[Dixielandjazz] Irving Berlin's piano

willc willc at highstream.net
Fri Dec 5 14:16:33 PST 2003

It was sometime in the seventies that the daughter of the Sheriff of
Palm Beach County (Florida) was to be married, and I got the call to
provide the band. 

The event was held in at a hotel in Palm Beach in a penthouse suite that
had been Irving Berlin's, and it was equipped with an ornately carved
and gilded Steinway grand about the size of Vermont. 

My pianist that day was Don Ewell. Don sat down, ran an arpeggio and
declared "this thing's got an action like a Mack truck." We also quickly
discovered that this magnificent looking instrument with its slightly
yellowing ivories had not been tuned since the invention of dandruff,
and was sufficiently south of key so that the brasses had their tuning
slides all the way out. Clarinetist Ernie Goodson demonstrated his
considerable musical skills by transposing every song down a half step.
This feat was astonishingly facilitated by the delightfully well-stocked
bar from which the band was invited, nay, commanded, by the bride to
refresh itself. Which we did.

Don mentioned that Berlin wrote a lot of stuff in Gb. Attentive piano
noodlers have also discovered that a running start on "Magic is the
Moonlight" and "I Want to Teach the World to Sing in Perfect Harmony" is
possible using only the black keys. 

Will Connelly
River Liffey Saloon Jazz Band
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

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