Willie Gant

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Known for a repertoire as deep as the Atlantic Ocean, pianist Willie Gant spent a great deal of his career performing as a solo pianist, including more than two decades in New York City at venues such…
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Known for a repertoire as deep as the Atlantic Ocean, pianist Willie Gant spent a great deal of his career performing as a solo pianist, including more than two decades in New York City at venues such as the Hotel Fairfax and Carutti's beginning in the '30s. In the earlier days of his performing life he was both a bandleader and a sideman in some pretty hot groups such as Lillyn Brown & Her Jazzbo Syncopaters in 1921. His own Willie Gant's Ramblers gave popular performers such as Fats Waller stiff competition in that decade, although in terms of historical status the performer once known as "The Tiger" has been left somewhat in the wayside, at least in comparison with Waller.

Gant began playing keyboards when he was 12 and at 17 was performing at a New York City cafe. The first of his bands was formed in 1921, the Gant units serving as superior training grounds for up and coming players over the next six years. Guitarist Freddie Green of Count Basie fame, sometimes known as the ultimate rhythm guitarist, was one such ant in the Gant hill. Green has commented in interviews on both the endless nature of the Gant song list as well as the pianist's absolutely flawless timing. Perhaps Gant felt he needed neither bands nor the recording industry shenanigans that go along with promoting and documenting such ventures. After 1927 he performed almost exclusively solo; his discography basically consists of sides cut in the early '20s.