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Johnny O'Neal

In the Hollywood film “Ray,” Ray Charles, played by Jamie Foxx, goes to a nightclub to see legendary Toledo jazz pianist Art Tatum played by Johnny O’Neal. During filming, O’Neal played three or four songs, although only one “Yesterdays” made it to the silver screen.

“That was a real honor for me, and for Toledo audiences, to play the part of Tatum—one of the greatest pianists ever.” A lot of people asked Johnny what Tatum record he was playing along with. “I was playing live! That was me,” he said. Following the success of “Ray”, the Ray Charles Band asked Johnny to take the piano chair for its major venue tour in 2005. This band is just the latest to seek Johnny’s talents.

Johnny’s enormous musical gifts were immediately apparent to jazz icon Ray Brown and led to his 1983 debut album “Coming Out”. Stints with Ray Brown, Milt Jackson and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers soon followed.

Johnny has been tapped for appearances by Ray Brown, Milt Jackson, Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Pass, Nancy Wilson, Anita O’Day, Lionel Hampton, Kenny Burrell, Sonny Stitt, Benny Golson, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, and Clark Terry, among others. Performances on the festival circuits in Europe, Australia, Japan and a recent tour of South Africa have gained Johnny an international following.

“Johnny is outstanding in his ability to interpret a wide range of material with ease and sensitivity,” according to Parkwood Records’ Hugh Leal. This versatility was showcased on his debut recording for Justin Time, “On the Montreal Scene”, which soulfully interweaves gospel, blues and mainstream jazz. Jim Little, who writes regularly for the Montreal Weekly Hour, proffered, “O’Neal offers up a serving of the blues and gospel ingredients that help make him such a tasty player.”

Astonishingly, Johnny is largely self-taught. His playing evokes the influences imbued in him by his idols Oscar Peterson and Art Tatum, and he has reshaped these elements into his own very swinging and melodic approach. In live performances, he is apt to catch his audience off-guard with his soulfully rendered yet unpretentious vocalizations. Johnny admits to loving to shout the blues but calls himself a piano player first.

There have been three notable events in Johnny’s career that continue to inspire him: an appearance at Carnegie Hall early in his career when he was the opening solo pianist for Oscar Peterson, his 1998 induction into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame and playing the role of Art Tatum in the award winning feature film “Ray”.

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In Pictures

23rd Punta Del Este Jazz Festival In Uruguay (Third Night)

Read "23rd Punta Del Este Jazz Festival In Uruguay (Third Night)" reviewed by Pablo Reyes

For its third night on Saturday, January 5, the 23rd Punta del Este Jazz Festival in Uruguay featured Johnny O'Neal's trío with an homage to Joe Williams. The trio of bassist Mark Lewandowski, drummer Itay Morchi, and pianist/singer O'Neal also welcomed special guest Grant Stewart on tenor saxophone. Pianist Benny Green's trio with bassist David Wong and drummer Aaron Kimmel also performed that evening. The Al Foster quartet with Adam Birnbaum on piano, Doug Weiss on bass, Chris Potter on ...

Album Review

Johnny O'Neal: Live at Smalls

Read "Live at Smalls" reviewed by Angelo Leonardi

La vicenda del pianista Johnny O'Neal ricorda quella dei molti jazzmen usciti repentinamente di scena e in qualche caso riscoperti in età avanzata. Il suo caso non ha avuto la risonanza che ebbe il ritorno di Henry Grimes un decennio fa ma ha catalizzato comunque l'attenzione degli appassionati. Gran parte del merito va a Spike Wilner, il proprietario dello Smalls di New York, che ha più volte ospitato il pianista nel suo club, facendogli anche incidere questo lavoro ...

Film Review

Tight: Johnny O'Neal Trio in Concert

Read "Tight: Johnny O'Neal Trio in Concert" reviewed by Samuel Chell

Johnny O'Neal Trio Tight BoJazz Productions 2006

“It don't mean a thing..." If Duke Ellington's criterion for meaning were to be strictly enforced, most of the sounds that pass for music wouldn't rise above nihilism. Pianist Johnny O'Neal knows the difference between “keeping time" and “swing," which is as much a visceral, sensuous experience as a state of mind. Moreover, the experience of freedom that's shared by musicians and listeners alike when the music ...

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Video / DVD

Johnny O'Neal: Keyboard Giant

Johnny O'Neal: Keyboard Giant

Source: JazzWax by Marc Myers

Pianist Johnny O'Neal is extraordinary, even if he isn't as well known as other pianists around today. Influenced by Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson, O'Neal began as a gospel pianist in his home town of Detroit and spent the 1970s in Birmingham, Ala., working with local jazz musicians. In 1981, he relocated to New York to perform with flugelhornist Clark Terry and then became the house pianist at Birdland. From 1982 to '83, he was a member of Art Blakey's ...


Performance / Tour

Ginny's Supper Club - March 2015 Schedule - Johnny O'Neal, Bob Stewart & More!

Ginny's Supper Club - March 2015 Schedule - Johnny O'Neal, Bob Stewart & More!

Source: Scott Thompson Public Relations

Bob Stewart, Lakecia Benjamin, Joe Saylor & Friends, Music of Ray Barretto & Celia Cruz, Johnny O'Neal, Revive Big Band, Charenee Wade! Ginny's Supper Club 310 Lenox Ave. at 125th St. New York, NY 10027 Phone: 212-421-3821 Thursday March 5 Terrance McKnight Presents “Migration Music" with Bob Stewart's Double Quartet 7:00PM, $95 - includes multi-course dinner & wine In celebration of MoMA's upcoming Jacob Lawrence “The Migration Series", Terrance McKnight ...



Tine Bruhn & Johnny O'Neal Release "nearness" On March 26 featuring Special Guest Stacy Dillard

Tine Bruhn & Johnny O'Neal Release "nearness" On March 26 featuring Special Guest Stacy Dillard

Source: Michael Bloom Media Relations

Tine Bruhn (pronounced Tina Broohn) moved to New York City in 2001 after having graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston. She quickly became part of New York’s jazz scene performing at some of the city’s best music venues including Smalls and Bar Next Door. She consistently plays with some of the top musicians in NYC and she has become a regular at the well-known jazz club Zinc Bar. Ms. Bruhn performs weekly in duo setting with pianist Johnny ...


Music Industry

Jazz Around Town: Johnny O'Neal, Jeremy Pelt and so Much More .... the Next 7 Days of Jazz in Rochester

Jazz Around Town: Johnny O'Neal, Jeremy Pelt and so Much More .... the Next 7 Days of Jazz in Rochester

Source: Jazz@Rochester

Thursday, November 17, 2011 Jazz & Wine Happy Hour with The Swooners @ Woodcliff Hotel & Spa, 5:30 pm Greg Gilmore & Steve Santini @ Bistro 135, 6:00 pm Joe Santora Trio with Emily Kirchoff @ Michael's Valley Grill, 7:00 pm Tinted Image @ Grill at Strathallan, 7:00 pm The Djangoners @ Little Theatre Cafe, 7:30 pm Nazareth College Jazz Ensemble @ Nazareth College-Wilmot Recital Hall, 7:30 pm

Friday, November 18, 2011 Bobby Dibaudo Duo @ Bistro 135, 5:00 pm ...



Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

In The Moment

Smoke Sessions Records


Live at Smalls

Smalls Records




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