John Colianni, pianist. His nickname is “Johnny Chops” because of his great technique.
The Jazz Times has called John Colianni “ A Consummate piano virtuoso, a truly individual voice, with an unerring sense of sophisticated swing” John grew up in Silver Springs, MD. The nearby Washington D.C. area was instrumental in shaping his love of jazz. “I was mesmerized by Ellington’s piano work, orchestrations, and bigger-than-life stage presence,” Colianni recalls. “The impact he had on me was irreversible and it inspired me to seriously devote myself to music.” John started to take lessons from pianist Les Karr, who had studied under Teddy Wilson at New York’s Juilliard School of Music. Interestingly, Les was also the first cousin of pianist Dick Hyman. For John’s lessons, Les emphasized technique and introduced studies of the Mathe’ System, a method that advances digital dexterity and maximizes the capacity for speedy, high-velocity piano playing. John, noted for fleet “chops,” often cites the important role these exercises had on his musical growth.
While still in high school, John became active on Washington D.C. and Maryland’s jazz scene, playing in jam sessions at well-known venues such as The Pigfoot, One Step Down, Blues Alley, The Bayou, The Famous Ballroom (Baltimore), Frankie Condon’s (Rockville, Md.), Mr. Y’s Gold Room Ella Fitzgerald’s bassist, Keter Betts recruited the then 16-year-old John for the revue “Jazz Stars of The Future,” a troupe of young, local jazz musicians who performed concerts in DC and Baltimore. While John was in the 10th grade, Jazz Studies Director George Ross recruited him to play regularly with the University of Maryland Jazz Ensemble. During his senior year in high school, the Colianni family relocated to the Jersey Shore in the Atlantic City area. There, the talented teen caught the attention of local pianist Carlton Drinkard, former accompanist to the one and only “Lady Day”—Billie Holiday. Carlton coached him and recruited players for John’s new trio. Another milestone in John’s blossoming career occurred at 19, when he visited Lionel Hampton backstage in Atlantic City. After that meeting and an informal audition in Hampton’s NYC apartment, Colianni toured internationally and recorded three albums during his three years with the band.
In 1986, John was signed with Concord Records d Records and made three albums. In 1987, John was a cash-prizewinner in the First International Thelonious Monk Piano Competition. After several weeks of gigs with with Woody Allen at Michael’sPub in NYC, he met Mel Torme and became his accompanist for four years. Mel had heard John’s work on the club’s sound system, liked it, and hired him. John also played on six of Torme’s albums, three each on Concord and Telarc. In 2003, the renowned guitarist and inventor Les Paul added John to his group, on the recommendation of fellow guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, and the trio held down a weekly club performance in NYC. Later he becaome the house bandleader on the MSNBC television program “After Hours with Dan Abrams,” for the show’s final season. He also performed with some rock/pop/jazz performers.
In 2016 John began organizing a big band, or “orchestra,” at the urging of friends and fellow musicians who were familiar with his work as an arranger as well as a pianist. The 17-piece band, The John Colianni Jazz Orchestra, plays swing, modern jazz, standards, and original compositions in various venues around NYC. He also performs with The John Colianni Sextet, a small combo culled from the ranks of the Orchestra, whose new album is called “I Never Knew”; The John Colianni Trio (piano, bass drums); and as a solo pianist. Presently John is also averaging over 40 European gigs a year.
The New York Times called him “the essence of a swinging pianist, a sudden flurry of complex runs can be finished before the listener is fully aware of what is happening.” According to San Francisco Examiner, John “has a smooth, light-touch style. He flies easily through intricate right-hand melodic lines, and improvises on them, and roams the bass clef with his left hand, combining basic and offbeat rhythms with rich, melodic chord patterns. His left-hand harmonic structures are most impressive.”
Among the many accolades he has received, one is especially meaningful to John, since it came from Jimmy
Program Meetings are held several times a year October through June, usually on the second Friday of the month. Programs include lectures/demonstrations, master classes by invited guests and panel discussions by distinguished members.
News and Meeting notices are posted on our website: shoremusiceducators.org
Student recitals are held twice a year, in Fall and Spring, open to students of members in good standing.
The Student Evaluation Program is a noncompetitive evaluation by invited adjudicators, of students of all levels, during the first weekend of March.
The Youth in Music program is open to students playing a program of a minimum of 3 memorized pieces in 3 different styles; no arrangements allowed; total performance time 10 - 20 minutes. Audition in November. Performance in student recitals in either December or May of the same season.
Opportunities for faculty members to perform (January.)
Social gatherings in January and June.
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The Shore Music Educators Association was established in 1975.