James P. Johnson: Forgotten Musical Genius

The music of early Jazz piano player James P. Johnson, the creator of Harlem Stride Piano, is explored in this award-winning production. Actor Peter Coyote reads from Johnson’s recollections and Mark Borowsky expertly traces his career, sharing insights gleaned from a lifetime studying this overlooked American genius. Play: JAMES P JOHNSON_A Introduction with Peter Coyote, narrator and “Drums”  James Price Johnson (1894-1955) should be hailed as one of the greatest composers, jazz musicians and songwriters of American music. Yet despite vast achievements, he remains largely unknown to general audiences. Johnson was the foremost proponent of Harlem Stride piano and an absolute master of the keyboard with perfect pitch. Laying the cornerstone of jazz piano before 1920, his Stride keyboard style transformed Ragtime into Jazz, strongly influencing pianists Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Art Tatum, and Thelonious Monk. His protege Fats Waller recalled learning more in his first afternoon with James than the previous 10 years. Johnson’s list of collaborators is a who’s who of eraly Jazz and Blues: Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters, King Oliver, Sidney Bechet, Eddie Condon. He was in great demand throughout the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s for
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Dave Radlauer is a six-time award-winning radio broadcaster presenting early Jazz since 1982. His vast JAZZ RHYTHM website is a compendium of early jazz history and photos with some 500 hours of exclusive music, broadcasts, interviews and audio rarities.

Radlauer is focused on telling the story of San Francisco Bay Area Revival Jazz. Preserving the memory of local legends, he is compiling, digitizing, interpreting and publishing their personal libraries of music, images, papers and ephemera to be conserved in the Dave Radlauer Jazz Collection at the Stanford University Library archives.

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