Saturday's Stride Piano Jam at At My Place was a rollicking late-night party (it ran from 11 until 3 in the morning) with plenty of pleasurable moments. Hosted by the unadvertised, though expected, George Winston and featuring Brad Kay and Barry (the Lion) Gordon, the show offered an opportunity to hear two local aces and the New Age/folk/pop celebrity dig heartily into music that was first popular during the '20s and '30s, but which has few practitioners today.
During the first set, where each pianist was spotlighted in turn, Kay and Gordon offered true stride--which centers around jouncy, oom-pah left-hand parts and equally animated and dancing right-hand figures--applied to tunes written by the likes of Fats Waller and George Gershwin.
But save a low-keyed "Honeysuckle Rose," Winston chose instead of stride classics to play pop tunes "from 1957-67," curiously picking such nondescript works as "The Letter," "Tequila," "I Will Wait for You" and "Love Potion Number Nine," among others, to fill out a long medley.
And if the tunes were hardly memorable, his performance was even less so. Yes, he played with precision and, at times, a little zest, but mostly he played with only a trace of emotion, so that his renditions came across empty and meaningless. The audience disagreed, cheering wildly when he concluded.
Kay, on the other hand, brought a much-needed elegance to the evening, offering such pieces as Waller's "Handful of Keys" and "My Fate Is in Your Hands" with a degree of complexity, nuance and warmth that was enthralling. He instilled the pop standard "Out of Nowhere" with a Teddy Wilson touch, and dropped in moody chordal sequences that reminded one of Bix Beiderbecke's pianistic grace.
Gordon's approach might be called "ragged but right." And while he rushed and dragged the time on such numbers as "I Got Rhythm" and "Liza," he also threw in splendid right-hand splashes, ultimately playing with such crackle and pop that one forgave his technical faux pas.