America has a great tradition of home-grown piano players, ranging from jazz to country, boogie-woogie and Western swing.
Ace Texas pianist Floyd Domino gives encyclopedic tutorials of the instrument's traditions and playing techniques in several You Tube videos. The Internet abounds with piano lessons, but Domino's are the most useful and entertaining I've found.
Domino, whose real name is Jim Haber, made the videos with Lawrence Wright, author of the recent book "God Save Texas," an autobiographical portrait of the Lone Star state, reviewed in Southern Bookman earlier this week.Wright, who plays in a band, takes piano lessons from Domino.
As Wright relates in "God Save Texas," Domino received his nickname while playing for Ray Benson's Western swing band Asleep at the Wheel, when a bandmate observed that his playing combined the styles of Floyd Cramer and Fats Domino. The nickname stuck, despite Domino's efforts to move beyond it.
In the videos, Domino sits in his home at his electric piano and plays songs from piano masters in their respective styles. He covers such masters as Al Stricklin, Moon Mullican, Professor Longhair, Jerry Lee Lewis and Count Basie. Here is a link to Domino's discussion of how Mullican, a country roundhouse player who recorded several hits in the early 1950s, influenced Lewis, and his recollection of meeting "the Killer."
He traces other connections. Earl "Fatha" Hines is cited as a a major influence on Stricklin, a Country Hall of Fame member who played with Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. Stricklin, who along with guitarist Eldon Shamblin gave the Playboys their iron-tight rhythm, also sparkled on solos in classics like "Take Me Back to Tulsa."
In showing how he plays Count Basie's "Lady Be Good," Domino adds Professor Longhair riffs to Basie's chords and melody.
Domino gives a wealth of techniques for playing swing/boogie woogie/blues/jazz styles. He takes an easy-going approach to piano, showing how simple chord progressions and note patterns lead to complex music.
Since leaving "Asleep at the Wheel," the Austin-based pianist has recorded several albums and has played with a number of artists such as Willie Nelson. He also performs at schools and special events, spreading his piano gospel.
Now when I sit at the piano and find myself at an impasse I ask "What would Floyd do?"