NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) – He started playing piano at the age of three, and some 50 years later it’s no wonder that David Torkanowsky is one of New Orleans’ premiere keyboard players.
But that this son of a world class flamenco artist and symphony conductor chose jazz was not so unusual for him or his dad.
Torkanowsky says, “He(his dad) believed in what Ellington said, there’s only 2 kinds of music good and bad. When my mother had flamenco parties and gypsies, he turned his, he was a killer violinist, he turned his violin over and start jammin’. Ya know he was cool, he loved conducting for Sarah Vaughn and the Modern Jazz Quartet, and Blood, Sweat, and Tears, he loved that stuff. It wasn’t like classical or jazz it was all music to him.”
As for Torkanowsky’s music education, growing up in our city provided more than fertile ground for influence, “I had influences but I was taken under the wing of many great New Orleans musicians, Danny Barker, The Lastie Family, Ellis Marsalis, so it’s like living in an encyclopedia living in this town”
Love for New Orleans and what makes it special is something Torkanowski has always been willing to fight for.
“This is a constant, even to this day a constant balance of African and European influence. This culturally the most important city in the country. And uh, right after Katrina, when Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert said ‘well you know if people want to hear jazz they can just go to Walt Disney World’, man I wrote him a letter… man I’m surprised the Secret Service didn’t knock on my door,” says Torkanowsky.
These days he spends time as composer-in-residence at Storyville New Orleans studios, where he writes original music and scores for television and film, but performance is where he really shines.
According to Torkanowsky, “I try to create situations where I can play the highest level music with the highest level musicians available. I”m blessed being able to do that.”
David Torkanowsky can be heard at the Wind Down Jazz Up at Tableau Restaurant every Thursday at 5pm with some of the world’s best musicians. He’s also music director of the 100th birthday of Frank Sinatra concert at the Orpheum Theater October 23rd. That show features John Boutte, Phillip Manuel, Kermit Ruffins, Jeremy Davenport and more.