For two hours, Isla Vista’s Aladdin Café was filled with the uniquely American sound of stride piano stylings, thanks to pianist Stephanie Trick. Stride piano is a form of jazz music that descended from ragtime and came into its own in Harlem in the 1920s, pioneered by artists like James P. Johnson, Willie “The Lion” Smith, and Thomas “Fats” Waller. The heyday of stride may have ended in the early 1940s, but the contrapuntal, improvisational, blues-influenced style is alive and well, its legacy carried on by the evening’s main attraction, Trick.
Trick’s Isla Vista appearance was one in a pop-up series called Jeffrey’s Jazz Coffeehouse (faceboook.com/JJCIslaVista), conceived by Jeffrey C. Stewart, a professor of black studies at UCSB. Stewart set the scene for the evening and then turned the stage over to Trick, who is known internationally as a virtuoso interpreter of the stride piano genre. Trick had no trouble holding the audience of UCSB students and others spellbound. Playing compositions from James P. Johnson such as “Carolina Balmoral,” “A-Flat Dream,” and “Carolina Shout,” Trick gave an intimate concert and taught a class containing history and music theory. Trick’s expressive playing set feet tapping and heads nodding. “This music doesn’t die,” she said. “It still carries emotional power.” A highlight of the evening came when Trick was joined at the piano by her husband, the acclaimed pianist Paolo Alderighi, for a rousing four-hands-on-one-piano rendition of Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing.”