Johnny O'Neal: Keyboard Giant


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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 Jazz Messengers, but over time, health issues kept him from becoming a household name. 

Before I share an extensive interview O'Neal gave bassist Jonah Jonathan, here's O'Neal playing You're Looking at Me...

Here's O'Neal at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café in Grosse Pointe, Mich., in 2013...

Here's the Christmas Song...

And here's the interview...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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