Listen and learn: Keith Nichols


In the 19th of a series of articles, David Bird discusses the work of Redbridge Music Society and introduces us to local jazz pianist Keith Nichols, who will be performing at Wanstead Library in early December

One of the aims of Redbridge Music Society is to bring high-standard live musical events of all styles and genres to local venues at affordable prices, performed within a social and genial atmosphere. On 3 December, Keith Nichols will provide a programme of festive music performed in his own inimitable way at the Churchill Room in Wanstead Library.

Keith is considered to be a foremost authority on classic jazz and ragtime and is a widely respected exponent of the Harlem Stride style of jazz piano playing – a style developed in the large cities of the American East Coast during the 1920s and 1930s. He also specialises in all older jazz piano styles, including Scott Joplin, James P Johnson (“the father of stride”), Duke Ellington and Fats Waller.

Born in 1945 in Ilford, Keith took piano and accordion lessons at the age of five, becoming Great Britain junior champion on accordion in 1960. After graduating from the Guildhall School of Music, he turned professional and toured for seven years with the jazz-comedy band Levity Lancers, in which he played piano, trombone and tuba.

Over the years, Keith has toured extensively in the UK, Europe and America and has performed at many major world venues, such as London’s South Bank Centre and New York’s Carnegie Hall. He first visited the USA in 1976 as a member of Dick Sudhalter’s New Paul Whiteman Orchestra and in 1977 helped form the Midnite Follies Orchestra. Also in the 1970s he formed the band New Sedalia and helped with the formation of the Ragtime Orchestra.

Keith has written many arrangements and transcriptions in the 1920s and 1930s style and has made three solo albums for EMI and many for Decca (including one with Bing Crosby) and the American Stomp Off label. In 1990, he was invited by musical director Bob Wilber to play the piano part of Hoagy Carmichael on the soundtrack of the feature film Bix.

Currently, Keith is freelance and continues to perform and record prolifically, as well as lecturing on jazz history at the Royal Academy and Trinity colleges. He is also a well-regarded authority on Fats Waller.

Keith’s distinctive playing, humorous personality and warm engagement with his audiences always make for a particularly enjoyable evening. And next month’s event will end with the music society’s annual festive celebrations with plentiful complementary refreshments. Start your run-up to this year’s Christmas season by joining us in an evening of high-quality festive entertainment.

Keith will perform at Wanstead Library on 3 December from 8pm (tickets on the door: £10; members: £7). For more information, call 07380 606 767. Redbridge Music Society is supported by Vision Redbridge Culture & Leisure and is affiliated to Making Music.
Author: Editor