Joel is a retired attorney, jazz pianist, and festival producer.
Joel has been actively involved in supporting jazz music for nearly 40 years either performing the music, presenting the music, or representing musicians and organizations through his law practice.
My Jazz Story
Published on: 2019-01-02
Seems I was born to love jazz. When I was in high school, my aunt told me I was very good at picking out songs from the radio on
her piano. I remember a lot from before I was 5. But I never remembered her even owning a piano.
My parents didn’t listen much to music. Certainly not to jazz. When I was 10 or 11, I finally got a piano of my own. Then one day
when I was around 15 or 16, I came home from school and turned on the TV. There was a new program, the David Frost Show. The
musical director, Billy Taylor, was playing piano. I didn’t know who Taylor was. Or what it was he was playing. All I knew was that I
wanted to play like that. Well, as close to that as I could.
When I got to college, I took every theory course offered. Plus an improv course taught by a visiting professor named Robert
Northern who was best known for playing French horn with Coltrane. But my father said, "If you go to law school, you can always
play piano. Besides, I'm not blowing my money on your college tuition for you to become a music major." I loved my college. So I
went to law school.
My first jazz concert was Oscar Peterson at Just Jazz in Philadelphia in the early '70s. Arriving before the doors opened, I got a seat
right next to the stage with a perfect view of the keyboard. That was it. Oscar had already been my first jazz album. I still recall my
jaw dropping at his performance of “I Remember Clifford.” At the time, I had no idea who Clifford was, or why Oscar would
After law school, I had a trio that played in local bars and restaurants, until they began to give up their pianos. I never liked
“keyboards,” so the trio disbanded.
Even though we live in the Philadelphia suburbs, there is little jazz in our area. For several years, I produced an annual outdoor jazz
festival as a fundraiser for a local charity. It was a great excuse to bring, world-class players like John Swana, Larry McKenna,
Bootsie Barnes, Jimmy Bruno, Denis DiBlasio and JD Walter to our neighborhood. Unfortunately it became a victim of its own
success as the traffic congestion near the festival lead the police to ban further festivals.
The cops ended my little jazz festival. But the desire to support the entire jazz community is exactly why I joined AAJ and .Mike