by Elzy Kolb, Hot House, February 2011
Pianist/composer Peggy Stern played classical, rhythm-and-blues, salsa and many kinds of ethnic music before turning her attention to jazz. She studied at the Eastman School and continued through her master’s at New England Conservatory. Her attention shifted from the classical milieu to jazz when she discovered improvisation. “I deeply respect tradition, but I’m pretty eclectic,” Peggy says. “To this day, a lot of music goes in the mix. Those early influences stick. That’s when our emotions are most available. I do a lot of Latin, salsa, Brazilian. I’m very comfortable in dance mode.” She also write a lot for vocal ensembles and choirs, but don’t expect to hear Peggy sing any time soon. “It’s not a pretty sound,” she says. “I sing in tune, but it’s not something you’d want to hear. I started as a pianist and I’ll stick to that.” Peggy is looking forward to tickling the ivories at Kitano on February 5, where she’ll present a mix of originals, standards, and Latin tunes: “We’re just going to relax and play some music.” Peggy doesn’t make a habit of doing wedding gigs, but she’ll occasionally make an exception for family and friends. She is proud of the fact that “every wedding I’ve ever played, the people are still married.” So maybe that makes Peggy the ideal pianist to play a Valentine’s Day gig with singer Jay Clayton at the Cornelia Street Café on February 14.