Next in our series of interviews with some of Central Ohio’s finest jazz musicians is pianist, composer, and educator Richard Lopez. Lopez has long been known as one of the finest pianists in the Columbus area, as he has been heard in many of the finest local venues, but has also performed as far away as Mexico. He is currently a faculty member at Otterbein College and Denison University, and has also taught at the University of Akron, The Ohio State University and Capital University. Lopez is currently leading exciting monthly and weekly gigs at the Columbus Museum of Art and Sidebar Columbus, respectively (see below for more details). Keep reading for more insights into Lopez’s background and upcoming projects:
When and why did you start playing music and jazz?
Richard Lopez (RL): I started my musical career on the clarinet in grade school. I always enjoyed music and felt like I wanted to share a bit of myself through it. My dad was a huge fan of Benny Goodman and would lock me in a room for a hour making me practice! I started playing piano around 14 or 15 years old, and quickly sought out jazz.
Who are some of your main influences in your playing/performing?
RL: My high school idols were Ramsey Lewis and Oscar Peterson. Most of my adult life I have been listening to Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett. There are so many! My main classical teacher in college was such an amazing teacher he made it possible to overcome a late start as a pianist and allowed me to develop my technique in jazz and classical.
What are your fondest musical memories?
RL: Playing Rhapsody in Blue with the Columbus Symphony in the great Ohio Theater, trio nights at Rigsby’s with Jim Rupp and Roger Hines.
What are you listening to today? What’s on your playlist?
RL: Lots of Latin jazz, Ray Barretto, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Michel Camilo, Fred Hersch, Mulgrew Miller, Bill Cunliffe, Ravel, and Bill Charlap.
What inspires you about the Columbus Jazz scene?
RL: I like the many small venues that have been around for a long time and the new startups. The Walrus, Sidebar, Dick’s Den, Carabar just to name a few. It seems like musicians are very passionate when playing these smaller venues.
What are you working on for 2016? Any new projects, exciting shows or releases?
RL: I’m excited about the Columbus Museum of Art “Jazz Masters Series” concerts. This season’s highlights are a collaboration with a great Cuban pianist/composer and a Billie Holiday show. In May I’ll be playing Maurice Ravel’s Concerto in G with the Columbus Community Orchestra. This work, though classical, is heavily influenced by jazz and allows me to draw on my classical and jazz background. I have produced two CD’s, but am way overdue to get another one out.
Where can local audiences see you play in the near future?
RL: I am going to be at Sidebar Columbus, 122 E. Main Street, every Thursday night with a rotation of Columbus’ fine jazz musicians in duo settings. This coming week [Thursday, February 25th, 6:30 – 9:30pm] I will be with Roger Hines on bass.
Sunday, March 6th, 3-5pm is the next “Jazz Master Sessions” concert in the Cardinal Health Auditorium at the Columbus Museum of Art: “Jazz Goes to the Movies and TV.” Kelly Delaveris is joining us on vocals, along with Byron Rooker on saxophone, Terry Douds on bass and Jim Rupp on drums. Tickets available at the door or call 614-629-0312. Click here for more details.
Folks can check out my whereabouts on my website: www.richardlopeziano.com