James P. Johnson, the father of stride piano, the composer of “The Charleston” and “The Carolina Shout,” and one of the founders of modern jazz piano, lies in an unmarked grave in the Mount Olivet Cemetery in Queens, New York. To remedy that unfortunate situation, the James P. Johnson Foundation is running an all-day “rent party” at Small’s Jazz Club in Manhattan to raise money to purchase a proper monument for Johnson’s gravesite.
The event will begin at 1 p.m. on October 4 with a symposium by musicologist and Johnson scholar Scott Brown, who will discuss Johnson’s life and work. Brown’s presentation will include an exhibit from The James P. Johnson archive housed at The Rutgers Institute for Jazz Studies.
From roughly 3 p.m. until 9 that evening, live music will prevail with a steady stream of pianists playing solo tributes to Johnson. Right now that lineup includes Dick Hyman, Ethan Iverson, Ted Rosenthal, Terry Waldo, Mike Lipskin, Ehud Asherie, Conal Fowlkes, Spike Wilner, Michael O’Neal and Aaron Diehl.
Suggested tax-free donations are $20 with all proceeds going to the James P. Johnson Foundation. Smalls is located at 183 West 10th Street and 7th Avenue.