National NPR had a nice, fairly long piece yesterday on Luther Williams, a New Orleans native who relocated to Little Rock after Katrina. He's a PhD, a preacher and an a amazing self-taught piano player. Williams plays stride, the frenetic style of jazz piano made popular by the likes of Fats Waller and Art Tatum.
David Koon wrote a nice short piece
about him back in 2005.
Williams lost his piano in the hurricane, and he's spent the last several years mainly caring for his ailing 92-year-old, so he hasn't had enough money to replace his piano. He doesn't play out, but he is working on a CD with help from local jazz fan Dr. Rex Bell and the jazz guitarist Ted Ludwig, who also came to Little Rock after the storm. By chance, Ludwig and Williams ended up in the same west Little Rock apartment complex and have become friends. Bell is providing Williams studio time at Windsong Performing Arts Center and Ludwig is helping produce the album, which Williams plans to call "Testament."
Here's a snippet of the NPR spot, which you can listen to in full here
The record marries Williams' religious and musical interests while highlighting the stride genre. "I'm concerned that stride has been placed in a glass case and people leer at it now, as if somehow it's something divorced from the American experience that gave birth to it," Williams says. "It's not a museum music; it's a music of the people. It's dance music. That's where it belongs."