For almost 15 years, pianist Randy Cannon has been a permanent fixture in the Sheraton Grande Bangkok’s ‘Living Room’, where he entertains guests with his unique brand of music
The BigChilli caught up with Randy recently and learned a lot more about this enduringly popular musician.
I was born in Los Angeles 58 years ago and started to learn the piano at the age of five. Before that, I would always be drumming my fingers on the table at home, so taking up the piano was the natural thing to do.
My teacher became my second mum and she taught me to play the music of great composers like Mozart, Chopin and Bach. I began to play jazz at the age of 14 at the National Fraternity of Student Musicians of America, studying with George Shearing alumni, Charlie Shoemake and many great LA-based pianists like Alan Broadbent, Bill Mays and Terry Trotter.
I came from a screwed-up family, so the piano became my rock, reliable and consistent. Right up until today, I’m just so comfortable with the piano.
By the age of 17, I was performing professionally throughout California with various combos, big bands and orchestras. A couple of years later, I accepted a position as music director, conductor, and pianist with Princess Cruises, and over the next 12 years I travelled the world. In my early twenties, I took on a series of performances in Honolulu, Hawaii, where I ended up living for six years. It wasn’t always easy there, and far from glamorous. In fact, I struggled for a while. In the end, it worked out well, however, as I went on to perform with entertainers like Bob Hope, George Benson, Don Ho, jazz harmonica player Toots Thielemans and saxophonist David Liebman.
I eventually moved back to LA and played with some of the city’s top jazz players such as Billy Higgins, Harvey Mason, John & Jeff Clayton, Jeff Hamilton, saxophonist Harold Land, Tony Dumas, Ralph Fenland, Andy Simpkins, and Jake Hanna.
I also acted and performed in several top TV shows, including Hotel and Love Boat and composed music for Orion Pictures’ No Man’s Land starring Emilio Esteves and Charlie Sheen.
For the next 11 years I worked in Portland, Oregon, and performed with virtually every notable musician and in every jazz venue in the area, including a four-year collaboration with top recording artist Gino Vanelli on many of his projects. During this period, I expanded into record producing, writing, arranging and performing on three CD projects. The first of these was Nowhere Man for my brother, trumpeter Steve Cannon, who also lives and performs in Bangkok.
I first came to Bangkok in 1999 and couldn’t believe what I saw. It was a beautiful city with a lively spirit that had more music going on than I had ever experienced in my life. I went to every music venue in town and played with just about every band. It was fantastic. Many of the clubs had jam sessions that went on all-night. Sadly, many of them have since closed.
After a short stint in Pattaya, I began a two-year alliance with hotelier and jazz lover Bruno Huber performing at The Imperial Queen’s Park hotel. Back then I was a big drinker and overweight. So I was something of a spectacle. But we always played to packed audiences.
To stop my drinking, I went on a 42-day detox programme in Chiang Mai. It cost me US$15,000 and was a complete rip-off. It was a dependency doctor who finally got me off the booze. And I haven’t had a drink for years.
I spent a short period in China before returning to Thailand and joining the Sheraton Grande, where these days I play all my own songs. You can find these on my website www.randycannonjazz.com
In my spare time, I meditate. At my home in Bangkok, there’s no wife, kids or even music. It’s just peace and solitude.
I have great admiration for the people of Isaan (in Thailand’s northeast). They are so simple and beautiful, yet have very little. In my life, I’ve struggled so I understand them.
People ask me for my biggest musical influence. I know it sounds corny, but I tell them it’s love. I want to be a positive influence and make people happy.
Randy performs nightly Tuesday-Saturday.