Yamaha Piano Salon

Courtesy of the artist

If you’re unfamiliar with James Francies, it is surely just a matter of time; he’s on a steady trajectory to becoming a household name.


In their first Manhattan meeting since January, pianist Andy Milne, bassist John Hébert and drummer Clarence Penn reconvened in the piano salon of Yamaha Artist Services.

courtesy of artist

Two years after creating his Juno Award-winning album The Seasons of Being, pianist Andy Milne is ready to talk about its significance.

Jonathan Chimene / WBGO

John Patitucci has long been easily identifiable by his warm, singing tone on the bass, and by the nimble authority of his playing. A linchpin of the Wayne Shorter Quartet and a longtime associate of Chick Corea, he recently added an intimate new entry to his own discography: a first-ever solo recording, Soul of the Bass.

Jonathan Chimene / WBGO

For Living Lovers — an improvising chamber duo composed of Brandon Ross on acoustic guitar and Stomu Takeishi on acoustic bass guitar — makes quietude feel like anything but a restriction. In a recent performance at the WBGO Yamaha Salon in midtown Manhattan, its music felt expansive and spacious, setting the stage for an immersive sort of listening. 

Jonathan Chimene / WBGO

Gilad Hekselman has become one of the leading guitarists of his generation through a combination of factors, including his warm, lyrical sound and his willingness to push into the red. He features both sides of that aesthetic equation on his recent album Ask For Chaos, featuring a working trio as well as ZuperOctave, a more fusion-forward band.

Jonathan Chimene / WBGO

Tom Guarna is a guitarist of keen insight and broad experience, all of which he brought to this recent performance at the Yamaha Salon.

Guarna appeared on the series — usually a spotlight for pianists — as part of a guitar-centric triple bill organized by WBGO's John Newcott. (We'll soon post the two other performances, by For Living Lovers and the Gilad Hekselman Trio.) The set's rhythm section is first-rate by anyone's standard: David Kikoski on piano, Joe Martin on bass, and Kendrick Scott on drums.

Isaiah McClain / WBGO

The spare, evocative poetry of Emily Dickinson has inspired no shortage of musical interpretation — notably by classical composers ranging from Samuel Barber to Aaron Copland to Elliot Carter. But the soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom finds a new register for this impulse with Wild Lines: Improvising Emily Dickinson, originally released on Outline Music last fall.

Rob Davidson

“Erroll Garner had so much spirit when he played, so much joy, so much groove,” Michael Wolff recently told Michael Bourne. “That’s why I think he was such a successful pianist. No matter what he did — and he played really, for his day, very sophisticated outside harmonies — but everything he played swung.”

Wolff was at our Yamaha Salon Concert on what would have been Erroll Garner's 94th birthday. He played both in a solo stride vein and with a swinging trio, and both performances were filmed.

Rob Davidson

Erroll Garner, the irrepressibly ebullient pianist, left an influence that runs deep but often diffuse: it isn't often that you hear someone who sounds just like him, but there's an awful lot of him in the language. Consider an exchange at our recent Yamaha Salon Concert between Kenny Werner and Andy Milne — a pair of super-literate, restlessly imaginative pianists, a generation apart. Their performance conjured Garner in spirit, without resorting to imitative devices, and set a high bar for responsive duologue.

Last Thursday, on what would have been Erroll Garner's 94th birthday, WBGO held a Yamaha Salon Concert in midtown Manhattan, with a handful of superb pianists paying their respects. Among them was Christian Sands, who offered a solo medley with crystalline touch and bounding stride rhythm.

Then, following a brief exchange with Michael Bourne, he played a buoyant "Night and Day" with the evening's house rhythm team, bassist Ben Allison and drummer Allan Mednard.