Piano Demon: The globetrotting, gin-soaked, too-short life of Teddy Weatherford, the Chicago jazzman who conquered Asia (Kindle Single) Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
Teddy who--? That's exactly Koerner's point in this breathtaking, short biography of a nearly-forgotten pianist, a coal-miner's son from Virginia, who was at one time "Asia's greatest jazz star." The subtitle of Koerner's mini-book is "The globetrotting, gin-soaked, too-short life of Teddy Weatherford, the Chicago jazzman who conquered Asia" and he delivers a portrait of an overlooked legend that moves at the speed of a rousing Jazz Age rag. As Koerner tells us near the beginning of The Piano Demon:
Weatherford usually receives no more than a skeletal paragraph in jazz histories. His Wikipedia entry is thinly sourced and error-ridden; his music is almost entirely absent from the Internet. He is the sort of figure whom scholars typically dismiss with a single, damning noun: footnote.
A child prodigy who developed international wanderlust (and, as his fame grew, an insatiable need for all the finest things money could buy), Teddy Weatherford quickly moved from tickling the ivories in Chicago clubs to playing in popular house bands in Shanghai, Bombay and Calcutta--exotic locales where segregation was less prevalent than in America. Weatherford was a workaholic and would often bounce between three or four gigs in the same evening. He was a big man with large hands--qualities not usually found in pianists--and he was a showman to the core, appearing on stage dressed in a distinctive white sharkskin suit. Here's how Koerner describes him in one scene:
Weatherford honed his showmanship in the Harbour Bar, entertaining British soldiers and sailors who craved good times before they set off for distant malarial outposts.Read more ›
Leaving aside all this speculation, Weatherford may never have considered seriously returning to the West because he was enjoying life in the East so much anyway. As The writer Langston Hughes observes, "If I were a performer, I thought, and could play or sing or dance my way to Hong Kong and Singapore and Calcutta and Bombay, I would never go home at all."
As Weatherford is nevertheless so little known today - and because the work deals with events that happened several decades back - it would certainly have been quite hard to identify original resources and track down the few people alive today who may have recollections of those events. Despite this, the author presents a very informative and engrossing biography of this Jazz musician.
This book is a brilliant evocation also of the times and places that Weatherford lived in. Some of the descriptions are so vivid, it is almost like watching a period movie about early twentieth century Asia, particularly the poverty and sleaze of Shanghai and Calcutta. What is more, Koerner - in his portrayal of someone who "provided the soundtrack for the last gasp of Empire" - does not commit the common mistake of many historians of viewing events through the prism of today's moral expectations.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Read this, and you'll spend several delightful hours searching for and enjoying music that will transport you to an age and place you'll be sorry you missed.Published 9 months ago by AckWrite
I really enjoyed this profile of a forgotten jazz great. The jazz and "high" life scene in Shanghai during this period was a revelation. Read morePublished on April 19, 2013 by Duke the DJ
I had never heard of this musician and was totally rapt in his bio. He died too early , he wasn't on earth long enough to reach the heigths of his profession, very sad that alcohol... Read morePublished on June 29, 2012 by labaloo
It was just too slow for me. Maybe another time when I'm not moving at warp speed. Otherwise, it was a well-written story.Published on January 12, 2012 by Jeannette Gosnell
Found it interesting, just wish there was more. You only get small parts of his life and not whole story. Which is a shame.Published on April 13, 2011 by J. Santos
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