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Tsunami Relief Pianothon @ Faust Harrison Pianos, New York

Joanne Brackeen.

The devastating tsunami that shook the Indian Ocean basin in December killed more than 200,000 people. Millions became homeless. Those who survive need help beyond our imaginations. In early March, a Tsunami Relief music marathon took place at Faust Harrison Pianos on West 58th Street in New York City.

The instruments are part of the story. From left to right, keyboard-to-keyboard in this modestly-sized showroom, there's a Steinway built in New York in 1923, and an Estonia and a Blüthner, both from Europe. Each of 40 artists chooses a piano and plays, and we will hear four -- Joanne Brackeen (pictured above), Benny Green, Vijay Iyer and Rodney Kendrick -- on JazzSet.

Brackeen became the only woman in the ultimate working band of its time, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Joanne went on to work with saxophonists Stan Getz and Joe Henderson. That's quite a career, but it's really just a prelude to who she is today -- a very original musician.

In 1993, Oscar Peterson was asked to name a protégé in connection with Canada's Glenn Gould Prize, and he named Benny Green. Green pulls up to the Blüthner to play Duke Ellington and Sammy Cahn.

Vijay Iyer's parents emigrated from India to the United States, where Vijay was born and raised. He has a double Ph.D. in music and science from the University of California at Berkeley. Vijay's musical projects include the very interesting song cycle "In What Language" with poet and hip-hop artist Mike Ladd. It's set post 9/11, in an international airport in which every person is a suspect.

The JazzSet pianothon closes with Rodney Kendrick improvisating on themes by Dizzy Gillespie. Forty pianists and a changing audience kept an extraordinary vigil for 13 hours. Please visit the link below to read and hear more.

Joanne Brackeen: "Siamese Cat" and "Body and Soul" (Green, Heyman)
Benny Green: "Love You Madly" (Ellington) and "The Second Time Around" (Cahn)
Vijay Iyer: "Re-Imagining" (Lennon, arr. Iyer) and "Remembrance" (Iyer, dedicated to the tsunami victims)
Rodney Kendrick: "Groovin' High" (Gillespie)


  • Pianothon on the Web

  • Faust Harrison Pianos

  • Save the Children


    Thanks to producers Michael Harrison and Jim Luce, with program coordinator Jed Distler and Benjamin K. Roe of NPR.

    JazzSet's Duke Markos is technical director, with Manoli Wetherill and Brian McCabe.

    Also, on our team is Ginger Bruner, KUNV, Becca Pulliam, Thurston Briscoe and WBGO.

    Copyright 2007 NPR