Black, White and Fields All Over

Irving Fields (Manhattan 2008)
Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking with a vibrant American pianist and lounge music artist, Irving Fields.  I met the 98-year-young Irving Fields while playing a Gershwin medley for us at the closing party for the historical 

Owned by Carl Demler, Beethoven Pianos is one of Manhattan’s oldest, full-service, family-owned piano stores. Carl Demler’s publicist, Debbie Dickinson organized the evening so it was also a Ronal McDonald House fundraiser. A percentage of all piano sales went towards the tireless work RMH does on behalf of families whose children have cancer.

Louise Masano and I enjoy Irving.

The building that housed Beethoven Pianos for the past 40 years was recently bought by Extell Development Company as part of an assemblage to be torn down. I think the wrecking ball was outside. Attending the closing of this treasure trove of magnificent pianos reminded me how quickly real estate can change the course of history. 

Luckily, I was able to enter this specialty shop
one last time to support The Ronald McDonald House, one of my favorite charities, while also taking in the sweet sounds of Irving Fields.

After the fundraising event, I accompanied Marty Feinberg to see Irving play at Nino’s. The last time I saw Irving play was when my Dad was alive and he would say, 
“At least I can understand him when he sings”.

Irving interacting with the audience.
That night, I was invited to his 98th birthday celebration held the following week at
Nino's Tuscany Steak House,where he has played for over 10 years, and still plays six nights a week, often times for his famous NYC friends, Tony Bennett, Barbara Walters, Donald Trump, and Regis Philbin.  

Nino’s Steak House has an old-fashioned atmosphere with it’s warm lighting, exposed brick, and hand-painted murals greeted us, and it became quickly apparent how much Fields relishes his nightly gigs at his other home, Nino’s

Irving and I at Nino's Steakhouse.
From soliciting requests from diners to making witty quips about Chopin and steak,  Fields always sets out to create an intimate audience-performer relationship and Nino’s creates a music-cuisine relationship as well.

Creating meaningful connections, helping others while visiting new artistic haunts, and enjoying good food are my greatest passions in life. I’d say my evening with Irving Fields touched on the journey I seek for myself and with others.

Irving at his 98th birthday celebration.

A little about Irving. “Piano” and “Forte” seem the best musical adjectives to describe Fields’ dynamic playing style (“Piano” and “Forte” meaning “Soft” and “Strong”, respectively).  Fields says his style of play is greatly influenced by his environment. 

His compositions are reflective of the time he spent in the Catskills, Miami, Cuba, and Manhattan, always resulting in an enticing and euphonious amalgamation of different styles and sounds.  

Portrait of Irving from the 1950s.
Fields’ complex arrangements carry a unique flavor that is undeniably his, and he never fails to leave the audience hypnotized and energized, simultaneously and a little New York humor to top it all off.

While doing some preliminary research on Fields, I came across a little anecdote that I feel encapsulates Irving’s musical personality.  In this story, Fields recalls one of his 1950’s shows where two couples made competing requests - one wanted Jewish music and the other, a rumba.  In response to their request, Fields said, “I got an idea, let me put the Jewish music to a rumba rhythm”.  

"Bagels and Bongos" record cover.

Irving took this Jewish-Latin fusion idea, and in 1959 recorded his most famous album to date, Bagels & Bongos for Decca Records.  Bagels & Bongos went double platinum, selling over two million copies.  Some of Irving Fields’ most noteworthy compositions to date include,
 "Miami Beach Rumba" and "Chantez Chantez."  More recently, in 2008, Irving composed the theme song which has garnered over 850,000 views. 

Not being one to rest on his laurels, Irving continues to stay very busy performing, singing and composing.

In my ongoing quest for some inspirational plane and beach reading, I bought Fields’ Gershwin medley and ordered his 2012 autobiography "The Pianos I have known."   I would recommend starting with Irving’s, “19 Secrets to Longevity”.  There is an
online preview for those of you with a short attention span – my shortcoming.

To be in the presence of Fields’ fearless appetite for life was an utter delight.  I will carry his inspired music and unforgettable “joie de vivre” and humor with me as I continue on my journey.

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