The Spectator
    July 25, 1992

    Arpin delights crowd with jazz lesson

    ....Music is so often the antidote to what ails us.
    This was the subtext to the elegant thesis proposed and proved last night by pianist John Arpin as he enthralled another large crowd at the Hamilton's Convention Centre for the second in the Boris Brott Summer Music Festival's Hot Jazz, Hot Pizza and Cold Beer series.
    The history lesson began back in the Gay '90's -- that was the 1890's, when gay meant merry -- and those gay '90's might well have been merry, indeed, but the popular songs of the day were dirges.
    There was much sackcloth and ashes lamenting in such ditties as She Was Only A Bird In A Gilded Cage, the pinnacle of which genre was a very fetching hit that was all the rage called Mother's Lying Dead In The Baggage Coach Ahead.
    Little Wonder then, that the public was so ready for some music that bubbled along with a syncopated beat and had joy in every line.
    Enter Scott Joplin and ragtime and the stage was set for the Blues, jazz, Gershwin, stride, swing, Broadway and all the myriad musics of the great American popular culture.
    That was the journey that Arpin took us on last night and there's no one on earth more qualified or more gifted with brilliant style and ferocious swing to guide you through this treasure trove of music.
    Pineapple Rag, Ragtime Nightingale and Slippery Elm Rag, that had the first "jazz break" in it in 1912, were followed by the blues of William Christopher Handy, he of Beale St. Blues, St. Louis Blues and his hit Careless Love (known back then as Loveless Love) and so Gershwin is one seamless stream of music, all related so closely and yet all so different.
    It was nothing less than an examination, and very enlightening one, of the very soil in which the roots of jazz were planted.
    Arpin played it all enthrallingly.
    The flashing, quicksilver decorations with which he tinseled-up Rogers and Hart's Mountain Greenery and the truly incredible My Funny Valentine played with just the left hand, that sounded as if two people were at the piano, were awesome evidence of a master pianist, who never resorted to florid romanticism but swung mightily every step of the way on his fascinating journey.
    It was vastly entertaining, yet revelatory evening of fun that showed us that from the sad dirges of the Gay '90's to Harold Aarlen's Get Happy of the Dirty Thirties, music has always deepened our merriment or soothed our sorrows and last night proved that pianist Arpin is just the person to demonstrate exactly how music does it.

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