Big Easy pianist/composer off-kilter and on target
By Mel Minter
You never know where pianist Tom McDermott will go haring off to next. That’s because he often hasn’t a clue, either. A daring and inventive improviser, he’s more than willing to go striding (or ragging or rumba-ing or tango-ing) through doors that lead who-knows-where. In the middle of a Scott Joplin piece, he might find an opening that leads straight to James Booker and start mixing the rag’s more straitlaced syncopation with the saucy funk of New Orleans R & B.
In the personnel list on his latest album, The Gate (Concord Music), his credit reads: “Kurt Elling—Voice.” It’s an appropriate choice because Elling plays his voice the way an instrumentalist plays his ax.
You could make the 13-hour drive to Austin for SXSW, struggle through pressing crowds, spend tons of money and only dream of reaching the bar in any given venue. Or you could drive a measly 45 minutes to Santa Fe and see many of the same bands as they make their pilgrimage to Texas.