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Pop Goes the Ivories

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Album Review

On his 115th album, Roger Williams shows he still has the stuff. Though in his seventies, the man who has played for every president since Harry Truman glides through glissandos and other challenging piano techniques as though he could do it in his sleep. Part Liberace, part Henry Mancini, and part Roger Williams, the live St. Louis audience is treated to classical, bebop, jazz, and cocktail lounge styles, among others. Also, the listener is treated to Williams' dry and self-deprecating humor, though his attempt at leading the audience in song lets listeners know he made a good choice by sticking to the ivories. Known as a pop pianist, his musical interest is actually wide and varied, and thus one hears works such as Brahms' "Hungarian Dance #5," Duke Ellington's "Take the A Train," "My Heart Will Go On" (from Titanic), and, of course, Williams' two biggest hits, "Born Free" ("Star Wars" turned upside down, as Williams describes it) and his signature song "Autumn Leaves." Though, at times, his humor can be a bit corny, such as his Adam and Eve story to lead into "Autumn Leaves," Williams is at the top of his game on this live recording, and his playing is never less than dazzling. Call it showy, call it what you will, he has gotten better with age. Simply put, the man is remarkable at what he does.


Born: October 1, 1924 in Omaha, NE

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Pianist Roger Williams' sweeping, sparkling arpeggios, showy technique, and gentle easy listening arrangements made him one of the most popular pop instrumentalists of the late '50s and '60s. Like many other easy listening musicians, he blurred the boundaries between pop, jazz, and classical, creating a smooth, relaxing hybrid. Between 1955 and 1972, he had 38 hit albums and 22 hit singles, including the number one hit "Autumn Leaves." Williams (born Louis Weertz) began playing piano as a child,...
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