You’ve reached a Premium article. To continue reading, please login or start a 3-MONTH TRIAL SUBSCRIPTION for just 99 cents/month. You’ll receive unlimited digital access plus a complimentary issue of our award-winning print magazine.
Join Our Newsletter
Join thousands of other jazz enthusiasts and get new music, artists, album, events and more delivered to your inbox.
By Michael Fagien
Though JAZZIZ has produced quarterly thematic print issues for the past five years, we tested a one-topic/special interest concept 30 years ago with an entire issue on keyboards titled “The Key Players.”
For that 1994 issue, in addition to featuring a variety of acoustic and electric jazz keyboardists and a historical perspective with classic albums and current releases in every conceivable jazz style, the editorial planning included a talent search to discover and present some of the greatest “unsigned and obscure” recording artists playing the keys.
To encourage keyboardists around the world to submit their work, we offered a grand prize Steinway piano, a recording contract on Telarc (now part of Concord Records) and a headlining slot at a gala event at Steinway Hall in Manhattan. I also recruited Dave Brubeck and Bob James to judge the entries. Entrants, back in the pre-internet world, were required to mail in their tracks on digital audio tape (DAT), the format du jour, which most serious musicians had access to. I then meticulously transferred each submission onto a brand-new and promising technology from Sony called MiniDisc. If you’re not familiar with MiniDisc, these were pre-CD-ROM-era proprietary miniaturized recordable 3-inch CDs encased in plastic akin to the old floppy discs. You could type in the information (what is now called metadata) about the artist and song title and listen to the music on dedicated MiniDisc players. This proved to be a necessary and efficient methodology to sort through hundreds of tracks transferred to dozens of MiniDiscs and listen on Sony playback devices that I sent to Dave and Bob.
The CD inside that issue of JAZZIZ included the Top 10 of all the entries selected by the two jazz icons, and the grand prize went to John Serry, who received his grand piano while living in New York. Serry’s album Enchantress was released on Telarc the next year, and the event at Steinway Hall was a huge success — a packed house that included Billy Joel. Though John now lives in Paris, for so many reasons he and I still stay in touch — not the least of which is that I snatched the name for this magazine from an obscure album Serry recorded in 1980 titled JAZZIZ.
So here we are, 30 years later, with our latest issue, which could have been titled “The Key Players, Volume Two,” as it’s another entire issue dedicated to some of the greatest pianists in jazz. And while the world has certainly changed since 1994, as always, I hope you’ll read, listen and enjoy. This time around, our judges include you.