on Folk & Beyond
Thursday, March 14, 2013
4 pm (edt)
The ever prolific Art Wheeler will stop by during the first hour of Folk & Beyond Thursday, March 14, to share a few of the recordings he has made over the decades with some of Central Virginia's finest musicians; including John D'Earth, Robert Jospe and Mike Brecker. We might even delve into his collaboration on Freyda Epstein's final recordings.
Art has played keyboards since 1965 and loves music in all styles. He naturally gravitates toward jazz, especially New Orleans style jazz, Memphis and Chicago blues, African-American gospel, Afro-Cuban and salsa music. He studies and plays everything from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, Arensky to Zemlinsky, Aleatory to Zydeco i.e. Gershwin, Kern, Bach, Mozart, Chopin, and Beethoven; indeed, he was advertised by Aer Stephen (WTJU) as the most diverse musician in the world. Art began his love of music as a child and began playing in prominent Tidewater bands such as The Wild Kingdom and Headstone Circus at the age of fourteen. His primary instrument is keyboard/piano but he began his career as a musician performing on harmonica while singing and dancing and now plays thirteen instruments which include guitar, bass, and drums. Art was accepted into the North Carolina School of the Arts also known as the ‘Juilliard of the South.’ Art teaches privately in Charlottesville and surrounding areas seven days a week. He has taught and/or played in more than one-thousand venues including nine-hundred homes over the past thirty-five years. During Art’s forty-five year musical career, he has played with greats such as Donny Gerrard* from the band Skylark whose top ten hit was Wildflower and produced and composed an album for Grammy nominee Guitar Slim, Jr. One of Art’s proudest achievements is accompanying the great Robert ‘Jos’ Jospe and the incomparable jazz saxophonist Mike Brecker.
Art has enjoyed many privileges over the years. He has been invited to perform for five presidents and The Supreme Court, and was invited to perform with James Brown and Aretha Franklin. Art lectured on the history of blues and jazz piano at the University of Virginia, improvised live accompaniment for silent films at the Virginia Festival of American Film, and playing gospel music in African-American churches everywhere from Charlottesville, Virginia to Selma, Alabama to Los Angeles, California where he was dubbed ‘The King of Gospel Keyboards.’
At the invitation of Jessica Lange, Art composed and performed piano, harmonica, and guitar (as well as off-camera clarinet for Tommy Lee Jones) in the movie Blue Sky for which Jessica Lange won an Oscar.
Art composed the orchestral score for a new musical presentation of Aesop’s Fables, in collaboration with Paul Reisler and Tom Paxton. This work was accepted by Lorin Maazel** former conductor of the New York Philharmonic and performed at Mr. Maazel’s personal theater along with Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf.
Art composed the music for the PBS documentary, In The Fullness of Time, a documentary about Rebecca McInnis, a 107-year old vitally influential African American in Charlottesville, Virginia. While in L.A. to record and play with Donny Gerrard, Art was invited to play in scores of African American churches. After hearing the inventiveness and creativity of so many ingenious keyboardists in the churches who could take the simplest of songs like Amazing Grace and make it sound like a new work by changing the harmonies in ways unknown to the average musician, Art was inspired to create THE POLYPHONY EPIPHANY - 1107 Modulations from C to A Minor. This incomparable 3.5 hour work will be available in March 2013 and will change the palette of color for harmonic creativity and provide infinite new possibilities for chordal accompaniment.
Art has written the blues-tempered clavier which is a history of blues from ‘moanin’ to the present which begins with a guesstimate of how that post-1619 enslaved African American culture moaned and sang through their grief. It then evolves into twenty-one of the most important blues riffs then begets twenty-four of the most important barrelhouse piano styles, then generates an original blues written in the style of every significant jazz pianist from Scott Joplin, Jellyroll Morton, James P. Johnson, Fats Waller, and Art Tatum to the present. Art has distilled the history of music from bowstring to any thing and hopes to continue teaching and playing for the rest of his life.