Reginald R. Robinson
20 years after Reginald Robinson’s emergence as a young, self-taught, against the grain pianist and composer he has trulymade a name for himself; now an internationally recognized pianist and composer. He's neither a nostalgist nor an imitator, but a true American original.
Reginald’s love for music started in 1984 with his older brother playing 1930s "Swing" records at home. He gravitated towards ragtime by the 7th grade after a city funded arts program gave a music assembly at his school. The assembly was led by jazz trumpeter Orbert Davis and included in the band other jazz luminaries such as Ari Brown and Yosef Ben Isreal. In the middle of the show the group played a sample of Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” and this started Reginald's love affair with ragtime music.
Later that year Reginald's parents purchased a small electric keyboard and later an acoustic 88 key piano. With his parents at this time not being able to afford him the music education he so wanted, Reginald taught himself to read and write music. This involved self-quizzing from music books, creating original piano exercises and studying sheet music scores and recordings. He also practiced for more than 8 hours each day.
Reginald started playing professionally in the fall of 1992 after he was introduced to jazz pianist Jon Weber who immediately stood behind the production of Reginald’s first recording "The Strong Man" which was later used as part of his 1993 debut album for Delmark records. He has released three albums for the Delmark label and two independently.
In 1995 Reginald (along with violinist Miriam Sturm) collaborated on an original score for “Each One as She May. That same year Reginald was nominated for a Joseph Jefferson Award for best original music for "Each One as She May". Reginald's music was used as the piano soundtrack for the character Mayme) in the 2003 play “Intimate Apparel” at South Coast Repertory Theatre and was nominated for best music director at the Beverly Hills/Hollywood Theatre Awards that year. He made a special guest appearance performing Eubie Blake's "Slimbo" at the Chicago Humanities Festival's presentation of a "Tan Manhattan" (a newly reconstructed 1940 musical by Eubie Blake and Andy Razaf which hadn't been performed in more than 60 years). In the winter of 2011 Reginald collaborated on a theatre piece called "Keep a Song in Your Soul" .
Other accomplishments include a guest appearance on Marian McPartland's internationally syndicated and long running radio program "Piano Jazz", Marian McPartland showcasing Reginald as the first artist in her new "Rising Stars of Jazz Piano" series at Eastman School of Music in 1999.
Reginald toured for Urban Gateways to share his musical gifts, background and knowledge about the history of ragtime music at Chicago land area schools from 2000 – 2006. He also completed a well received touring performance/lecture for EISMA Evanston-In-School-Music-Association In 2002 which reached over 8000 children. Concurrently he performed and educated about the history of ragtime for students at UIC, Roosevelt, Northwestern, Dominican, Hampton University and Occidental
In 2003 Reginald composed and performed an original piano accompaniment to a 1920 Oscar Micheaux silent film drama entitled "Within Our Gates" which was presented by the Chicago Blues Exchange.
Reginald was awarded the rare and distinguished John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur “Genius Grant” In 2004, which is given to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.
By 2000 he had composed original music for an independent film by Zeinabu Irene Davis “Compensation” and wrote music for film producer Barbara Allen’s “Paper Trail” (2005), “Morning Due” (2007) and "Chicago’s Black Metropolis” (2010).
Reginald has performed as a soloist across the US and in Europe, has appeared as guest accompanist with Orbert Davis' Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, Chicago Sinfonietta, Renee Baker's Modern Orchestra Project and Fulcrum Point.
(Man Out of Time)
“So here we have a youthful antiquarian in Reginald Robinson not only performing ragtime, but actually expanding the body of ragtime compositions by 20 original and quite appealing pieces”.
…“Robinson is the embodiment of original intent. The music here, though his own, is dedicated to protecting and extending the classical beauty of the form with its structural formalities intact”.-John McDonough
(Man Out of Time)
…”The jazziest piece, number 13 in the lineup, is “Mr. Murphy's Blues” a jaunty tune named for Robinson's uncle, also a pianist. Other tunes including “Head Over Heels, Over You” and “The Amethyst” suggest European classical music inspiration. The Title tune has a strong Scott Joplin feeling, as does “Tears of Joy”.
It's obvious that Robinson is a fine craftsman of ragtime, writing multiple (and often contrasting) themes for the pieces, varying his pianistic expression from section to section and playing with clean, clear articulation. “The 19th Galaxy”, the final piece, is a tour de force of his piano skills”.-Owen Cordle
The Best of 2006
(Man Out of Time)
“Perhaps the most original recording of the year, Robinson's “Man Out of Time” represents a haunting look at the ragtime roots of jazz as well as a brilliant updating of the genre” Each composition on this disc encompasses a sonic world of it's own, from the Melting lyricism of “Janet” to the surging rhythms of “Ansaar” to the stunning virtuosity and cunning historical references of “The 19th Galaxy”. -Howard Reich