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Tommy Gill missed in Charleston

Charleston won’t sound the same without Tommy Gill
Aug 9 2014 12:01 am
from the Charleston New and Courier

BY DOTTIE ASHLEY
When pianist Tommy Gill filled a space – whether a tiny bistro or a 1,000-seat hall – his fingers moved with such dizzying speed that it often appeared as if a higher power had taken over the keyboard.
In a wink, the Charleston native could switch from a swiftly executed version of Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo a la Turk,” to the Four Freshmen’s lush “Indian Summer.”
When Gill died of renal failure Thursday, only four days before his 50th birthday, he left an enormous void, not only among local musicians, but also throughout the Lowcountry.
While in his early 20s, it became clear that Gill should be performing in places such as New York’s Village Vanguard, or in L.A. playing on soundtracks for films, or at Capitol Records recording with major bands and orchestras.
However, the unassuming eldest of six, who, beginning at age 16, earned his spending money playing in local restaurants and clubs, would say, “I just want to practice hard, to compose, and to perform music to lift the spirits of the people who hear it.”
At age 3, Gill began picking out tunes on the piano, with the help of his mother, Harriott. Then, after graduating from high school, he journeyed to Boston to study piano performance, theory and composition at the New England Conservatory of Music (1983-85).
While at the conservatory, he also trained to become a high-grade piano technician.
“I learned how to tune, voice, and regulate nine-foot concert grands, and, after earning my certificate, was hired by Steinway & Sons in New York,” Gill recalled. “My job was to tune pianos to be used in Carnegie Hall for concerts by such stars as Rudolf Serkin and Emanuel Ax.”
Gill also began playing some gigs in clubs in the Boston and the New York area, but said, “Sometimes in the clubs with people drinking too much, and often being rude, that made it difficult.
“You have a set of rules and a certain discipline that you have to follow. Within these rules, there is a chance to create something unique. But you can’t ever forget the rules are there.”
After years of taking classes, part-time, at the College of Charleston, while performing in clubs and restaurants, accompanying stage musicals and concerts, and working as a piano tuner, Gill finally earned a degree in music from the college in 1993.
Once, when he was at our house tuning our Steinway, Tommy ran his fingers lovingly over the keys, playing some bars from “I Loves You Porgy,” and said, in a soft voice: “This is what it’s all about.”
For years, Gill served as the pianist for the Charleston Jazz Orchestra, which performs at the Charleston Music Hall, with approximately 25 local and regional musicians.
Of the dozens of times over the more than 20 years that I’ve heard Tommy Gill make music, the performance that will forever live in my memory was his re-conceptualization of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody In Blue” which received its world premiere at a CJO concert in 2010.
His arrangement, which encompassed the entire second half of the evening, used the tune “Pure Imagination” from the film, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” as a prelude to Gershwin’s trademark bluesy clarinet introduction. Then, throughout the piece, containing his own intricate, dynamic chords, Gill brought to the keyboard a melange of Latin, rock, and swing to make “Rhapsody” his own.
As Tommy’s good friend, the late Jack McCray, who was co-founder of the CJO, once said, “Tommy transforms his music into a truly spiritual experience, which makes him, for me, one of a kind.”
Dottie Ashley is a former Post and Courier feature writer and columnist.

Photographs of Tommy Gill and other Charleston Musicians

Tommy Gill photographed by Ben Stroman in performance with the Mark Sterbank Jazz Group in 2005 and 2007.

Tommy Gill

Tommy Gill


View The Photographs Presented in a slide show

It is with Great Sadness that I report that my Nephew Tommy Gill is no longer with us. He passed away early Friday morning August 8 2014. May God Rest His Soul.

Tommy Gill – Jazz Compositions based on Gershwin Themes

This is in Memory of David Stahl (4 November 1949 – 24 October 2010)

It is with Great Sadness that I report that my Nephew Tommy Gill is no longer with us. He passed away early Friday morning August 8 2014. May God Rest His Soul. This section is now in Memory of both of these great musicians.

In 2003, my nephew Tommy Gill (who is well known in the Charleston South Carolina and surrounding low-country area as a Jazz Pianist and Steinway Piano Technician) was tuning the piano at home of David Stahl, Conductor of the Charleston Symphony. He was asked by Stahl to play Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” with the Symphony Orchestra. After studying Gershwin compositions for a year, Tommy not only played the concerto, but went on to compose and arrange three Jazz pieces based on Gershwin Themes, these are featured below.

Jazz Performance based on Gershwin’s Theme “Summertime”

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Introduction to “Rhapsody in Blue”

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Jazz Performance based on Gershwin’s Theme “Rhapsody in Blue”

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Jazz Performance based on Gershwin’s Theme “I’ve Got Rhythm”

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David Stahl biographical information from Wikipedia.

David Stahl studied conducting at Queens College, City University of New York. After making his Carnegie Hall debut at age 23, he came under the tutelage of Leonard Bernstein, eventually taking over as music director of the Broadway production of West Side Story. In 1984, he became Music Director of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra; a position he remained in until his death 26 years later. In 1996 he was invited to be guest conductor at the Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz. He assumed the title of Music Director there from 1999. He also worked frequently as a guest conductor of operas and musicals at major theatres around the world, including the Bavarian State Opera, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the New York City Opera among others.

As an enthusiast of Bernstein, he had been behind several revivals of Candide, including conducting an acclaimed 2003 German language production narrated by Loriot and a 2008 production in Charleston, South Carolina. He was also involved in the staging of a notable production of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess in Charleston, the city where the opera is set, which went on to tour internationally in the early 1990s. In 2009 he celebrated 25 years at CSO and 10 years at the G√§rtnerplatz.

David Stahl died of lymphoma on October 24, 2010.

Long Long Ago – Four Renditions

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Long Long Ago played by the three students who had lessons last Saturday ( May 21, 2011 ). Starting with the young man who has just started learning the piece, and progressing through the two young ladies who have been working on it for a couple of weeks. Finally I finish up with a jazzed up rendition and ruin the whole thing.

New Music Videos

Here is a recent improvisation and some video “The Oriental Flowers”

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The Hobo Song made famous by Burl Ives in the 1950s “Big Rock Candy Mountain”

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A video made for our Church Food Ministry with some of my piano in the background. “Food Pantry Feb 22 2011”

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There are a number of new videos posted in the Ben Stroman Channel on YouTube.

Visit The Ben Stroman Channel on YouTube.

Not all have music by me as a number of videos feature music at Glory of God Anglican Church in Cocoa, but there are a number of videos that show samples from my daily practice sessions posted to (Hopefully) inspire my students.

Daybreak at the Beach – New Music Video

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Some video on the beach, and some piano recorded at our church on the Kurzweil Electronic Piano – a far brighter sounding instrument than my Kawei Digital Piano. Music performed and recorded by Ben Stroman, as well as the video.

Recording Pieces for a DVD

I have begun to record some music that will be used for two new DVDs – one that will be primarily historical and nostalgic about my parents, and another that will be just for fun – here is the first partially successful items using the new Kawei recording system built into the digital piano.

Kawei

Bach Minuet in G Maj – BWV 116 Apr 18 2010

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“By the Seaside” J. L. Streabbog Apr 19 2010

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“Waltz by Diabelli” Anton Diabelli April 26 2010

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“Ecossaise” Beethovan April 27 2010

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“NEW – 32 Bar Blues Vamp” Ben Stroman April 27 2010 It’s still a Work in Progress – What can I say?

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Piano Lesson

The Piano Lesson

Breakdown of a Piano Lesson

Breakdown of a Piano Lesson

The Videos are made and are streaming properly from YouTube, along with an introduction to outline how I work through a piano lesson toward what I hope will be the “Teachable Moment” – and here it is The Piano Lesson. – So Here it Is – The Videos Open Separately, just close the video window and you will be right back to the narative and Links.

Thoughtful Michael Jackson Article

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A Thoughtful and Well Written Ariticle on a Somewhat Tragic Life

A Thoughtful and Well Written Ariticle on a Somewhat Tragic Life


(Copied from Florida Today July 3, 2009)

Music by Austin Church

Several Excellent Videos by Austin Church singing his original songs including “Miss Ola The Mississippi Giver” – Video by Valencia Community College, and several other songs with video by Ben Stroman. Austin often performs at “And All That Jazz” Cafe where you can enjoy the fine food served by Chef Peter.

Miss Ola

Miss Ola