Saturday, January 18, 2014

Faces of the Artists Quarter #43

Chris Lomheim (2011)
© Andrea Canter

Back in the early-mid 90s, I used to listen to a young, skinny, scraggly-haired pianist who had the most elegant touch on the keys. I most often heard him at the old Dakota in Bandana Square, but lost track of him by the late 90s. Whatever happened to Chris Lomheim, I wondered.

One night around 2002 I was at the Artists Quarter listening to a trio or quartet. I arrived late and missed any introductions, but was fascinated by the pianist, a somewhat pudgy, short-haired fellow whom I did not recognize. New in town perhaps? "So who is that guy on piano who plays like Chris Lomheim?" Lomheim, of course, older, heavier, far more conventional looking than that young man I remembered from nearly a decade ago. But I never forgot that sound. Bill Evans with a touch of Jarrett and maybe a dash of Bud Powell.

Chris Lomheim (2005)
 Fortunately the Artists Quarter became a home base for Chris Lomheim in the new Millennium as he regularly played with his trio and with veterans Dave Karr, Gary Berg, Brian Grivna, Billy Peterson, Herbie Lewis, Gordy Johnson, Anthony Cox, Phil Hey and more; was a first call when the AQ hosted visitors like Eric Alexander, Jim Rotondi, Greg Tardy and Curtis Fuller; accompanied vocalists like Vicky Mountain, and was part of the revival of the Illicit Sextet. Most memorably, Chris paid tribute to his muse, Bill Evans, nearly every year around Evans' birthday.  "The audiences during these concerts were unlike any I’ve ever experienced anywhere," Chris told Bebopified recently. "You could hear a pin drop during ballads, they were so respectful and engaged in the music – truly an artist’s dream audience to perform for."

And truly, Chris Lomheim has been an audience's dream to listen to. About a year ago at the AQ, a now-again trim Lomheim played a trio gig with Billy Peterson and Kenny Horst during which Chris and Billy began to duel on "I Hear a Rhapsody."  Forget Bill Evans. I still hear that rhapsody.

With the Illicit Sextet at the 2013 Twin Cities Jazz Festival