The black and white keys of the piano sound beautiful when played with love, and few people truly love the piano as much as jazz, blues and boogie-woogie pianist Mark Lincoln Braun, who will be performing his annual “Mr. B’s Birthday Bounce” Saturday at the Kerrytown Concert House.
“Mr. B’s Birthday Bounce”
Saturday at 8 p.m.
Kerrytown Concert House
Tickets from $15
A Michigan native, Braun grew up in Flint, attended the University and started playing professionally here in Ann Arbor before he hit 20.
“I started playing later than most people. I started when I was about 15 years old. It wasn’t for the reasons that you hear some rock musicians say where (they) wanted to meet a girl,” Braun said. “I wanted to express myself somehow, and the piano felt just right to me from the time that I started to play it.”
Braun’s admiration of the piano led him to seek guidance and study directly from blues and boogie-woogie legends.
“In terms of the traditional blues and boogie-woogie pianists, the ones that I knew well and studied directly from were people like Sunnyland Slim, Blind John Davis, Little Brother Montgomery and Boogie Woogie Red. No jazz pianist could be unaffected by Duke Ellington, McCoy Tyner, Horace Silver — (I have) many, many, many favorites,” Braun said.
These were the men who taught Braun to appreciate the raw strength and beauty of the piano. They were also the men who taught him to appreciate the blues.
“The blues is the foundation of all good jazz. The blues is also at the root of all forms of American popular music, all kinds of rock ‘n’ roll, folk music, rap, hip hop,” Braun said. “The blues is the basis for all that. It is a feeling. It is a story that’s told through song.
“You can hear echoes in it of any other kind of music that you like,” he added. “Usually people (who) have not heard it before are amazed at the aggressive nature of the music and what an athletic piano style it is. Very outgoing, very ambitious pianistically, very rhythmically intense and fun.”
So what exactly is boogie woogie?
“(Boogie woogie) came from the Deep South. As it relates to pianists and piano-playing, there was a huge movement of pianists in the late 1920s and 1930s that took the blues, and took elements that they liked of it,” Braun explained. “They were influenced by the way they traveled from job to job in the deep South, (which) was on freight trains.
“It became a very effervescent, outgoing, extroverted and happy way of playing the blues, and it became what we call boogie woogie,” Braun added.
As the performance approaches, Braun is excited to bring his extraordinary energy and talent to the Kerrytown Concert House stage.
“My birthday falls in mid-February. It’s just a way for me to celebrate. It’s a chance for me to play at one of my favorite venues locally. I don’t have to be halfway around the world.”
As he prepares for his “Birthday Bounce” performance, Braun hopes more people will want to experience the musical styles he holds so close to his heart.
“It’s just a reality that there are not many people left who play this style of music anymore. Even around the whole world, there aren’t a lot of people,” Braun said. “I would say if you’ve never heard it before, it’s a chance to hear something that is a little rare and unusual from someone who’s been doing it their whole life, loves doing it and loves showing that I love it when I play.”