Johnny O’Neal Celebrates the Release of His First Album in Ten Years
Detroit-born pianist Johnny O’Neal has a background to rival anybody from the oldschool camp, having spent five years in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers as well as serving as a sideman with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, Nancy Wilson, Joe Pass and Kenny Burrell during a regular gig at the Blue Note back in the 80s. A big break came when O’Neal got to play Art Tatum in the 2004 film Ray. Mulgrew Miller was a big fan of O’Neal’s “million dollar touch,” and over the past few years O’Neal has made Smalls his home. Like many others among that venue’s regular rotation, O’Neal has a new live album, Live at Smalls – his first release in ten years – to show for it, recorded there last year. He’s playing the album release show there this coming April 6 at 10 PM with Paul Sikivie on bass and Charles Goold on drums.
The album is an interesting mix of standards and unexpected gems like Walter Davis Jr.’s Uranus and Billy Pierce’s Sudan Blue, plus a reworking of the traditional Blues for Sale and a purist reinvention of the Roberta Flack/Stevie Wonder hit Where Is the Love. Cover is twenty bucks, and that includes a drink. Because this is the cd release show, you might want to get there early.
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