Rick Carlson taught himself to play the piano by studying the vast works of Count Basie and Duke Ellington and capitalizing on a long string of happy accidents. He has also perfected the art of “circular drinking”, whereby he can sip martinis uninterrupted while still playing a cohesive piano solo.
He has been the pianist for the Wolverines Big Band since 1980. He is a sought-after accompanist by singers and has served as pianist and musical director for various local concert series, including those for the Twin Cities Jazz Society’s “J To Z” series, the Capri Theater’s “Legends” series, and for special presentations at the Heights Theatre and performing arts centers across the United States. He has performed on concert stages in London and New York City, and has appeared with Count Basie drummer Butch Miles, trumpeter Warren Vaché, New Orleans clarinetist Evan Christopher, and served as musical director, arranger and pianist in the Guthrie Theater’s presentation of “Coward’s Women”. He has opened for Rosemary Clooney, accompanied Kathryn Crosby in various cabaret shows, and counts Madeleine Peyroux among his many unwitting fans.
…the pianism of Rick Carlson, whose buoyant accompaniment referenced the stride-style wizardry of Waller and James P. Johnson.
HOWARD REICH, CHICAGO TRIBUNE