Three Degrees of David Torkanowsky

Feb 21, 2013

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.'"

An updated line up of Torkanowsky's band Fleur Debris — featuring Zigaboo Modeliste, George Porter, Jr., Nicholas Peyton and a special guest — will play the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in May, 2013.

Want to get in touch with David? Send him an e-mail through WWOZ, or find him on Facebook.

Music Playlist

James Booker

Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most
David Torkanowsky

Conflict of Color
David Torkanowsky

The Whole Truth
David Torkanowsky

Henry Purcell Trio Sonatas: Sonata in F Major, (Golden Sonata) No. 9 Allegro-Adagio-Canzona (Allegro) - Grave-Allegro
Giogio Ciompi, Werner Torkanowsky, George Koutzen, Herman Chessid

Paco de Lucia

Steppin' Out
David Torkanowsky

David Torkanowsky

The Queen is a Slave to No Man
David Torkanowsky

David Torkanowsky

Foxy Roxy
Astral Project

Whole Lotta of Lovin'
Trombone Shorty featuring Lenny Kravtiz

Mr. Old Man, Why You Keep Complaining?
Shamar Allen

Sheltein the Rain
Irma Thomas

When I Take My Baby to Tea
Jeremy Davenport

Mardi Gras
Fleur Debris

Just Kissed My Baby
Fleur Debris

Up in Erroll's Room
Erroll Garner

Monk's Dream
Fleur Debris

James Booker

Forty Acres and a Mule
Oscar Brown Jr.

This episode of Music Inside Out was produced by: Jason Rhein, Lynette Johnson, Brigid McCarthy, Jenni Lawson, Sean Collins and Jason Saul.