Below is a brief memoir contributed by Kathryn Farmer, a well known NYC Jazz vocalist, who had a chance encounter recently with John Colianni.
Kathryn Farmer recalls:
“My dad and uncle owned their own soul food restaurant & bar in the town of Greenburgh, 45 minutes north of New York City. I grew up in Greenburgh.
Farmers Midway Bar and Restaurant
“Farmer’s Midway was a popular establishment in Greenburgh’s “Soultown”, and my dad was rather famous around there himself. Farmer’s Midway was not only known for serving just about the best soul food north of the Mason-Dixon line, they also presented live jazz on the weekends.
“My dad was a hands-on proprietor, who lived and breathed jazz
music. And in addition to featuring live music, we had a truly great jukebox, stocked with the most complete Jazz collection of records around.
“The jazz my dad loved especially was the toe-tappin jazz – the jazz people could pop their fingers to, like Count Basie, Louis Jordan, and all the rest.
“Lionel Hampton, the great vibraphonist and big bandleader, was a special favorite of Dad’s. Accordingly, one of the records my dad featured heavily and played repeatedly on our restaurant’s jukebox was a track entitled ‘Advent’, from an album by Lionel Hampton’s band (recorded live in Japan). The record had just come out recently, – this was in 1983. That song – ‘Advent’ – was loved and embedded into the ears of the regulars who came in, and these folks were passionate Jazz fans, all. On the record, Lionel Hampton announces ‘Johnny Colianni on the piano!’ Well, in due time, the customers memorized every note of John Colianni’s piano solo that followed, and could scat-sing along with it all the way through! I was there to witness this on many an evening!
A typical Saturday night crowd at Farmer’s Midway
“Not that they were musicians, but these folks had incredible musical ears and an unquenchable love for jazz. And this Lionel Hampton record was a HUMUNGOUS favorite of the customers!
“Fast forward…….In 2019, at Swing 46, a Jazz Club in NYC, where I happened to be performing, I was hanging out when someone called the name “John Colianni!”, just as he happened to walk into the club. I said to myself “thats that name of the pianist on the recording from our bar!” So I had to ask him, ‘Are you that famous John Colianni I heard on Lionel Hampton’s recording?’ He said yes!!
“WOW! It suddenly dawned on me as we chatted that John and I were also actually Facebook friends, but I had not met him in person. I told him my story, starting with “I must tell you, you were really famous in my dad’s bar!” At that moment, I couldn’t remember the song title of the record, but I described it musically, so John said “I’ll bet it was ‘ADVENT’. And that triggered my memory – indeed it was!
“He sent me a link to the actual recording online soon after, and upon playing it, I went crazy with joy that I had found the cut that was constantly played and sung-to in my father’s bar. I mean constantly.
“Farmer’s Midway was indeed a truly down-home establishment, with pigs feet in vinegar in a jar to go with your drinks. And this song – and John Colianni’s piano solo – was a big part of the scene there, and is something very special to me. Especially considering that at the time the album was recorded, John was still in his teens as part of Lionel Hampton’s Orchestra – John’s first major gig.
“The record stayed on my dads jukebox until he sold the business back in the late 90’s. My dad’s establishment was a wonderful place, and with all that great music happening, it turned out to be a great training ground for my own musical career. I’m so glad to share this story now on the John Colianni website!” Kathryn Farmer
And here is the recording Kathryn just told us about!