Arts & Entertainment
Stormfield stomps an energetic end to its season
By Bridgette M. Redman
Originally printed 5/17/2012 (Issue 2020 - Between The Lines News)
Every town has its collection of famous and almost famous residents. In Lansing, these include celebrities from the world of sports, politics, technology and politics. Names such as Magic Johnson, John Smoltz, Malcolm X and Larry Page (co-founder of Google) make residents stop and say, "Yeah, they're from my hometown."
Then there is the ubiquitous entertainment industry. Lansing lays claim to such figures as Timothy Busfield and Steven Seagal.
In the music world, the first name that pops to many people's lips is Boogie Woogie Bob Baldori. A back-up pianist and harmonica player for Chuck Berry, he's made a career out of playing the "happy blues" of boogie-woogie.
It's a history that Stormfield Theater is sharing with its audiences to close out its season in a performance of "Boogie Stomp!" In a series of concerts over two weekends, Baldori is partnering up with other boogie-woogie greats to put on a display of boogie-woogie piano music along with a smattering of the history and an explanation of what makes boogie woogie what it is.
On opening night at Stormfield, Baldori was joined by Bob Seeley, student of Meade Lux Lewis and acknowledged by many as the best boogie-woogie pianist in the world. To see his fingers move across the keyboard, few would want to challenge him. He plays with a speed and intensity that make hummingbirds look lazy.
Together Baldori and Seeley present an evening of piano proficiency designed to excite an audience's ears and eyes both. The keyboards are turned so the audience doesn't have to miss a move and can delight to the dancing fingers. What made Baldori's performance even more impressive opening night was that he was playing with a split index finger, bandaged to protect it. Yet there was no evidence of even the slightest hesitation or favoring of the finger.
The two musicians, playing music that was at its popularity height in the '30s and '40s know how to entertain. Whether it is the humor of making a keyboard sing doo wops or the cheek-to-cheek playing with four hands on a single keyboard, they fill the evening with flair and fun.
Boogie-woogie, which Baldori defined as rhythm and improvisation over the blues, wasn't the music of concert halls. The skilled founders of the music played in backroom bars, speakeasies and night clubs. The music came out of the post-Civil War era when newly freed slaves were experiencing new opportunity to experiment with their music. The music was meant to make people dance - not anything slow and stately, but the fast patter of a beat that never stopped pumping.
This is the story that Baldori and Seeley tell on Stormfield's stage in "Boogie Stomp!" But ultimately it isn't the words that communicate the story, it is the music and those non-stop fingers dancing over the keyboard. It is the pure passion which the two musicians pour into the piano, making the impressive grands practically jump on the stage.
Stormfield Theatre, 201 Morgan Lane, Lansing. Thursday-Sunday through May 20. 136 minutes. $25. 517-351-6555. http://www.stormfieldtheatre.org
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