The piano music style known as “boogie-woogie” originates from blues and stride piano and was initially played in barrelhouses. In Peter J. Silvester’s book about boogie-woogie from 1988, “A Left Hand Like God”, I found these very describing lines (Page 9, ll. 12-15): “The early boogie-woogie pianists entertained workers in the lumber, turpentine and railroad industries situated in the southern states. Their stage was the barrelhouse, a crude room with a piano, a dance area, and access to rough liquor.”
The very first boogie-woogie pieces date back to the 1920’s, but they did not have “boogie woogie” in the title, until 1928. That was year where Clarence “Pinetop” Smith recorded probably the most famous boogie woogie tune of all time, called “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie”. This piece inspired a great amount of contemporary pianists, who put bits and pieces from it in their own tunes, and some even recorded their own version of it.
In the late 1930’s the boogie woogie craze arose with the boogie woogie pioneers Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson and Meade “Lux” Lewis, when they performed at John Hammond’s “From Spirituals to Swing”-concert at Carnegie Hall.
If we look at Europe, the first boogie woogie festival was in Vienna in 1976 with pianists Axel Zwingenberger, Martin Pyrker and Hans-Georg Möller and Axel’s brother Torsten Zwingenberger on drums. At the time, it was the first festival of its kind and there were not many boogie pianists, but today in 2010 there are annual festivals all over Europe; in Holland, in Belgium, in Germany, in Switzerland, in Austria, in France, in England etc. and a great deal of boogie woogie pianists, both young and mature.
I was born in 1991 and started taking trumpet lessons at the age of eight and piano lessons at the age of nine. Back then, my musical idol was American rock ‘n’ roller Jerry Lee Lewis, whose music I enjoyed playing from 2003 until 2006. In 2006, I one day realized that rock ‘n’ roll didn’t have the same fiery and intriguing effect on me anymore, so I decided to search on for a musical genre like rock ‘n’ roll. This was when I discovered boogie woogie. The first boogie woogie tune I ever heard was a 30 second clip of Albert Ammons’ “Boogie Woogie Stomp” on a website, and ever since that day I wanted to play boogie woogie.
Having discovered Ammons, I inevitably ran into the recordings by Meade Lux Lewis and Pete Johnson. The three became my new idols and I listened to whatever records I could find with them, for hours and hours. I practiced playing the piano along with their records and learnt a lot, including the 12 bar progression by heart.
In February 2007, a friend of mine invited me to go to a concert with Axel Zwingenberger, and I was completely blown away by his playing. That concert remains very special to me, because not only was it my first live experience with boogie woogie, but I also got to play a few tunes with Axel after the concert, which was very thrilling!! His playing had the same effect on me that rock ‘n’ roll did when I was younger, so I decided to have a closer look at his style and records. I had once again found a new idol in music.
Today, Axel is still my idol and he continues to amaze, impress, and inspire me. He has without a doubt been very, very influential on my style of playing boogie woogie. I have since 2007 met him on several occasions and it remains a great pleasure to meet and play with him each time.
In November 2009, I recorded a solo CD, entitled “Energetic Boogie,” which of course has a few Zwingenberger compositions on it as a tribute to him.
Before the publishing of the cd, I was invited to play at the prestigeous event “Hamburg Boogie Woogie Connection” (http://www.hamburgboogiewoogie.net/) in August 2009 with Axel Zwingenberger, Vince Weber, Jo Bohnsack, Gottfried Böttger, Big John Carter, Chris Jagger and the Brunner Brothers.Recently, I have had the great pleasure of playing at Silvan Zingg’s 10. “International Boogie Woogie Festival Switzerland” here in April 2011, as well as I in August 2011 performed at Jean-Paul Amouroux’ “13ème Festival International de Boogie Woogie” in Laroquebrou in southern France with dear colleagues like Luca Šestak, Bálazs Dániel, Friedrich Zur Heide, Frank Muschalle, Bob Seeley, Big John Carter, Jean-Paul Amouroux and many others.
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