As a musical preview to the exhibition Riffs and Relations: African American Artists and the European Modernist Tradition, celebrated pianist and composer Aaron Diehl weaves between jazz and classical styles as he explores the cross-pollination between musical forms. Diehl’s program explores the hybrid aesthetic of 20th- and 21st-century music, where African American composers borrowed from the music of European modernists, and European composers borrowed liberally from the improvisatory forms of jazz. In ways that musically echo the exchange of ideas in the visual arts expressed in the exhibition, Diehl juxtaposes the music of Duke Ellington with Claude Debussy, James P. Johnson with Antonín Dvořák, and Erik Satie with Thelonious Monk, finding compelling similarities and tensions between what we commonly think of as disparate musical genres.
Program to be announced.
The 33-year-old classically trained pianist and composer, Aaron Diehl has made an indelible mark on the jazz world over the last 17 years. While showing a rare affinity for early jazz and mid-20th century “third-stream” music, his latest evolution comes as he begins to tackle modern classical works, having performed Gershwin’s piano sonatas and “I Got Rhythm Variations” with the NY Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, LA Philharmonic, and Amarillo Symphony in the last year and performing the piano works of Philip Glass in numerous locales, both in the US and abroad.
Diehl has collaborated with living masters ranging from jazz greats Wynton Marsalis and Benny Golson to 20th-century classical titan Philip Glass. He has established himself as one of the preeminent interpreters of the Great American Songbook in his working Trio and as musical director and arranger for the remarkable vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant.
The New York Times jazz critics have extolled Diehl’s “melodic precision, harmonic erudition, and elegant restraint,” while the same paper’s classical critics have noted, “Mr. Diehl play[s] magnificently.”
A graduate of Juilliard, Diehl was named the 2011 Cole Porter Fellow by American Pianists Association, in 2014 became the youngest ever Monterey Jazz Festival Commission Artist and has released two critically acclaimed albums on the Mack Avenue Records label. He was the Music Director for Jazz at Lincoln Center’s 2014/15 New Orleans Songbook series, and in 2017 participated in Jazz in July’s “The Art of Tatum,” honoring one of his primary piano idols, Art Tatum.
When he isn’t on tour or recording, Diehl enjoys spending time in the sky. A licensed pilot, one of his favorite planes to fly is the Beechcraft Bonanza.