[Note: As of Sept. 12, tickets are sold out. Please see last paragraph for complete details.]
BRISTOL, R.I. – After an early career playing gospel piano in churches near his native Detroit, Johnny O’Neal began a lifelong exploration of jazz. In the early 1980s, he burst onto New York City’s jazz scene with such touch, unparalleled command of tunes and love of performing that he’s still the hottest ticket today.
Fresh on the heels of Live at Smalls, his most recent album, O’Neal takes the stage on Wednesday, Sept. 17, for an intimate performance. Part of the emerging Live@RWU series at Roger Williams University – which hosted jazz legend Freddy Cole and emerging jazz superstar Aaron Diehl last year – the concert is free and open to members of the public who reserve tickets in advance.
“Johnny has a cult following in NYC in part because some people – myself included – believe he may have the best left hand in piano jazz,” says Robert M. Eisinger, dean of the University’s Feinstein College of Arts and Sciences, the event’s sponsor. “Johnny swings hard. He scat sings. He is ridiculously talented, largely self-taught and puts on a great show. He raises the roof every time.”
As a pianist and vocalist, O’Neal’s credits have included Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Sarah Vaughan, Dizzy Gillespie, Nancy Wilson and Milt Jackson, among others. In 2004, he landed the role of the illustrious Art Tatum in the blockbuster movie, Ray. This May – in a piece titled “A Piano Great is Back, Singing a Gusty Blues” – the New York Times profiled O’Neal and his return to the New York City jazz scene after more than two decades out of the public spotlight. His is a story worthy of a film in its own right.
The Wednesday, Sept. 17, concert at Roger Williams takes place at 7:30 p.m. in the Global Heritage Hall Atrium on the University’s Bristol campus at One Old Ferry Road. The event is free and open to the public — but seating is limited and tickets are required for all attendees. For more information and to reserve your tickets today, please visit www.rwu.edu/go/JohnnyO.
[Note: As of Sept. 12, tickets are sold out. Due to high demand for the Live@RWU series and a limited seating capacity in Global Heritage Hall, tickets for the Johnny O’Neal concert are now sold out. However – in the event that there are no-show ticket holders – we will do our best to accommodate guests if any seats are empty at the concert’s start time. For those without tickets who are still interested in attending, please show up outside Global Heritage Hall no later than 7:15 pm on Wednesday, Sept. 17. We will accommodate as many additional guests as seating capacity allows.]