I had never heard of Chris Dawson until this morning, when a link to a video showed up in a friend’s e-mail message. The message contained rave blurbs about Dawson from Alan Broadbent, Charlie Haden, Dave Frishberg, Dick Hyman, Gary Foster, John Clayton and Bob Sheppard. The endorsements got my attention. The video was a shortened version of a longer film story about a pianist’s miraculous recovery from a hand injury that had ended his playing and put him on the street.
In the clip, Dawson was riveting, with piano work combining stride and bebop. Many latter-day forays into stride end up sounding imitative and automated. Naturalness, ease, harmonic flexibility and a gift for melodic line give his playing authenticity. I must confess that I was also taken with scenes of my old Southern California stomping grounds in the San Fernando Valley and along the Pacific Coast Highway. But the playing is the thing, as you will see and hear in this unedited clip of the film. It may win no Academy Award for acting or direction, but the premise is charming. It runs a little over six minutes.
Evidently, Dawson has been making waves in the Los Angeles area for some time, and has also worked in New York, but he had escaped me. I’m glad to have encountered him. Dawson’s web site has biographical information–however sketchy–about this stealth pianist, and more video clips.