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Cocktail Piano Rooms » Memphis: Peabody Hotel

Memphis: Peabody Hotel

Memphis: Peabody Hotel

photos: Jim Haskins

  And not to ignore my most seminal cocktail piano experience, I think it would be well to do a re-run of the Peabody story. Those of you who are followers of COCKTAIL PIANO albums have seen it in several versions, but newcomers to this series may want to know just how my fascination with cocktail piano began.

During World War II, I was exploring multiple paths in music—having a ball playing piano for servicemen and their dates at he American Legion Hall in the small Tennessee town where I grew up; spending countless hours in the tiny booth in the local record store, mesmerized by the latest releases of Harry James, Glenn Miller, and all the other era greats; and—on a more structured level—making long bus trips to Memphis, where I gained an essential foundation in the classics under the expert tutelage of distinguished pianist Suzie Laverne DeShazo, herself a pupil of the renowned French pianist Alfred Cortot.

Also on a musical note, my father loved big band dance bands. I often wonder if he had any idea what the long term consequences might be the evening he took me to dinner at the Skyway on the top floor of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis. I was at an impressionable age, and watching the lights coming on in the city where the highest building was hardly more than twenty stories was every bit as magical to me as New York or Paris would ever be in later years. Just as we were seated, the big band went on break. Then out came a pianist to play Gershwin. It was the cocktail piano sound. It was wonderful. And different—hearing the captivating songs of the period played in a quiet, sophisticated style, not quite jazz and not quite classical, but in a way that utilized both. It was a moment of affirmation for me. Without further ado, I fell under the spell of the lovely, liquid voice of cocktail piano. It was an attraction that has lasted a lifetime.

New York: The Rainbow Room

New York: The Mayfair Hotel, Lobby Tearoom

San Francisco: InterContinental Mark Hopkins, Top of the Mark

Honolulu: Canlis

Honolulu: Halekulani Hotel Lewers Lounge

Budapest: A Fish Restaurant

Hong Kong: Four Seasons Hotel, Lobby Lounge

Memphis: Peabody Hotel, The Skyway

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