Johnny O'Neal at the Penthouse in downtown Rochester

Leon “Ndugu” Chancler recently died. He played drums with Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Weather Report and Hugh Masekela but also did some serious session work. That’s him playing the drums on the intro to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” I really like this quote from his NYT obituary. “The player has to do much more listening than the listener coming to enjoy the music and if that player is doing that listening, he will become a great player.”

We heard Johnny O’Neil over the weekend up in the old corporate boardroom of Security Trust Bank. The eleventh floor space is surrounded by glass and you get a great view of downtown Rochester. It sounds good in there as well. Johnny O’Neil made a name for himself in New York in the early 1980s, drawing comparisons to classic jazz pianists like Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson. We had heard him before in an Exodus to Jazz series at Hochstein.

He plays piano in a trio setting. The bass player and drummer stay out of the way while Johnny works the room. He’s at home with the blues and sings about every other song. “She puts whiskey in her coffee, whiskey in her tea. Whiskey in her whiskey, too much whiskey for me.”

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