Dale Storr – The Sounds of New Orleans, 29 November 2019

Dale Storr, piano

This was an evening of piano music that said: Welcome to Nawlins; welcome to a place, a people, a history saturated in music; hear the parade of piano luminaries
as they move through time from “tradition” to invention until they assume their own places in an enlarged tradition; sit in wonder that music so rich, complex and life-affirming could be imagined, let alone played; feel that rollicking boisterousness, still with a slight undertow of sadness and ask why there’s something oddly comforting in the blues; and marvel that combining virtuosity and sheer fun can be so right, so compelling.

Dale Storr’s deep dive into the history of New Orleans piano wasn’t musicological or chronological; instead, the show might best be described as a love letter to the city and its astonishing line of pianists. He quickly revealed himself as a man of passion—on his own account, obsessed—and it showed in both his story-telling and playing. That hybrid of styles—stride, boogie-woogie, blues, hints of ragtime, often grafted onto traditional dance forms like the waltz and rumba—is very demanding of a pianist’s technical prowess and, no doubt, stamina too. But Dale played with a relaxed, unassuming confidence, even through the fastest and most complex passages.

The numbers that make everyone smile and shake their heads—the powerful left hand and the ‘picture show’ right hand playing cross-rhythms—were placed within a larger, well-judged programme, one highlight of which was an exquisite rendering of Dr John’s ‘Dorothy.’ There’s tenderness and depth of feeling in this music as well as fireworks. And there were fireworks aplenty; and Dale has a particularly good line in exploiting the top and bottom registers, often in his clever, extended endings.

All of us know this music, or at least some portion of it; somehow, whatever our declared musical tastes, we all breathe a bit of New Orleans air. But we don’t often have the opportunity to hear it played live, or with such energetic commitment and consummate skill. This was an evening of musical delights from start to finish.

J Whitman 30.11.19

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