Some of my favorite performance experiences, more or less in chronological order:
I shared the stage with Count Basie when I was 14 and a freshman in high school. We played at the dedication of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. There were three big bands playing on this program (one of numerous programs over several days), one high school band (my group from Notre Dame HS), one college band (I think it was Towson State?) and one band led by that famous 'Kid from Redbank', (Basie).
I played "Rhapsody in Blue" with my Wind Ensemble in my senior year of high school. (...didn't every pianist play that piece in high school?)
Sometime back in the early eighties, I played with a pops orchestra in a concert that featured Henry Mancini. Midway through the concert, Henry took over the piano bench so he could play some solo piano (he played "Moon River" among other things and sounded great!). I got a huge kick out of playing "The Baby Elephant Walk" while Mr. Mancini (standing right beside the piano) was conducting. I have a special fondness for "The Baby Elephant Walk" because it was one of two pieces that I learned that was not part of my regular lesson material (zzzzz) when I was approximately 12 years old. The other one was of course, "Giant Steps". Oops, that's not right, it was "Alley Cat".
I recorded an LP with a jazz/fusion group called the Numa Band in 1979. At the time, it was a big deal that ours was one of the first recordings made using this revolutionary new stereo digital recorder made by Mitsubishi. I remember that the machine was quite large. In fact, I think that same company now makes 4-door motor vehicles that are smaller.
One muggy night in August of 1980, I was playing for a lavish backyard wedding reception. I was on a break, standing beside the bandleader, both of us were looking longingly at the beautiful large pool. He reached into his wallet and offered me $50...then quickly changed his mind and offered $20 - if I would jump in the pool. I kicked off my shoes and in I went. To his credit, the bandleader, Dick Judson, paid me the $20 he had taunted me with. I played the final set in my totally drenched tuxedo.
In 1981, I played for Rich Fudoli on his record called "Getting Hooked on Rich Fudoli". Rich is a one-of-a-kind sax/flute/clarinet player, who was my mentor for several years.
I toured with a terrific jazz vocal group called the Arbors on and off for several years.
I played and conducted for Anita Baker for an appearace she made at the annual Michael Jordan Foundation fundraiser in 1994.
My hands make a cameo appearance in the movie "Curly Sue". In this flick, Jim Belushi is playing the piano while Kelly Lynch is seated beside him. According to the instructions of John Hughes, I worked out the logistics of the piano arrangement of the song Jim was to be playing ("Your Nobody 'til Somebody Loves You") and demonstrated to Jim and Kelly when, in the arrangement, Jim was to reach his arm around her. I was also the hand double for Jim and can be seen playing in two very brief cutaways.
I appeared for about two seconds in the movie "My Best Friend's Wedding" as the waiter in the seafood restaurant who is moved to sit down and play the piano. Additionally, it is my piano track that is in the movie during the singing of "I Say a Little Prayer for You". I am actually listed in the credits as the "Crabhouse pianist".
I played at home and on the road on and off for about four years for "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" (most notably with Donny Osmond).
I spent a year on the road as associate conductor with Disney's "Beauty and the Beast".
I played for the world premiere of a musical version of "The Ballad of Little Jo" written by Sara Schlesinger and Mike Reid at the Steppenwolf Theatre. Mike is well known for having penned the songs "Too Soon to Tell" and "I Can't Make You Love Me" that were huge hits for Bonnie Raitt.
I played for the world premiere of "The Visit" (by Kander and Ebb) that appeared at the Goodman Theatre in late summer of 2001.
In the summer of 2000, I played with an elite group of musicians called the Chicago Chamber Musicians on a piece called "Gnarly Buttons" by John Adams.
I played for the world premiere of a new opera by Philip Glass called "Galileo Galilei" at the Goodman Theatre (July 2002). I wrote a Glass-inspired arrangement of "Giant Steps" called "Glass Steps" which I had the huge pleasure of playing for Philip.
2001-2002...I recorded my self-titled debut CD, which you can read about here.
Please don't tickle the baby!
This photo was taken before I had kicked the thumb habit