Robinson plays ragtime in Barrington
Sanfilippo Estate, 789 Plum Tree Road, Barrington Hills
8 p.m. on Aug. 18. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
The Sanfilippo Foundation 2012 Summer Concert Series continues on Sept. 22 with the Limited Edition Big Band and vocalist Julie Caselli performing swing, jazz and dance music.
(847) 691-7425, www.placedemusique.org/concertseries.html
Updated: August 10, 2012 10:52AM
After years as a world renowned ragtime pianist, Reginald Robinson is now dabbling in other areas of jazz.
The 5th Element, a jazz sextet he formed, played the Chicago Jazz Festival last year and will be playing more, including a show on Aug. 11 at City Winery in Chicago.
But, Robinson will go back to his musical roots Aug. 18, when he’ll perform some classic and original ragtime tunes and provide some history behind the music for the first of the Sanfilippo Foundation 2012 Summer Concert Series at the Sanfilippo Estate in Barrington Hills.
“I’ll play some Joplin and some of his contemporaries,” he said. “People like Joe Jordan. Talk a little bit about Fats Waller.”
Robinson, also a ragtime educator as well as composer and performer, said he’s still developing the curriculum for the night. Whatever he decides, it’s bound to be stimulating coming from the 2004 recipient of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Genius Award, which Robinson won thanks to his original ragtime compositions.
In 2006, Robinson was named a Chicago legend by the National Association of University Women.
Robinson will play the tunes on Sanfilippo’s 1927 Knabe Concert Grand piano, something he says will be inspiring.
“I went there to take a tour and I sat down at it for a brief moment. It’s a pretty nice piano,” he said. “I hope it sounds good. I hope everybody loves it. The piano is very inspirational. That’s what has inspired me — the old player pianos and their images and the history of things and how things work.”
What sparked his interest in ragtime was the ice cream truck rolling through his neighborhood tootling Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” when he was a kid in Chicago. Later, in seventh grade, jazz trumpeter Orbert Davis played that same song, and Robinson knew right then he wanted to play the piano.
Robinson taught himself how to play, first on a keyboard, then on a piano, and he began writing his own compositions.
Most recently, he played piano and contributed some original songs to “Keep a Song in Your Soul: The Black Roots of Vaudeville,” performed at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. He also has performed with several ensembles including Orbert Davis’ Chicago Jazz Philharmonic.
Robinson said it’s time to expand his repertoire, though. Thus, the forming of the 5th Element.
“We were talking about recording some stuff,” he said. “I’m trying to go in new directions in music, get away from the older music because I’ve been doing it for a while. I want to add on and play with a band. I’ve been doing other types of music.”
He added, “I can a play a piece solo and it sounds fine, but when I play a piece with a band it sounds more interesting.”
However, he will not be giving up his solo piano ragtime performances. Those are his bread and butter. But, the Sanfillippo show will be rare.
“It’s rare in a way because I’ve been playing all my own stuff and moving away from the historical pieces,” he said. “But this will be good. I love talking about the history of it with people who are interested.”