James P. Johnson

The dean of shout pianist, "The King of Stride", James P. Johnson was known for his athletic mastery of the piano and his combination of mastery of classical theory with the exuberant feeling of blues. Johnson started his musical education by studying classical piano with his mother, and then continued his theory and technique studies with Bruno Giannini. Johnson recorded piano roles for Q.R.S. company beginning in 1917. These "recordings" were studied and copied by every aspiring jazz pianist who heard him. In the 1930s he wrote orchestral pieces, including atonal compositions and extended musical works in addition to his popular jazz works. "Yamekraw", a choral work, was performed in Carnegie Hall in 1927, with Johnson's most famous student, Fats Waller, on the piano. His hit song "Charleston" is the one song that captures the feeling of the Roaring Twenties for many people. (b. 2/1/1894 New Brunswick, NJ, d. 11/17/55 New York)