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Tommy Emmanuel- piano/keyboard equivalent?


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Woke up from a nap to YouTube playing a long live set by TE. WOW. So high energy, entertaining, creative and well deserving of the accolades, IMO. What are examples of his counterparts in the  keys world? Speaking of self- contained solo artists who are accessible to the average person. As someone who plays solo a few times a month I'm looking for ideas. 

 

I hope this topic is interesting enough for the esophagus guy, if not he needs to step up lol.

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14 hours ago, pinkfloydcramer said:

Woke up from a nap to YouTube playing a long live set by TE.

How do you arrange something like that?  As a big time napper I'd like to be discovering more music on re-entry.

 

This question just makes me think of the corny aphorism "be the change you'd like to see in the world."  For reasons I don't understand, there seem to be more really great solo guitarists available for listening than solo pianists.  Joe Krown has 2 albums of solo piano, decidedly in a New Orleans vein of course, but I'd say similarly accessible to casual listeners.

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My first instinct is Bruce Hornsby. He’s gotten less accessible as time has gone on. I would say any of his live solo concerts from pre-2005 (before he started adding Elliot Carter & Webern to the mix) fit the bill.

 

There’s a couple of pianists in Quebec who aren’t necessarily the technical equivalent of Tommy or Hornsby but make very pleasant, popular music: Alexandra Streliski, Jean-Michel Blais, Martin Lizotte.

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Marc Rebillet comes to mind.

 

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I am very grateful for the question, partly because other reponses are leading me to discover incredible music. It’s a layered question because on the face of it, your two requirements are technical mastery and accessibility, yet there are others features of TE that seem to creep in. Do they need to be covers of pop music or is ok if they are accessible a different way? Do they need to be song form? And what kind of technical mastery are we valuing? 
 

My thoughts are scattering to the classical  minimalist school, and jazz covers of pop. Neither are what you are thinking of probably.  In the first category might be Nils Frahm …

 

 

in the second category would be some of pop covers that Brad Mehldau does …

 

 

Does either of these get close?

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11 hours ago, o0Ampy0o said:

What do you mean by accessible to the average person?

 

Liberace?

That's not a bad example, thanks! 🙂 Although Tommy E. may never be as widely popular as Liberace. Tommy's fame may be mostly relegated to other guitar players and guitar fans, not sure as I don't watch TV. Colorful performers like Ling Lang and Yo Yo Ma may be the best examples of a modern day Liberace. They at least seem to have established a presence.   

 

I guess to answer my question you have to be familiar with Tommy E's work. Mostly uptempo, virtuosic, mostly unaccompanied solo (the video in question had a guest appearance by Billy Strings), the ability to have fun with what might be considered low brow material (in the performance in question he played Guitar Boogie and 16 Tons). I'm pretty sure DB is a Tommy fan so maybe he can offer a take on this, if he clicks on the thread. 

 

Thanks to all for the examples, they're all astounding but the Brad Mehldau is the most relevant to my world.

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2 hours ago, Spider76 said:

 

2 hours ago, Spider76 said:

Do Elton John or Billy Joel count?

 

Tommy strums, picks, fingers, does fret harmonics, covers multiple parts simultaneously and is vastly creative with the instrument. He also tends to cover/interpret the compositions of other musicians. While Tommy sings he is not known for his vocals. He sometimes accompanies his guitar playing with his vocals.
 

EJ and BJ are considered singer-songwriters who happen to accompany their vocals with piano playing. Are EJ and BJ virtuosic piano players? Their key banger limited style would seem to rule it out.

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While I can admire and be inspired by the virtuosity of someone like Tommy Emmanuel, it doesn't have much relevance to my humble bar and restaurant piano gigs.  In my gigs, it's all about connecting to the audience and striking a balance between giving them something familiar but with enough variation to make it interesting.  I can't demand too much of their attention, because they are not there to see me.  in the contexts I play, virtuosity at some point yields diminishing returns, and at a further point flips and becomes a detraction.  I am unencumbered by the virtuosity of TE, but even if I had it, it wouldn't make my gigs more successful.  YMMV.

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31 minutes ago, o0Ampy0o said:

Are EJ and BJ virtuosic piano players? Their key banger limited style would seem to rule it out.

 

Tommy strums, picks, fingers, does fret harmonics, covers multiple parts simultaneously and is vastly creative with the instrument. He also tends to cover/interpret the compositions of other musicians. While Tommy sings he is not known for his vocals.

 

10 hours ago, pinkfloydcramer said:

Colorful performers like Ling Lang and Yo Yo Ma may be the best examples of a modern day Liberace. They at least seem to have established a presence.   

I guess to answer my question you have to be familiar with Tommy E's work. Mostly uptempo, virtuosic, mostly unaccompanied solo (the video in question had a guest appearance by Billy Strings), the ability to have fun with what might be considered low brow material (in the performance in question he played Guitar Boogie and 16 Tons).

 

TE, Liberace, Lang Lang... So I guess the question is "Are there some keyboard players who are self-absorbed ultra-virtuosos but still somehow tolerable to listen to for a couple of seconds"?🤣

I'd say Monty Alexander is probably the best example.

For Latin contaminations, Michel Camilo.

Maybe lesser known outside Italy or EU, but Stefano Bollani is also probably part of that group (though I personally get tired of him after a few minutes).

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My thoughts on piano players...

 

I would love to wake up from a nap to Lola Astanova

 

But she's not accessible to me...

 

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4 hours ago, Tusker said:

I find this very accessible and breathtaking, but is it too technical for some?

 

 

 

I hadn't ever seen this incredible Cory Henry clip, thanks for sharing!! Along the same lines I'm a big fan of Shaun Martin. This clip of him playing the keyscape rhodes is one of my favorites:

 

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1 minute ago, Art-0252 said:

I hadn't ever seen this incredible Cory Henry clip, thanks for sharing!! Along the same lines I'm a big fan of Shaun Martin. This clip of him playing the keyscape rhodes is one of my favorites:

 

Big fan of Shaun Martin have all his albums and he definitely covers all genres.  

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2 hours ago, Docbop said:

Maybe next we can do a thread for DrEsophagus the one post wonder.    How about... Who is the Kenny G of piano?  We'll get Pat Metheny be the judge of the best response. 

 

 

That would be me, minus the commercial success. I was doing (in the words of Pat Metheny) "f*d up noodling" before Kenny ever made it a thing.

 

I think the late James Booker checked a lot of the TE boxes (or vice versa). Virtuoso, innovative, that sense of abandon. And a solo style that sounded like 2 people playing. But to state the obvious, a mentally ill, drug addicted African American wasn't going to be invited into peoples' homes the way Liberace was. I still think he was onto something when during a gig, he held a gun to his head and threatened to blow his own brains out unless patrons started tipping. But I know better than to risk that. Now to check out these latest offerings, thanks.

 

How do you like it SO far, gullet troll? 👋 

 

 

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I’ve seen Tommy Emanuel twice.  As a guitarist I appreciate his technical ability.  However I can’t really get into him.  I find it a display of ability but not musical.  Great suggestions made in this thread though. 
 

PS. Check out Earl Klugh for a guitarist that has amazing technique and is also IMHO musical.

 

PPS  I think Tommy Emanuel has a stage presence that people enjoy.

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24 minutes ago, CraigT said:

I’ve seen Tommy Emanuel twice.  As a guitarist I appreciate his technical ability.  However I can’t really get into him.  I find it a display of ability but not musical.  Great suggestions made in this thread though. 
 

PS. Check out Earl Klugh for a guitarist that has amazing technique and is also IMHO musical.

 

PPS  I think Tommy Emanuel has a stage presence that people enjoy.

I agree with you about Tommy and chops exobitionists on any insterment in general they get boring.   

 

Years ago I went to see acoustic guitar master Leo Kottke in concert and Leon Redbone was his open act.     I have to say Kottke got boring after awhile.  He played the same 12-string on every song and every song was full of his technical wizardry yawn.    Leon Redbone an excellent acoustic guitarist who was a student of Leo Kottke was way more interesting.   Redbone played great guitar, sang, told stories and jokes, and set in this kind of 20's chair with a little table and lamp for effect.   Redbone made all his guitar playing and entertaining.  

 

I love Leo Kottke's albums because I could play what I wanted and move on if I wanted.    The one time I really enjoyed Kottke he was doing a live interview at a radio station.   So Kottke was talking about his songs before playing and discovering he is a really strange character.   Then you could hear him rambling around the studio and the DJ try to get him to settle down and play or talk more made it even more enjoyable.  Now some of that talking and rambling would of made Leo Kottke's concert way more interesting. 

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If you are going to really define virtuoso you cannot overlook playing with your heart. That reduces TE a few points. There is an excess of ego in TE performances. It may only be his idea of showmanship/entertainer but it reads like showing off. 
 

Victor Borge has been mentioned, it brings to mind Pete Barbutti. He played piano well enough to make it part of his comedic act as he surprised you with it. 
 

Regarding guitarists, Les Paul was doing melodic cartwheels and backflips before the musically-void technical shredders (acoustic and electric) were born.

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I think Tommy Emmanuel appeals mostly to guitar players and whoever they make accompany them to the concerts and then spend three hours afterward explaining how the person needs to understand how hard what he does is.

 

He does a nice job of adorning familiar-sounding songs with exotic-sounding flourishes, and keeping them within the length of the average-person's attention span.

I actually think the Liberace comparison is reasonable--not in the plate-of-cheese aspect, but in the accessible mastery of an instrument and repertoire people already know.

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To each his own! For myself, I don't hear any lack of musicality or lack of heart- at least not in the video I linked too (not that anybody clicked on it lol) and he seemed very genuinely joyful, not so full of himself as many other performers. He also did a good job of varying his tunes. Not all of the show was mile-a-minute playing, which no doubt can get stupifying after a while.

 

Having said that, I by no means think he is the GOAT guitarist. I just find him to be entertaining and inspiring and I always root for someone who finds a new way to entertain unaccompanied solo on their instrument. For guitar I usually follow George Benson (his recent years' performances of On Broadway as good as it gets IMO), John Scofield, Larry Carlton and others. A year ago I was listening to the local bluegrass station and I heard some very intense, heavy, almost psychedelic acoustic music and it turned out to be Billy Strings. So I became a fan of him, too. What can I say, I'm a hillbilly. Or at least, part🙂

 

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Reading my post back I can see that it sounded like it was knocking TE. To be clear I'm an unambiguous fan and would have brought my kids to see him the last time he came through town, had there not been that "other" factor out there right now. I was just trying to find the elements to compare equally with piano. Part of the issue is that guitar and piano do not occupy the place in people's minds, alas. There just aren't that many piano players the general public goes to see just to hear what (familiar songs) they are going to play. In jazz and classical there are, of course. But in the pop world? It's hard to think of one.

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