / Rocket Parat​

I’ve mentioned before that I think this razor is very slightly let down by its handle, which feels a little too light and thin for the chunkier head, and is not especially grippy… I still feel that way, on a kind of intellectual level, BUT in terms of the actual experience, I have to say this was an absolutely magnificent shave!

The blade is at its peak and is simply perfect, and again I have to marvel at how scraping a very sharp piece of metal across your face can possibly be such a wondrously smooth, satisfying experience! Not a hint of blood or discomfort, no noticeable alum sting, just shaving bliss from start to finish!

So with Duke now holding court over on the Aristocrat proper, who can we replace him with here? Well, obviously, Count Basie! (Yes, ‘count’ is lower on the aristocratic hierarchy than ‘duke’, I checked, so it all scans…)

One of many artists whose careers were developed and nurtured with the help of producer John Hammond, Basie started with small groups in the 1930s, with a strong blues foundation and a characteristic ‘jumping’ beat. But his name is mostly, and forever, associated with the big band he led for many years, in some ways the ‘definitive’ band of the big band era and the springboard and foundation for a long list of great singers and soloists including Billie Holiday and Lester Young, and later Ella Fitzgerald and arrangers Quincy Jones and Sammy Nestico.

Basie was the first African-American artist to win a Grammy award, and while a knighthood was never in the cards, a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom brought him level with Duke!

For an Honorable Mention, let’s go with Fletcher Henderson, whose Harlem big band was the gold standard in the late 1920s and early 1930s, before Basie and Duke and Benny Goodman reigned supreme. Henderson’s band featured a young Louis Armstrong for a while, along with Coleman Hawkins and a heady list of other greats. Henderson did not always play piano (his brother Horace often did the honors) but his arrangements and those of Don Redman established the formula of swing music, and brought new levels of complexity and sophistication to the table. Unfortunately his business acumen did not match his musical abilities, and eventually he had to disband the orchestra and join Benny Goodman’s as pianist and arranger. Nevertheless, his influence on jazz was and remains enormous!

Blade#40: Gillette 7 o’clock Green Permasharp, Round 5​

RazoRock M90a, formerly ‘Bateson’​


Have I mentioned how very much I like this razor? I believe it may have come up once or twice, so apologies if I’m repeating myself… But yes, holy smokes, this is a great shaver. And it would seem it, too, gets along well with this marvelous blade! This was a fantastic and eminently *fun* shave no matter how you, ermmm, slice it…

I said we would come back to the subject of women in jazz piano, and for some reason this feels like the right venue, so here we go! Oh, and… Happy International Women’s Day!

There’s just no way around the fact that music, at least in many Western cultures, has been a lamentably male-dominated pursuit for much of its history. There are exceptions – classical orchestras are generally more balanced, though this was not always the case, and women conductors are still a noteworthy exception. In jazz, there are many female singers, but examples of top-drawer instrumental performance have been, until fairly recently, thin on the ground. There are lots of reasons for this, but it’s definitely not because women aren’t or can’t be as good at playing instruments. It’s really more of a sociological thing – the communities this music evolved in were typically quite ‘traditional’ and conservative.

Happily, this has changed significantly in recent years, but it’s still comparatively rare, in my own experience being hired to play club dates or shows, for there to be a female instrumentalist in the lineup. I know a number of them, superb musicians I’d be more than happy to play with anytime, but there are still a lot more men in the field. Hopefully the shift will continue, but history is what it is, and of course my survey of the giants of jazz piano has not, up to now, included a woman.

Time to change that! I’m going to list a bunch of them, but I’ll have to keep the writeups brief. Several of these amazing musicians are or were also important singers, but they are all masters on the instrument and absolutely deserve to be included here.

First up, and with pride of place: The High Priestess of Soul, the one and only Nina Simone. It’s hard to exaggerate her impact on 20th century music, and of course as a singer she is of supreme importance, but she was also a magnificent pianist and brought the same spiritual intensity and dignity to the keyboard. Her classical background is always apparent, but so is her deep, blues-rooted passion and fire. Sadly, she didn’t have the easiest life, but she will not soon be forgotten!

Honorable mentions, in roughly chronological order:

Lil Harding Armstrong, second wife of Louis who played on many of his early recordings and club dates; she also wrote a number of popular pieces, some of which became hits for major artists (Ray Charles! Ringo Starr!) later on.

Mary Lou Williams, a virtuoso who could hold her own with anyone and was an early teacher and mentor to the young geniuses of bebop: Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonius Monk.

Marian McPartland might be best known as the host of the long-running Piano Jazz radio show, but the main reason she was able to bring pretty much every significant jazz pianist in the world on as guests for over 40 years was that she was every bit their peer, and the conversational duets she often played with them, prepared with insights and anecdotes, are among the treasures of the idiom.

Blossom Dearie, another singer who was underappreciated as a pianist (though Bill Evans mentioned her as an influence, which counts for a lot!) because her superb instrumental control was dedicated to providing understated but sublime accompaniment of her own unique voice.

Shirley Horn, another giant among singers who brought sophisticated musicianship to her own accompaniment. By the time I saw her with her trio in Montreal in… she was a revered elder, and a

Carla Bley has described herself as “99% composer and 1% pianist”, and indeed she did not build her career on sheer virtuosity… But she made up for it with profound originality. As the New Yorker put it, “no album by the legendary composer, pianist, and bandleader sounds like anyone else could have created it.”

Patrice Rushen, another multi-faceted artist, was known as much for her Grammy-award-winning R&B singing and songwriting as for her formidable jazz piano credentials. I saw her in concert with an all-star lineup of jazz legends and she more than held her own.

Gerri Allen, one of the founders and leading lights of the MBase creative initiative, played with an astonishing list of the greats of her generation, like Mary Lou Williams before her – and in fact, she played Williams in the Robert Altman film ‘Kansas City’!

Rachel Z, Hiromi and Domi are all important current artists who are carrying the flame forward! Rachel Z’s collaborations with rock and pop icons, alongside serious jazz pedigree; Hiromi’s astonishing virtuosity that rivals the impossible heights of Tatum and Peterson; and Domi’s brilliant, out-of-left-field originality (supported by deep musicianship that belies her age) are all cause for celebration!

No doubt I’ve left many out (Alice Coltrane! Toshiko Akiyoshi! Diana Krall! Norah Jones! Elaine Elias! Lorraine Desmarais! Renee Rosnes! Keiko Matsui! Julia Hülsmann! Aki Takase!), but that’s not a bad primer anyway!
* ooops, I hadn't quite finished one of those paragraphs! Here it is...

Shirley Horn, another giant among singers who brought sophisticated musicianship to her own accompaniment. By the time I saw her with her trio in Montreal in the late 1990's, she was a revered elder, and much like Randy Weston, somehow managed to capture and convey the weight of the whole tradition in every note. It's hard to explain, but if you live with this music for long enough, you know it when you hear it!
Before I move on, I realized I missed one more that should get a mention... Hazel Scott! Born in Trinidad in 1920, she excelled in both jazz, especially blues and boogie-woogie, and classical piano. Enormously popular, she was also a civil rights activist who challenged racial discrimination and segregation in the entertainment industry. She was the first Black American woman to host her own TV show and to perform at Carnegie Hall!

Blade#40: Gillette 7 o’clock Green Permasharp, Round 6​

RazoRock German 37 ‘Thelonius’​


Still going strong, this blade! Another glorious shave… I had been away for a couple of days and hadn’t shaved, so 4 days’ growth needed to be scythed down, and Thelonius was more than up to the task, While I did pick up a couple of minor weepers on the last pass, it was quite comfortable and pleasant, with no irritation or redness, and the alum cleared up the weepers immediately.

Since I’ve written about Monk already, I think it’s a good moment to introduce this razor’s Honorable Mention(s), who all kind of carry Monk’s torch of strangeness underpinned by serious musicianship: Sun Ra, Paul Bley and Cecil Taylor.

I don’t think I can sum up Sun Ra any better than Wikipedia already has: “Le Sony’r Ra, born Herman Poole Blount in 1914 but better known as Sun Ra, was an American jazz composer, bandleader, piano and synthesizer player, and poet known for his experimental music, ‘cosmic’ philosophy, prolific output, and theatrical performances. For much of his career, Ra led The Arkestra, an ensemble with an ever-changing name and flexible line-up… Claiming to be an alien from Saturn on a mission to preach peace, he developed a mythical persona and an idiosyncratic credo that made him a pioneer of Afrofuturism… Though his mainstream success was limited, Sun Ra was a prolific recording artist and frequent live performer, and remained influential throughout his life for his music and persona. He is now widely considered an innovator; among his distinctions are his pioneering work in free improvisation and modal jazz and his early use of electronic keyboards and synthesizers.”

Canadian Paul Bley was mostly associated with the free jazz movement of the 1960s, but before that he had a mainstream career playing with many of the leading lights of the 1950’s, from Charlie Parker, Lester Young and Ben Webster through Charles Mingus, Art Blakey and Jackie McLean. Later, avant-garde experiments with Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman led towards free jazz. Bley somehow managed to be at the center of all these movements, frequently organizing workshops and collectives and spearheading recording initiatives – while also maintaining a prolific output of solo recordings!

Less sci-fi than Sun Ra and more conceptually abstract than Bley, Cecil Taylor is probably one of the the first names on any list of free jazz giants, and rightfully so. He was certainly one of its pioneers and most dedicated and prolific performers. Descriptions of his playing emphasize his percussive approach (“eighty-eight tuned drums”), his “remarkable technique and endurance”, and his “advanced”, “radical”, “original”, and uncompromising “musical vision”. Taylor was also a poet, and that plus his fascination with dance led him to incorporate interdisciplinary elements to his music. Not for everybody, to be sure, but a fascinating character without a doubt, and remarkably successful and influential given how, ermm, challenging his work can be!

Blade#40: Gillette 7 o’clock Green Permasharp, Round 7:​

RazoRock SLOC, formerly ‘Captain Joshua Slocum’​


This was an absolutely wonderful shave, smooth as silk as the SLOC often is, but it took a bit of doing and I think the blade has reached the end, at least for me…

And in the spirit of Captain Slocum, the jazz names I’ve chosen are arranged around a theme: these are the adventurers! Starting with the most fearless of all, the extraordinary Keith Jarrett!

Jarrett has been a influential figure in jazz and classical music since the 1970s. He is known for his solo improvisations, trio recordings (especially with Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette), and his work with Miles Davis and Charles Lloyd. Jarrett’s style is eclectic and original, drawing from various genres and traditions such as baroque, atonal, folk, country, rock, gospel and minimalism. He often creates spontaneous compositions on solo piano without any preconceived themes or structures, such as the famous ‘Köln Concert’ which had a major impact on me as a young musician, leading to several of my own such concerts and recordings – if you search for ‘tobias tinker continuum’ you should come up with some of them!

Honorable mentions:

Chick Corea is one of the most successful musicians on this list – he won 23 Grammy Awards, out of more than 60 nominations! Born Armando Anthony Corea in 1941, he started learning piano at age four and recorded his first album in 1966. He was a classically trained pianist who explored various styles and genres such as bebop, avant-garde, Latin, fusion and rock. Corea was one of the most influential jazz artists of his generation, and wrote a number of oft-played jazz standards including “Spain” and “Armando’s Rhumba”. He also collaborated with Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Gary Burton and Bobby McFerrin (among many others), and led the fusion group Return To Forever.

Don Pullen was a pianist and organist who developed a strikingly individual style that combined blues, bebop, modern jazz and avant-garde elements. Pullen was a versatile and adventurous musician who collaborated with many artists including Charles Mingus, George Adams, David Murray and Don Cherry. He was known for his percussive approach to the piano and his use of unconventional techniques such as playing with his elbows or backs of his hands. I am actually part of a George Adams / Don Pullen tribute project here in Berlin!

Brad Mehldau is a contemporary pianist and composer, a few months older than me (and significantly more famous)… Known for his distinctive style that blends jazz, classical, rock and pop influences, he is without a doubt one of the most important jazz pianists currently active. Mehldau has released more than 30 albums, including solo piano works, trio recordings, and various collaborations with singers and instrumentalists. He is known for bringing his cerebral, polyphonic and harmonically sophisticated improvisational approach to pop tunes (especially by Radiohead and the Beatles) and classical pieces (especially Bach).

Time to move on! New blades, new faces...


Mr. Obvious
I stumbled on your thread a few days ago and I’m all caught up now. I have to say this is the best thread I’ve ever experienced on B&B. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in your side bars I have to go back to see which blade you’re reviewing. Obviously your musical creativity spills over to your writing skills.
I stumbled on your thread a few days ago and I’m all caught up now. I have to say this is the best thread I’ve ever experienced on B&B. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in your side bars I have to go back to see which blade you’re reviewing. Obviously your musical creativity spills over to your writing skills.

Wow, thanks! I'm happy, as usual, that anyone else finds my meanderings and oblique juxtapositions enjoyable! I've learned a lot here on B&B but don't always feel like I'm knowledgeable enough about the shaving arts to make much of a contribution 'on topic' so to speak, so I just kind of let my eclectic brain loose on whatever it fixates on and see where that leads. I'm about 8 or 9 shaves behind now though, I have to catch up... and then look for another subject to wax distracted about!

Blade#41: Gillette Wilkinson Sword​

And so the second half of this journey begins! We’re officially into the back 40 now!

I have to say I was initially confused when I saw ‘Gillette Wilkinson Sword’ branding, as I thought those two brands/companies must be arch-enemies or something, how is this possible?… But apparently it’s a thing. I still don’t quite get it, but at a certain point life is too short to unravel all these sub-plots; sometimes it’s best to just accept things as they are and move on. So away we go.

Round 1: RazoRock Old Type ‘Fats’​


Really lovely shave for a fresh blade! The mild-mannered Fats kept up its end of the bargain and it was smooth sailing throughout. There were a couple of very tiny weepers, hardly even deserving of the name, and they cleaned up immediately. No irritation but a bit of alum sting, and a very slight tenderness to the soft skin on the neck for a little while afterwards, but nothing out of bounds and, for a BBS result on a fresh blade, quite wonderful overall!

We already have a jazz name for this razor, the inimitable Fats Waller, and so we move on to honorable mentions… but in the interests of keeping to a theme, this one is all about (wait for it) taking things in stride!

Born in 1894 in New Brunswick, New Jersey (hey there’s a New Brunswick in Canada, too! And, for that matter, an old Braunschweig here in Germany), James P. Johnson was another pioneer and master of the stride piano style. He was one of the key figures in the evolution of ragtime into jazz, along with Jelly Roll Morton. He was also a prolific songwriter and composer who wrote popular tunes including “Charleston” and “Carolina Shout” as well as symphonic works such as “Yamekraw” and “Harlem Symphony”. He was an important early influence for many of the pianists we’ve already met, including Waller, Duke Ellington, Art Tatum, Thelonious Monk and Count Basie.

Dick Hyman is an American pianist, composer, arranger, and educator who was born in 1927 and is still active today! He is kind of like a living encyclopedia of jazz piano, at home in virtually any style and bringing deep and comprehensive knowledge of the tradition – but is especially known for his mastery of stride. In addition to performing with jazz legends including Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins, he has been the musical director and composer for most of Woody Allen’s films (however one feels about that).

In 1986 or so I saw a remarkable concert called Stride Monster, which featured Dick Hyman and his contemporary and good friend Dick Wellstood, another stride wizard, playing two enormous grand pianos ‘cheek to cheek’, trading dazzling virtuoso solos back and forth… quite an experience for an impressionable young musician! I would definitely not call myself a real stride player by any stretch (ouch!), but it is certainly part of the weird mix of influences I’ve assembled over the decades… it’s just so much fun!

And that’s the kind of thing I think about while shaving with the ‘Old Type’ (which of course isn’t actually old at all)… and of course with Lucy, my New LC, which is nearly as old as a real ‘old type’ Single Ring… or the even older Double Ring… Does anyone else find this stuff confusing?

Blade#41: Gillette Wilkinson Sword, Round 2​

Roman Empire Shaving Caesar ‘Tommy’​


I haven’t shaved with the Caesar for a while now, as it’s been in the travel pouch and I haven’t been travelling… and it’s so similar to the KCG that there’s not so much point having both in rotation. However, I have too many jazz pianists to cover and not enough razors, so I had to bring it out (and will be bringing some of the others currently relegated to travel duty).

Like the KCG it shares DNA with, the Caesar is rather understated – it’s not flashy, and doesn’t inspire superlatives, but it is actually quite a good shaver, and certainly reliable. This blade seems to suit it, and vice versa, so this was quite enjoyable all around. Nothing special, just a good shave with no drama.

In assigning a jazz piano name to this razor, I don’t want to give the impression that these pianists are any less impressive than those I’ve given more splashy associations. However, the three pianists I’ve chosen (yes, three!) are on the understated side, tasteful and solid but supremely musical, and have had a deep impact on the tradition – even if they are less noted for virtuosity or innovation than, say, Art or Bud or Bill.

So, without further ado: Let me introduce Tommy Flanagan, Sonny Clarke and Barry Harris!

Tommy Flanagan (1930 – 2001) grew up in Detroit, where he was influenced by Art Tatum, Teddy Wilson, Nat King Cole, and Bud Powell. He moved to New York City in 1956 where he became a sought-after sideman for singers such as Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Carmen McRae, and Sarah Vaughan. Admired for his elegant touch, lyrical style, and flawless technique, he played on some of the greatest albums of mid-20th-century instrumental jazz, including John Coltrane’s landmark Giant Steps, Sonny Rollins’ masterpiece Saxophone Colossus, Wes Montgomery’s breakthrough The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery, and Charles Mingus’ magnum opus Mingus Ah Um. In later life he focused more on recording and performing as leader, mainly in trio format.

A coal miner’s son from Pennsylvania, Sonny Clark was born in 1931 and died tragically young in 1963 from a heroin overdose. He learned piano from a local teacher and moved to California in 1951 where he played with Oscar Pettiford and Buddy DeFranco. He then headed to New York City in 1957 where, in addition to accompanying singer Dinah Washington, he became an in-demand sideman for a laundry list of hard bop greats including Kenny Burrell, Art Farmer, Donald Byrd, Clifford Jordan, Hank Mobley, Grant Green and John Coltrane. He also led several sessions under his own name which are now considered classics of the genre such as Cool Struttin’, Dial S For Sonny, Sonny’s Crib etc. He was known for his soulful swing, bluesy phrasing, and inventive melodic ideas.

A master of bebop harmony and a virtuoso on the piano, Barry Harris (1929-2021) was deeply influenced by Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk, and played with legends like Cannonball Adderly, Dexter Gordon and Coleman Hawkins. He composed, arranged, and led his own bands, but he also had an enduring passion for teaching. He founded the Jazz Cultural Theatre in New York City, where he welcomed students of all ages and levels to learn the secrets of bebop improvisation. He was revered for his skill, his generosity, and his dedication to keeping the bebop spirit alive.

Blade#41: Gillette Wilkinson Sword, Round 3​

Apollo ‘Art’…​


This was a pretty good shave, despite the usual tricky process of blade alignment on this razor. Looking at it a bit closer, it’s clear that the tolerances are much, much looser than any other razor I own – putting the top cap and base plate together, the posts are simply rattling around in the alignment holes, and it’s much the same situation with the handle on its thread.

So it’s no wonder it’s hard to get the blade seated properly – but conversely, once again, razor and blade seemed to get along just fine despite these issues and it very much *is* a wonder that it shaves as nicely as it does!

That said, I did end up giving myself a bit of a nick – for the first time in ages – under the nose. Not terrible, but it bled throughout the rest of the shave and needed a bit of styptic. Always a bummer but so it goes sometimes!

Otherwise it was a very smooth and comfortable shave…

Since we already have Art Tatum in place for this razor, all that remains is to assign an appropriate Honorable Mention, and this brings us to one of of jazz’s iconoclasts, and an unusual kind of ‘eddy’ in the flow of its river of tradition – despite his innovations and profound influence on his students, he is a bit of a forgotten figure for most. I’m talking about Lennie Tristano.

Born in Chicago in 1919, and blind from childhood, Tristano moved to New York City in 1946 where was initially associated with ‘cool jazz’, a style that emphasized complex harmonies, intricate melodies, and relaxed tempos. He played with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Max Roach, and formed a quintet including his students Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh; this formation is the first known to perform and record fully free group improvisations.

Tristano also experimented – well ahead of his time – with overdubbing and tape manipulation. Some of his most innovative recordings include Intuition (1949), Descent into the Maelstrom (1953, based on the Edgar Allen Poe story), and Turkish Mambo (1955).

Tristano was also an influential teacher who taught jazz improvisation to hundreds of students at his own school and studio; he developed a method that focused on ear training, singing solos by memory, transcribing records etc. Some of his students went on to significant careers in jazz, notably Lee Konitz, Phil Woods and Sheila Jordan.

Tristano died in 1978 but his legacy lives on through his music and his many disciples. While not a household name, and stylistically less accessible than many others in my little survey, he is nonetheless regarded as one of the most original and creative minds in jazz history.

Oh what the heck, how about one more for good measure?

Jaki Byard was a versatile pianist and multi-instrumentalist who could play any style from stride to avant-garde, and frequently mixed various styles in a single tune or solo. He was born in 1922 in Worcester, Massachusetts and started playing piano at age four. He played with many jazz legends over the course of his career, including Charles Mingus, Maynard Ferguson, Eric Dolphy and Roland Kirk.

Byard was also a prolific composer and arranger who wrote original tunes, often laced (like his playing and onstage persona) with a kind of absurd, almost surrealist humor. He died mysteriously from a gunshot wound in 1999 – ruled a homicide, but no weapon or signs of struggle were found and the case has never been solved.

Blade#41: Gillette Wilkinson Sword, Round 4:​

RES Augustus ‘Joe…’​


I thought I’d pull out another less-oft-used razor from the travel kit and dust it off, to give it a christening so to speak. Unfortunately the shave reminded me why I’ve kind of set this one aside – not that it was terrible, but it’s simply not as pleasurable overall as most of the razors I have in primary rotation at this point. It’s a Tech clone, but it doesn’t feel like a very refined one, and it’s a bit rough at times, even with a blade I’m otherwise enjoying. The result was fine, but the experience was less than fully enjoyable. So to be honest I don’t know if I’ll ever use it again – but for now, here we are, so let’s get to it!

Joe is, of course, for Joe Zawinul, founder (along with the recently departed Wayne Shorter) and musical director of Weather Report, the 1970s fusion supergroup. Born in Vienna, Austria in 1932, he started his musical journey on accordion – an instrument I also play, and love! – and eventually became associated with synthesizers, electric pianos and other electronic and electromechanical keyboards – likely more so than anyone else on this list. But when he did play piano (as on early recordings with Cannonball Adderly), it was clear he was a master. No matter what he was playing, as an innovator, composer, bandleader and brilliant soloist and accompanist, he was beloved, widely respected and a huge influence on many, including me!

Honorable mentions, sticking with the ‘J’ theme: the Johns (Lewis, Medeski)…

John Lewis was the founder and musical director of The Modern Jazz Quartet (MJQ), which combined jazz with classical elements such as counterpoint and fugue. He was born in 1920 in La Grange, Illinois and started playing piano at age seven. Classically trained, Lewis was the musical director and principal composer for MJQ. He also wrote scores for films including ‘Odds Against Tomorrow’, ‘No Sun in Venice’, and Derek Jarman’s ‘The Tempest’. His other collaborations include Clifford Brown, Sonny Rollins, and J. J. Johnson. He died in 2001 from prostate cancer.

John Medeski is best known as a member of Medeski Martin & Wood (MMW), a trio that blends jazz, funk, rock and other contemporary idioms. He was born in 1965 in Louisville, Kentucky and started playing piano at age five. He studied classical music at the New England Conservatory of Music but also explored jazz and other genres.

Medeski is a master of many keyboards who often blends acoustic and electric pianos, organ, clavinet, mellotron, Moog synthesizer and so on, sometimes several at a time. Alongside MMW, he has collaborated with John Scofield , John Zorn , Marc Ribot and Béla Fleck, among others. As something of a restless dabbler in many styles and instruments myself, Medeski is a player I’ve always felt a particular kinship with and respect for.

Bonus round: Jonathan Batiste is an American musician, singer, songwriter, bandleader and television personality who has won multiple awards for his jazz-inspired music. He was born into a musical family in Louisiana and started playing drums and piano at a young age; since graduating from Juilliard School he has garnered acclaim for his work as the bandleader for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and for co-composing the score for Pixar’s wonderful jazz-themed hit ‘Soul’ (not to mention playing all the piano parts!). His style is eclectic and incorporates elements of R&B, funk, soul, classical and video game music. In describing his own work, he prefers the term “social music” – intended to bring people together and inspire positive change.

Blade#41: Gillette Wilkinson Sword, Round 5​

RazoRock Teck II ‘Oscar’​


This was a bit of a rematch of the battle of the Tech clones, and the results have only confirmed what I had already concluded: this is a much better razor, for me, than the Augustus (‘Joe’). It’s both milder and more effective with the same blade, to even though the blade has had more use. It’s still remarkably mild and gentle, but gets the job done and is just more enjoyable across the board. I’m even willing to admit that I rather like it’s strange, immense, smooth, pear-shaped handle.

The blade is getting close to the end, maybe one more, depends how I feel. The urge to move on is getting stronger! Almost time to leave India behind! It’s largely been great, I have to say!

So, what more can I say about Oscar? Not much… I did however recently watch a fun video, from the ever-entertaining-and-informative YouTuber Rick Beato, called ‘the greatest solo every played’, and while that is obviously a clickbait-y title it’s still worth watching because it showcases both Oscar’s ridiculous virtuosity and his extraordinary versatility. And Rick does a creditable job of explaining why it’s all so remarkable. Easy to find with a Google search, and worth a few minutes of any music fan’s time!

Next item of business: a couple of carefully chosen honorable mentions!

Peterson himself was quoted at one point as follows: “If I had to choose the best all-around pianist of anyone who’s followed me chronologically, unequivocally … I would say Phineas Newborn, Jr.”

Newborn was born in 1931 in Whiteville, Tennessee. He came from a musical family: his father was a blues drummer, his brother was a guitarist, and he himself started playing piano at an early age. He moved to Memphis in 1949 and became part of the local jazz scene.

In addition to Oscar, Newborn was heavily influenced by Art Tatum and Bud Powell, and developed a virtuosic technique and a distinctive style that combined blues and gospel elements with bebop and swing. He recorded numerous albums as a leader and as a sideman for artists such as Lionel Hampton, Charles Mingus, Roy Haynes, and Sonny Rollins.

Newborn’s career was hampered by mental health issues and physical injuries that affected his ability to perform. He spent some time in hospitals and clinics, and had periods of inactivity, finally passing away in 1989 at the age of 57. Despite his personal struggles, he left behind a legacy of brilliant recordings that showcase his mastery.

Like Peterson, Oliver Jones grew up in Montreal’s Little Burgundy. He started playing piano at the age of three and studied with Daisy Peterson Sweeney – Oscar’s sister! A child prodigy, he went on to have his first nightclub appearance by the time he was nine. Of Barbadian descent, in the mid-sixties Jones accepted a position as musical director for a calypso orchestra that took him to Puerto Rico, and he didn’t pursue a jazz career per se until his return to Canada in 1980.

Dr. Jones (middle name Theophilus!) has since recorded over 20 albums as a leader and performed around the world, and was the subject of the documentary ‘Oliver Jones: Mind Hands Heart’. He has won numerous awards and honors for his contributions to jazz and Canadian culture, including (wait for it) the Oscar Peterson Award!

I love it when a story comes full circle…

Blade#41: Gillette Wilkinson Sword, Round 6​

Maxon mystery machine​


I’ve taken this razor out of main rotation because it’s really quite similar to the KCG (‘Nat’) and, even more, the RazoRock M90a (‘Nina’), and because as a pretty cheaply made knock-off of the latter I feel like it’s kind of redundant… but in fact, it’s really quite a good shaver! And this was really quite an enjoyable shave!

It’s a good deal heavier than Nina, about the same as Nat but the handle is a bit thinner and grippier, and the head a bit chunkier. I still don’t love it for a seriously close shave, and today I accepted a DFS+ rather than pushing through to BBS and in general I think that’s not a bad approach. The result is really good though, and the absence of any blood or irritation is a big plus!

The blade appointed itself pretty well for a 6th shave, but I think it’s time to quit while I’m ahead and move on!
Meanwhile… we need names, and I’ve got a nice crop of them lined up – all starting with the letter M! I do like a pattern…

In pole position: Mulgrew, for Mulgrew Miller!

Born in 1955 in Greenwood, Mississippi, Miller started playing piano at age six and was influenced by gospel music and later by jazz musicians such as Ramsey Lewis and McCoy Tyner. He studied music at Memphis State University and joined the Duke Ellington Orchestra in 1977.

Miller became one of the most influential and versatile pianists of his generation, playing with a wide range of artists including Art Blakey, Woody Shaw, Betty Carter, Tony Williams, Ron Carter and recording over 20 albums as a leader. He was known for his soulful sound, clarity of touch, rhythmic aplomb, and harmonic sophistication.

Honorable mentions:

Monty Alexander is a Jamaican-born jazz pianist who has been active since the 1960s. He is known for his rhythmic approach and melodic and harmonic inventiveness, as well as his fusion of blues and bebop with Caribbean music. He has recorded over 70 albums as a leader and collaborated with artists such as Frank Sinatra, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, Milt Jackson, and Ernest Ranglin.

Mal Waldron played with legends like Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, Billie Holiday and Eric Dolphy, and composed several jazz standards, including ‘Soul Eyes’. He suffered a heroin-related breakdown in 1963 that affected his memory and playing ability, but he recovered gradually. He moved to Europe in the late 60s, and continued to record and perform until his death in 2002. He was known for his distinctive style, emphasizing dissonant chord voicings and repeated motifs.

Mose Allison was a pianist and singer known for blending jazz and blues with witty and subtly ironic lyrics. He started his career as a piano accompanist for various saxophonists in New York in 1956, and then began recording as a leader for Prestige Records. His songs have been covered by Pete Townsend, John Mayall, the Clash, Leon Russel, and Bonnie Raitt… and perhaps most obliquely of all, he was apparently the inspiration for one of my favorite songs by the Pixies, ‘Allison’!

One of my favorite jazz piano albums of comparatively recent vintage is Marcus Roberts’ ‘Alone with Three Giants’, featuring the compositions of Duke, Monk and Jelly Roll Morton. Roberts was born in Jacksonville, Florida in 1963 and became blind at age five due to glaucoma and cataracts. Known for his mastery of various jazz styles, from ragtime to swing to modern jazz, he was associated with the Marsalis family and played on a number of classic Wynton records. He founded his own band, The Modern Jazz Generation in 2012.

Michel Legrand was a French musical composer, arranger, conductor and jazz pianist who wrote over 200 film and television scores, as well as many songs. He was born in Paris in 1932 and studied at the Conservatoire de Paris with Nadia Boulanger. Though much better known for his compositional output, winning 3 Oscars for his film work, he was also a superb pianist and worked with legends like Stan Getz, Miles Davis and Sarah Vaughan.

Michel Petrucciani was a French jazz pianist and composer who overcame a rare genetic disease that caused brittle bones and short stature. He was born in Orange, France in 1962 and started playing piano at age four, and was influenced in particular by Bill Evans. Known for his loose, playful and accessible style and his extraordinary virtuosity, he died in New York City in 1999 at the age of 36. Constantly striving to improve, Petrucciani was once quoted as saying that it was “too bad I can’t live another year, I would have been much better!”

Blade#42: Treet Carbon​

And so we move on… to Pakistan! A place I’ve never been, though I did spend some time very close to the border with India – in and around Jaisalmer, a small fort city in western Rajasthan that is atmospheric beyond description (seriously, just do a quick image search and feast your eyes, it’s stunning). I was so taken with the area that I named two tracks on my first solo album ‘Passage’ after it: ‘Jaisalmer’, and ‘Thar’, the name of the surrounding desert where I spent a glorious week riding camels and sleeping under the stars… I digress, but really, it’s deeply beautiful. Pakistan also has a big slice of the high Himalayas, so there’s that connection too (my own Himalayan adventure was in India, in the Khumbu region around Everest base camp).

The Treet Group of companies, in operation since 1952, makes a range of blades from classic carbon steel (like this one) to modern coated stainless, alongside a variety of disposables and other hygiene and pharmaceutical products… and they have a very slick website should anyone want to learn more!

This blade comes double-wrapped, in branded paper outer and plain inner, with a few discreet dots of wax on the blade. Which is black! (The blade, not the wax)… It took me by surprise, and I have to say I think it looks quite good, and unique.
Intrepid readers may recall that my first experience with a carbon steel blade was not a great one… in fact, the Tatra CS remains the worst blade I’ve ever used! I can’t say unequivocally whether it was just a bad blade or whether it was representative of the type, but suffice to say that the Treet is another animal entirely.

Round 1: Leresche 51 ‘Ahmad’​


This was not the most perfect shave I’ve had with this razor, but that is a very high bar, and it was still pretty sublime. No weepers, no irritation per se but a *very* slight ‘scraped’ feeling, not unpleasant but I have to dock a point since I know what the razor can do at its best. Is the blade just not quite as sharp? Or will it be better on round 2 as some blades are? Only one way to find out.

Meanwhile. I’m getting very close to the end of the jazz piano journey, and this one needs a new Honorable Mention since I moved McCoy to another venue. And this is a nice moment since I get to introduce someone special: Wynton Kelly!

I love Wynton’s playing because it’s never flashy, just consummately musical, with a wonderful bluesy feel and a lively touch; the result is a unique kind of magic that makes him one of those players I can identify in a few seconds, whether it’s his work with Miles Davis, or one of his own trio recordings, or the sublime Full House, a Wes Montgomery album that is a ‘desert island’ record for me and, I suspect, rather a lot of jazz musicians.

Wynton died tragically young, following an epileptic siezure in Toronto – just a few months after I was born there – but was much loved by those who knew him and highly rated by musicians and critics alike (“the best accompanist in jazz”… “a crisp, leaping rhythmic blues approach that generated intense excitement”… “happy sounding all the time… Always sparkling”… “a taut sense of timing quite unlike anyone else except his many imitators”).

What the heck, I’m on a roll, let’s add another understated, impeccably tasteful and sophisticated player: the great Hank Jones! A prolific and versatile jazz pianist, bandleader, arranger and composer who spanned the swing and bebop eras with elegance and grace, his early influences included the by-now familiar Earl Hines, Fats Waller, Teddy Wilson, and Art Tatum. Jones went on to work with Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Cannonball Adderley and Wes Montgomery – as well as his brothers Thad and Elvin. His recordings amount to more than 60 albums under his own name and with his longstanding project the Great Jazz Trio, along with countless others as a sideman. He was born in Mississippi in 1918 and died in New York in 2010.

Blade#42: Treet Carbon, Round 2:​

Lord L6…​


It’s been a while since I cracked this razor out, as it’s very similar to the KCG and the Caesar. But as mentioned, I’m running out of razors and keep adding jazz pianists, so here we are.

This was a pretty good shave (I used the Amici brush for a bit of variety). I do think that a) the L6 is maybe not quite as refined a version of what it is as the other 81-style razors I have, and b) the blade is maybe also a bit less smooth than I’m accustomed to. It’s not bad, it certainly gets the job done, but I will have to try it with something I know to be super gentle – so far I’m finding it a tiny bit rough. Accordingly, I decided not to push through to BBS and settled for a good solid DFS, still very close but not obsessively so, and was happy with the result.

Let’s start with an L: Lyle Mays, pianist and co-founder of the Pat Metheny Group with guitarist Pat Metheny and a major early influence on me due to their prominence in the 1980s when, as a teenager, I was beginning my own journey into improvisation and jazz. Lyle’s compositions and unique melodic approach contributed greatly to the group’s distinctive sound and style.

Mays also released several solo albums, with a number of Grammy nominations between them – including a win (to add to those from his work with Metheny) for his last, Eberhard – a tribute to the bassist and composer Eberhard Weber, long a favorite of mine (his longtime pianist, Rainer Bruninghaus, also counts among my early influences). Mays also collaborated with Joni Mitchell, Rickie Lee Jones, Earth Wind & Fire, Toots Thielemans and Mark Isham. He died in 2020 at the age of 66.

As for honorable mentions… hmmm, there are not a lot of other great L pianists to be found, and we’ve already got M well covered… what about K? Let’s meet the Kennys!

Besides being a superb, accomplished and influential pianist, Kenny Werner is probably best known for his book Effortless Mastery: Liberating The Master Musician Within, which explores the philosophy and practice of musical freedom. It was a major book for me and unlocked things at a very formative time in my personal and musical development.

Kenny Kirkland played with various jazz and pop artists such as Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Dizzy Gillespie and Kenny Garrett… but perhaps most famously, he plays on Sting’s first, legendary post-Police album, Dream Of The Blue Turtles, which was a big one for me back in the day. Known for his virtuosity, versatility, creativity and rhythmic drive, he died tragically of heart failure in 1998 at the age of 43.

Born in 1943 in Philadelphia (like a remarkable number of jazz piano greats!) and active since the 1960s, Kenny Barron has played with Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Charlie Haden and Buddy Rich, among many others, and is still going strong! He has also recorded over 40 albums as a leader, and is considered one of the most influential pianists of his generation.

Kenny Drew played with many bebop and hard bop legends such as Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins, John Coltrane and Dexter Gordon, and recorded several albums as a leader for labels such as Blue Note, Riverside and SteepleChase. He moved to Europe in 1961 and settled in Copenhagen, where he became a prominent figure on the jazz scene. He died of cancer in 1993.

Finally, not a Kenny but a Benny: Benny Green was born in 1963 and started playing professionally at the age of 15. He was a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and has also worked with Betty Carter, Freddie Hubbard, Christian McBride and Oscar Peterson (in an unusual two-piano quartet formation!). He is known for his hard-swinging style and his mastery of the bop and straight-ahead jazz traditions, as well as being a noted authority on Art Tatum.

Blade#42: Treet Carbon, Round 3:​

Gillette Slim 1963 ‘Bud’​


Well, it’s not *necessarily* super mild, but the Slim certainly *can be* as mild as you like, so let’s see how it goes. I started on a very conservative 5, which is already on the gentle side by some people’s standards, and it managed my 2 days’ growth without much protest… then 3 for the second pass, and finally 1, which is truly about as mild as a razor could be and still do anything at all. In fact it didn’t do enough, and I set it to 2 for a final once-over, which got me very nearly to BBS but took quite some doing.

In its favor, no blood and not a trace of irritation – no alum sting at all! – so that’s in the plus column. That seems to be the tradeoff with this blade – it can do close and mild if you’ve got time and patience, but if you rush it with a more assertive razor it’s a bit scratchy. I’ll press on with it for one more and see how that feels.

Meanwhile, let’s add another couple of Honorable Mentions here: two slightly more obscure figures (though still important and influential!), Elmo Hope and Herbie Nichols.

Elmo Hope (born St. Elmo Sylvester Hope) was active in the bebop and hard bop genres from the 1940s to the 1960s. He grew up in New York City with his childhood friend Bud Powell, and was also close to Thelonious Monk, with the three friends influencing each other profoundly. He survived being shot by police as a teenager and went on to record with some of the leading jazz musicians of his time, including Clifford Brown, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Jackie McLean.

However, Hope’s career was hampered by his heroin addiction and legal troubles that prevented him from performing in New York clubs. He moved to Los Angeles in 1957, where he collaborated with Harold Land and Lionel Hampton (among others), but returned to New York in 1961. He died in 1967 at the age of 43 from pneumonia and heart failure. Hope was well regarded by his peers and composed a number of highly complex and original tunes, but he remained largely overshadowed by his more famous peers and never achieved widespread recognition or popularity.

Also born in New York City, in 1919 to parents from the Caribbean, Herbert Horatio Nichols grew up in Harlem. He was well versed in various styles of jazz, but was most interested in developing his own original and eclectic approach that combined elements of bop, Dixieland, Caribbean music with advanced harmonies drawn from European composers like Satie and Bartók.

Like Hope, he knew Thelonious Monk quite well and participated in the Harlem sessions that led to the development of bebop; he is also known as the composer of the popular jazz standard “Lady Sings the Blues”. However, Nichols was largely ignored by critics and audiences during his lifetime. He recorded only four albums as a leader, featuring some of his 170 compositions, and died of leukemia in 1963 at the age of 44 – but his music was later rediscovered and he is now considered an overlooked genius.

Blade#42: Treet Carbon, Round 4:​

Gillette Flare-tip Rocket ‘Bill’​


In keeping with what we’ve learned about this blade, I decided to give it another spin with a really good but very mild razor – but but not an adjustable this time. ‘Bill’ fit the bill! (I’m getting worse, I know).

It took some work on the first pass to get through the tough areas, especially around the chin, confirming that this blade is just not super-sharp. I know it’s 4 shaves in but still; I’ve had blades still feel like light sabers at this point. The Treet is not among them, but I have to say, after 3 full passes I’m baby smooth without a hint of irritation, and the process was quite enjoyable!

So while I think it’s time to move on – there are more Treets in store and I’m impatient to sample them – I have to say this has given a pretty good account of itself, especially given my skepticism about carbon steel blades going in. Plus, it looks great, if anyone cares about that!

I feel like last time Dave Brubeck got tacked on at the end of a long post, so I’m going to give him a bit more time here, and then add another honorable mention or two, since we’re getting close to the end of the jazz zone and there are a few greats left to touch on.

Born in 1920, Brubeck was one of the leading figures of the cool jazz movement, which emphasized a more relaxed and lyrical style of jazz. He also experimented with different musical genres, such as classical, folk and world music, and incorporated elements of atonality and west coast jazz. He formed the famous Dave Brubeck Quartet in 1951, which featured saxophonist Paul Desmond. Besides the already mentioned ‘Take Five’, other popular Brubeck compositions include ‘Blue Rondo à la Turk’ and ‘Unsquare Dance’. In addition to numerous honors and awards, he also has a minor celestial body named after him! (main belt asteroid 5079 Brubeck).

Another HM: Clare Fischer, a pianist, organist, composer and arranger who had a prolific career in jazz, pop, and classical music. With a particular interest in Brazilian jazz, Fischer worked with Cal Tjader and George Shearing, and composed Latin jazz standards such as “Morning” and “Pensativa”. He was a major influence on Herbie Hancock, who said “I wouldn’t be me without Clare Fischer”, and was often compared with Bill Evans due to similarities in their styles. He also arranged for pop and R&B artists such as Prince, Paul McCartney, Chaka Khan, and Michael Jackson.

Speaking of Brazilian jazz, we would be remiss not to spend a few moments on its most important composer (one of the greatest of any genre, really) and a wonderful pianist to boot, the one and only Antonio Carlos Jobim! One of the creators of bossa nova, a fusion of samba and jazz, his many compositions are both classics of Brazilian music and among the most beloved and oft-played jazz standards; they include “The Girl from Ipanema”, “Desafinado”, “Corcovado” and “Wave” as well as my personal favorite, the poetic ‘Waters of March’. Jobim collaborated with Stan Getz, João and Astrud Gilberto, and Frank Sinatra, and also composed music for films, including the magnificent Orfeu Negro, a.k.a. Black Orpheus – a retelling of the Orpheus legend set in Rio di Janeiro during Carnaval that was a favorite of my father’s.

Finally: of Lebanese and Sicilian descent, Egberto Gismonti was born and grew up in Brazil, later studying in France – classical piano with the great Nadia Boulanger, and composition with Jean Barraqué, who encouraged him to incorporate Brazilian sounds and influences in his work. A multi-instrumentalist (on guitar, accordion, flute and other instruments) like myself, he combines jazz, classical and Brazilian music in his eclectic style and compositions. His exuberant and virtuosic solo piano concerts are another point of connection, and an influence for me personally.

Blade #43: Treet ‘7 Days’ Platinum​

Another attractive blade, double wrapped in paper like its carbon sibling…

Round 1: Gillette New LC ‘Jelly Roll’​


… It’s a fair bit sharper though! First pass was excellent, smooth and effective. However, I ended up with weepers here and there after the second and third, and alum sting was in effect… Also, although there wasn’t much irritation after the fact, there was a fair bit of redness. I feel like using this razor on an unknown blade is ill-advised and a risk I won’t take again; I think it might be a better plan to start with something I know to be mild and easygoing, and I’ll choose accordingly next time.

I hadn’t begun adding ‘honorable mentions’ last time out, so let’s make up for lost time with some other early giants:

First up, Willie ‘The Lion’ Smith! Born William Henry Joseph Bonaparte Bertholf (!) in 1893 in Goshen, New York, he earned his nickname ‘The Lion’ for his bravery during World War I, where he served as a drum major for his unit. He was one of the most influential and flamboyant pianists of the Harlem stride scene in the 1920s and 1930s, and a major early influence on Duke Ellington. His original stride compositions include ‘Echoes of Spring’, ‘Rippling Waters’ and the aptly named ‘Finger Buster’, and he recorded extensively for various labels, including Decca, Commodore and Enja. He also wrote his memoirs, ‘Music On My Mind’, in 1965 and toured Europe several times before his death in 1973.

Eubie Blake was born in 1887 in Baltimore, Maryland. He started playing piano at a young age and performed in brothels, saloons and vaudeville shows. He formed a successful partnership with singer and lyricist Noble Sissle, with whom he wrote Shuffle Along, one of the first Broadway musicals written and directed by African Americans. Blake’s compositions included popular favorites like ‘I’m Just Wild About Harry’, ‘Love Will Find a Way’, ‘Memories of You’ and the ‘Charleston Rag’. He recorded extensively for various labels and continued to perform until his late nineties! He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1981 and died in 1983.

Finally, if we’re going back to the roots of jazz with this one (my oldest razor), let’s go all the way. Though his music predates jazz per se, and for obvious reasons we know much more about him as a composer than a performer, his influence cannot be overstated: ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm round of applause for the King Of Ragtime, Scott Joplin!

Born in 1867 or 1868 in Texas, Joplin learned to play the piano as a child and studied music with local teachers. He traveled throughout the Midwest as an itinerant musician, performing at various venues and events, including the World’s Columbian Exposition (a.k.a. the Chicago World’s Fair) in 1893. He eventually settled in Sedalia, Missouri, in 1894 and began publishing his compositions in 1895.

Joplin achieved fame and success with his ‘Maple Leaf Rag’ in 1899, which became the most popular and influential ragtime piece of all time; in addition to over 40 original rags including ‘The Entertainer’, ‘Elite Syncopations’ and ‘The Easy Winners’, he also composed a ragtime ballet, ‘The Ragtime Dance’, and two operas, ‘A Guest of Honor’ and ‘Treemonisha’. The latter was a pioneering work that featured an African American heroine and a message of education and empowerment for Black people. However, Joplin’s more serious works were not well received during his lifetime and he struggled to find recognition and support for his ambitious musical vision.

After moving to New York City in 1907, he continued to compose and publish ragtime pieces, but also experimented with more complex and sophisticated forms of music. He wrote an instruction book, ‘The School of Ragtime’, in which he explained his musical ideas and techniques. He also made some piano rolls that captured his style of playing, though no recorded examples exist.

Joplin’s health deteriorated in his final years due to syphilis, which affected his mental and physical abilities. He died in 1917 in a mental institution. His music was largely forgotten after his death, as ragtime was eclipsed by jazz and other musical styles. However, it experienced a revival in the 1970s, thanks to the efforts of scholars, performers and enthusiasts; his ragtime pieces were also featured in the film ‘The Sting’, which won an Academy Award for its score, and Joplin was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for his contribution to American music.

Among the young people his music reached as a result of this renewed interest was, of course, me! I played several of his pieces in piano recitals when I was young, and I still love to play and listen to his music today! I like to think of Joplin and ragtime as the ‘gateway drug’ that led me to jazz…
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