Joel is a retired attorney, jazz pianist, and festival producer.
Joel has been actively involved in supporting jazz music for nearly 30 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 could remember a lot from before I was 5. But I couldn’t remember her even owning a piano. When I was 10 or 11, I finally got one of my own.
My parents didn’t listen much to music. Certainly not to jazz. Then one day when I was around 15 or 16, I came home from school and turned on the TV to 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. And with those tools, I was off and running.
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 remember him.
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.
Ironically, the uptick in traffic that spelled the end of my little jazz festival is exactly what I joined AAJ to support.