When it came to the mid- to late- ’60s boom of keyboard players emerging from the UK, Procol Harum’s Gary Brooker was one of a number that included Deep Purple’s Jon Lord, Steve Winwood, Alan Price of The Animals, Keith Emerson of The Nice, Ian McLagan of the Small Faces, Rod Argent of The Zombies and Brian Auger. For Brooker, whose haunting vocals worked in perfect concert with organist Matthew Fisher’s Bach-inspired runs in the seminal hit “Whiter Shade of Pale,” these are fellow piano players who lit his creative fuse and continue to inspire him to this day.
Ray Charles (September 23, 1930 to June 10, 2004)
“As far as singing and playing, I thought Ray Charles was absolutely beyond a genius. He’s my favorite. The first time I heard him, I was in a café in Paris and ‘What’d I Say’ came on the jukebox. I didn’t know what hit me.”
Allen Toussaint (January 14, 1938 to November 10, 2015)
“I’ve always admired Allen Toussaint. I think that he was influenced maybe by Professor Longhair, but he probably influenced Mac Rebennack. That whole style is something I love.”
Charles Mingus (April 22, 1922 to January 5, 1979)
“I love his piano playing. He not only played bass, but he played the piano. There’s a few albums that he played piano on with an ensemble like Oh Yeah. He also made an album called Mingus Plays Piano, where he just played piano.”
Procol Harum will be appearing on Feb. 26 & 27 at City Winery, 155 Varick St., Manhattan. For more information, visit www.citywinery.com or call 212-608-0555. The band will also be appearing on Feb. 28 at NYCB Theatre at Westbury, 960 Brush Hollow Rd., Westbury. For more information, visit www.livenation.com or call 877-598-8497.