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Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010 09:22 am

The piano player plays on

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Zach Radwine

They say it’s good to get a head start on things and Zach Radwine did just that. At the ripe young age of three Zach had his fingers on the piano keys then started in on lessons around four years old with extensive practicing included. Now 20-something years later the music still happens and the rehearsing too, plus a few other goings on as well, including studying for his third year of medical school.

“I try to play out every Friday here in Peoria (at Panache’s jazz night) with Dave Hoffman,” explained Radwine. “I get to do Remy’s now and then and a few other shows, but school is nearly all-consuming for now.”

Always involved in school and music, Radwine balanced playing and lessons all through his elementary and high school education. Then continued the pace during college, where he received an engineering degree from Washington University in St. Louis while playing in jazz bands both for school and private functions. Though his passion is clearly for piano jazz music, that style wasn’t always the focus of his studies.

“I trained in classical music until I was about18,” said Radwine. “My grandparents gave me an Oscar Peterson album when I was in high school and that made me start wanting to play jazz.”

After catching the bug of the “popular” music, Radwine pursued it with the discipline learned from all his years of lessons and practice, practice and lessons, studying with specific instructors along the way, learning the ins and outs of jazz piano, applying acquired technique to the new approach. He cites Keith Jarrett and Herbie Hancock as major influences with a nod to Bill Evans as a recorded mentor as well.

Radwine performs tunes by these masters and others in concert, plus original compositions, including a couple as yet untitled works fresh from the composer’s touch.

For the show this weekend at Remy’s on Monroe bassist Rob Killam and drummer Jay Ferguson round out the classic jazz trio, though Radwine often performs with other soloists. With the live music reputation of Remy’s, a surprise guest artist is always a wonderful and distinct possibility. In the last few years around Springfield the talented young pianist played Washington Street Jazz festival, Robbie’s Uptown Friday Night, First Night Springfield and opened for the Yellowjackets, an acclaimed and venerable jazz-fusion group of world renown. With med-school logically taking priority for now, those days of gigging frequently are on the back burner, but only for the time being.

“I’d kinda like to go to New York (City) for a while after I’m done with med school. It’s still the jazz capital of the world,” said Radwine. “In a few years I’ll play music more when I’m in control of my own schedule. Maybe find a club in New York and make some connections to see what happens.”

Whatever does happen, one thing’s for sure; Zach is making no plans to discontinue playing the piano while his life as a doctor progresses. He talks of a physician piano player named Denny Zeitlin who “is one guy I know of who pulled it off” to play music professionally and work as an M.D. He also intends on someday making a recording for the public while continuing to practice at least a few hours every day.

“Playing music is just a part of me. It’s something I have to do,” he admitted. “I don’t have a choice.”

Just a friendly reminder for all you fans and friends of our lately departed, blessed and beloved Raoul: the benefit and tribute happens at the Brewhaus this Sunday, Dec. 5, from 2 p.m. to midnight. Live music by many friends, plus food, giveaways, silent auctions and whatever else we can do to raise money to cover official costs of his passing.

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.

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