Forget "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon." In New Orleans, it's more fun to play three degrees of David Torkanowsky.
As a piano player and band leader, Torkanowsky is equally comfortable pushing the edges of jazz, funk, blues and rhythm and blues. Aside from his solo projects, Torkanowsky has collaborated with so many musical legends — Irma Thomas, Allen Toussaint, Danny Barker, Earl Turbington, Tony DaGradi, George Porter Jr., Zigaboo Modeliste, Dianne Reeves and Errol Garner, among them — that he now enjoys his own legendary patina.
Torkanowsky's five-decade musical career began before he was born. His father was maestro of the New Orleans Symphony for more than decade, and his mother — a flamenco dancer — performed in Spain with the great Carmen Amaya.
Torkanowsky eschews being called a "pianist." That word, he says, pertains more to people who can handle Chopin and Liszt. But he has made his own imprint on jazz as a piano player, beginning well before his training at the Berklee School of Music in Boston. Torkanowsky says Berklee taught him a lot. But, he says, the real masters who schooled him in the art of performance were home-grown right here in New Orleans.
"The reason this music was born here is because this was the nexus of culture," Torkanowsky says. "This is the place where the confluence of African and European musics happened. That's what jazz is. So, in my own upbringing, I had a confluence of African rhythm and European melody and harmony in my own house... so maybe bringing that to the table is what made people say, 'Oh man; white boy can play.'"
Music Inside Out is proud to feature David Torkanwosky as our first guest on this special preview episode. Tune in each Thursday at 1 p.m., with an encore performance each Saturday at noon, starting July 26.
Only on your public radio station — 89.9 WWNO.
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Giogio Ciompi, Werner Torkanowsky, George Koutzen, Herman Chessid
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Trombone Shorty featuring Lenny Kravtiz
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Up in Erroll's Room
This episode of Music Inside Out was produced by: Jason Rhein, Lynette Johnson, Brigid McCarthy, Jenni Lawson, Sean Collins and Jason Saul.