Aaron Bridgers

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b. 10 January 1918, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA, d. 3 November 2003, Villiers Le Bel, nr. Paris, France. Bridgers had a deep interest in music, especially that of French classical composers but…
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b. 10 January 1918, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA, d. 3 November 2003, Villiers Le Bel, nr. Paris, France. Bridgers had a deep interest in music, especially that of French classical composers but was not at first intent on a musical career. In 1939, he met Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn and found immediate rapport with the latter. Throughout most of the following decade Bridgers and Strayhorn shared an apartment in New York. Although Bridgers had studied classical piano, he switched to jazz after hearing Art Tatum and becoming his pupil. He had been working outside music but in 1948 he secured his first professional engagement as a pianist in Paris. He decided to move there, becoming very popular, playing in bars, restaurants and nightclubs, including the Ringside, Le Boeuf Sur Le Toit, the Living Room and the Mars Club. He appeared on radio and television, and in films, including Paris Blues (1961), for which Ellington and Strayhorn wrote the score. He maintained his friendship with Strayhorn whenever the latter visited Paris. Like many other black Americans, Bridgers found the attitude of the French more agreeable than that to which he had been accustomed in his homeland and in 1974 he became a French citizen. In addition to Paris, Bridgers also performed in other European cities, including Copenhagen and Venice, and he also played on the island of Capri. In his later years, interest in Bridgers’ musical style diminished but he did not retire until 1995. In 1999, he made a brief return, joining 11 other pianists for a recording session that produced Ellington Moods. On this CD, Bridgers played one of his own compositions, which he dedicated to Strayhorn. At the time of his death, Bridgers’ autobiography, Piano In The Background, had failed to find a publisher. As Kevin Henriques wrote in an obituary in the UK paper The Guardian, ‘... they wanted a more sensational approach. But that was not in the nature of this urbane, unmalicious, gentle man.’