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‘Pianist, Poet, Comedian’ features John Graves and friends

The Ross Aragon Community Center and Elation Center for the Arts presents “Pianist, Poet, Comedian,” a joyful concert featuring the multifaceted talents of John Graves, with world-class percussionist DC Duncan and consummate song stylists Johnny K and Natalie Oman, Friday, Sept. 17, at the community center.

A pre-concert social begins at 6 p.m. with free coffee and nibbles, a wine/beer cash bar, and background piano music by John Graves. The concert performance takes place from 7-9.

Advance tickets for $10 are available at the community center and Higher Grounds Coffee Company, through Thursday, Sept. 16. Tickets at the door are $12. Young people, 18 and under, will be admitted free.

Graves has a local following of enthusiastic fans that avail themselves every opportunity to see him perform. With plenty of music, laughs, fun and surprises, “Pianist, Poet, Comedian” is a rare opportunity to get a full-spectrum appreciation of John Graves, Pagosa’s cultural icon.

An artist known for wonderful music and a gift for nurturing a sense of community, Graves contributes to the local cultural scene as performer, producer, writer, consultant and mentor. He moved to Pagosa in 1996 after retiring from the University of Central Missouri as professor emeritus of mass communication.

“I consider myself the last bastion of an era of music,” says Graves.

Graves began his musical career as a young boy performing on a Steinway grand for Mickey Mouse Club shows at a movie theater that had once been a magnificent turn-of-the-century vaudeville theater. Throughout high school, Graves performed two or three nights a week. He continued performing through his years in college and, after graduating, went on the road with a small comedy band, replacing Stan Freberg. Besides playing for dancing, they did three floorshows a night, and Graves was featured as a deadpan comedian. After another tour with a band called Rick Fay’s Krazy Kats, he settled in Los Angeles and started a family while earning a living playing in piano bars.

Graves’ abundant creative energies propelled him through a thirty-five year career as a TV and film executive and producer while at the same time pursuing his career as a professional musician, accompanying many musical celebrities. “I’ve always promoted the old standards, jazz and show tunes from the first half of the 20th century. I’m one of the last emissaries from that era.”

Johnny K has performed internationally as a professional singer. Although Johnny K is young enough to be John Graves’ grandson, the two musicians work seamlessly together, without even the slightest suggestion of a generation gap. A native of Southern California, Johnny K grew up performing musical theater and opera, acting for television and films, working as recording artist, composer, recording engineer and ceramic artist.

According to Graves, “Johnny K, now in his mid thirties, probably knows more songs from the twenties, thirties and forties that any of my aged contemporaries. And in his case, knowing a song means that he can perform it with style and professionalism.”

DC Duncan has a long and impressive resume as a touring artist, session musician and producer. He started piano lessons at the tender age of 7 (and drum lessons at age 11. At the age of 17, Duncan started playing drums professionally with the Brack Sheppard Trio.

Graves says, “Finding a drummer of DC Duncan’s incredible ability in a town the size of Pagosa Springs was one of the most surprising and gratifying experiences of my musical lifetime. His technical virtuosity, range of experience, and creativity make him the best drummer I have ever worked with —anywhere.”

Natalie Oman is a professional singer, as well as an experienced stage and film actress.

“Natalie Oman, Johnny’s wife, brings beauty, charm, and a lovely voice to her distinctive vocal performances. In addition, her insights as an actress enable her to discover and deliver subtle nuances in her presentations,” says Graves.

When asked to give a little insight into what this concert was about, Graves responded:

“Music hath charms, ’tis said,

To soothe the savage beast.

But even with no beasts around

It’s fun, to say the least.

 “Poetry can vary, from

Just silly to sublime.

And it’s often quite an effort just

To make the darn things rhyme!

 “’Laughter’s the best medicine,’

You often hear them say,

So put these three together and

Chase your blues away!”

Come to “Pianist, Poet, Comedian” when John Graves pull out all the stops, with cohorts DC Duncan, Johnny K and Natalie Oman.

The Ross Aragon Community Center is located at 451 Hot Springs Blvd. For further information, call 264-4152.