David Lively is a French concert pianist with origins in the United States. He was born within spitting distance of the Ohio River in Ironton, Ohio, then grew up near Chicago, Milwaukee, and finally in Saint-Louis. When he was 16 his piano teacher in pulled some [piano] strings and got David a university scholarship to study in France even though he hadn’t finished high school. He spent the next couple years in the late sixties getting an education in life and piano in the land of Debussy and Ravel. Then he stayed. And stayed. He’s been in France ever since and is called the most American of French pianists. But, as we all are, he’s still hard wired to his roots even after nearly 50 years abroad and although he performs many different composer’s music he has an attachment to American piano music. The album I Got Rhythm is a re-connection to his roots. Lively personally selected and performs Gershwin, Copland, Carter, Ives and other important American composers in a fast paced set of music for piano on his new album. The choice of songs is a panorama of a century and a half of American music. The album is balanced and contrasting and draws you in from the first track with the Maple Leaf Rag by Scott Joplin (the first song ever to sell more than a million copies in the composer’s lifetime). The album closes on another rag and in between you enjoy blues, jazz, square dance hoedown and well-known piano arrangements from Gershwin’s Songbook. All played with amazing technical mastery, verve, lightness and Lively-ness, of course! It is quite clear that with this album Mr. Lively is more than having fun; he is immersed in his element.
In his own words David Lively describes his album:
The expatriate has no home to go back to but the one in his heart. In mine live these incredibly vivid vignettes of American life, of American soul. Returning to them was a travel to the past, my country’s and my very own. Here in you will find our dances, our ballads, expression of joy, sorrow and love. It was also the opportunity to give tribute, my personal vision of how jazz and folklore infused our music for piano from its earliest manifestations to the most recent masterpieces.
In this album I hope you will find Billie Holiday’s timbre, Marilyn Monroe’s sexy voice, Miles Davis’s plaintive wail, my grandmother’s vernacular, the fun of a good ballgame, the gusto of a square dance I remember as a kid.
David Lively’s virtuoso really shines in a contemporary piece called Caténaires by Elliott Carter. Carter and Lively were close friends who met via a « freak encounter in the Paris subway » and collaborated frequently.
Michael Johnson of Facts & Arts says:
I have spent several hours listening to Lively’s almost clinical articulation, easy virtuosity and his sensitivity to the American idiom. I have rarely heard Scott Joplin bounce like this, or felt the Gershwin Songbook trigger the familiar melodies of my past. His Copland, Barber, Ives and Carter all dazzle.
I Got Rhythm is either a trip down memory lane or a discovery of American music and in either case the next album to add to your collection. Plus he’s just a really nice guy.