Artful Piano Series Part 2

Nina Ott and Alan Rowe were also featured in the Artful Piano series. While very different stylistically, they are both tremendously creative, have unique approaches, and gifted us with wonderful performances.

Nina Ott and Chris Lopes have dedicated many years to exploring latin music and fusing it with their many influences. The first tune they played was an original called Bebo dedicated to late great pianist Bebo Valdés.

Then they launched into The Peanut Vendor. According to wikipedia: “El manisero“, known in English as “The Peanut Vendor“, is a Cuban sonpregón composed by Moisés Simons. Together with “Guantanamera”, it is arguably the most famous piece of music created by a Cuban musician. “The Peanut Vendor” has been recorded more than 160 times, sold over a million copies of the sheet music, and was the first million-selling 78 rpm single of Cuban music.

I started researching Cuba and found some interesting footage. As most of you know, Cuba has a rich history, some great and some bad. I won’t dive into that here but it was a crown jewel destination in our hemisphere for many decades – Havana was a very happening place. I chanced upon a film by avant garde Russian filmmaker Mikhail Kalatozov called Soy Cuba. Kalatozov had been recognized for long continuous shots which technically were very difficult to do at the time, a distinction he shares with Orson Welles – watch the opening of one of my favorite films: A Touch of Evil.  I found matching locations, including the Capri Hotel, in other footage and blended them together letting Nina’s soundtrack guide the action.


Alan Rowe is a wonderfully creative musician from New Hampshire who brought back Jazz master bassist John Lockwood to perform duo for their set. Based on the Cole Porter standard “What is this Thing Called Loved”, Alan composed his own melody. Like many great musicians today, his influences include Thelonious Monk – one of the key architects of Be-Bop. Monk was known to let his musicians play, often standing up from the piano and slowly spinning around while listening. He calls this tune: What Goes A Round. There is a surprising amount of wildlife around the Waban Library – a perfect compliment to the beautiful piano that made the library its home in May.

I had not expected to capture this classical performance but got lucky. Violinist and composer Icli Zitella came in from New York to perform his Vertices Suite at all 9 pianos in Newton and this is his performance from Waban.

Chris Pitts is an award-winning producer, and founder of a pioneer eLearning multimedia company. Dedicated to principles of knowledge-sharing, stewardship of environmental and historic assets, and strengthening communities, Chris has served on the boards of arts organizations, community groups, and the ACLU. He and his family moved to Newton in 2000, where his children enrolled in the Newton Public Schools. Living in the village of Waban, Chris played a lead role in the successful effort to save the Waban Branch Library for community use, help found and run Waban Village Day, and is Vice President of the Waban Improvement Society. Chris is currently an elected councilor and Vice President on the Waban Area Council, where he directs the Future Planning Project, a resident-led process to plan the Waban village residents would like to see in the years ahead.

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