If the music of one piano can entirely envelop a room, just imagine the experience of three pianists playing simultaneously in an intimate space. That was the treat that brought a standing-room-only crowd to its feet this past Sunday when David Stanwood presented his Three Piano Mix & Match at Pathways at the Chilmark Tavern.
The evening featured 11 pianists taking turns on two baby grands and one upright. The two Mason & Hamlin grand pianos, one belonging to Mr. Stanwood, one on loan from Claire Thatcher of Chappaquiddick, were brought in just for the weekend. A variety of local musicians were joined by accomplished musician Tim Ray, a teacher at the Berklee College of Music and longtime pianist for Lyle Lovett.
The concert was one of three weekend events hosted by Mr. Stanwood utilizing the trio of pianos. He played on Saturday, and then Sunday featured an afternoon performance by the Tim Ray Jazz Trio, featuring Eric Johnson on bass and Taurus Biskus on drums, followed by the concert/jam session that Mr. Stanwood referred to as “a piano pig-out.”
“It’s kind of a throwback to the ’80s,” said Mr. Stanwood, referring to the yearly piano event he once hosted at the old Wintertide Coffee House. “I had as many as 15 pianists and four pianos at one time.”
The tradition continued for a while at the former Che’s Lounge, until that venue closed its doors in 2010. Now Mr. Stanwood has found a new home for the event at Pathways, where he has been very much a part of the scene since the beginning. Marianne Goldberg, who died in 2015, founded Pathways in 2010 as a venue for presenting new work, integrating all of the arts from dance and music to poetry, prose, and videography. Her legacy lives on with Pathways, now in its seventh season.
“It’s a place for people to try things out, experimental things,” Mr. Stanwood said. “The fact that they’re still doing it in the spirit of Marianne is a wonderful gift to the community. It’s the gift that keeps giving.”
Mr. Stanwood has lent his considerable talents to many events, including a collaborative dance and music improvisation: “That was my favorite. That sort of thing has really been the core spirit of Pathways from the very beginning. Experimental and collaborative.”
This is the second year in a row that Mr. Stanwood has hosted the three-piano event. The collaboration last Sunday included the talents of 11 pianists who played solos, duets, trios and — for the rousing finale — a quartet. It was a wonderful sampling of the unique styles and musical choices of both amateur and professional locals.
Mr. Stanwood introduced the evening by explaining that the event “drew the closet pianists and composers out of the closet.” Some of the participants, like Jeremy Berlin and Wes Nagy, perform regularly on the Island. Others, like father and son Peter and Jaj Halprin and Jon Harris, were enjoying a first public outing.
The piano extravaganza started out relatively quietly, with Mr. Stanwood jumping from piano to piano with some improvisation. Then composer Dean Rosenthal played an original composition using just four notes for a surprisingly rich piece. Peter Halprin played an original composition followed by a Beethoven sonata, and his son entertained the audience with a Gershwin melody. Michael Haydn finished up the first half of the evening with two original, jazzy pieces.
After a short intermission, things really heated up when multiple musicians joined forces for a variety of jazz, blues, and rock numbers. Taurus Biskus added drums for a full-spectrum sound experience. A highlight was hearing Mr. Ray and Mr. Berlin collaborating on some jazz tunes. Mr. Ray has a very impressive résumé, encompassing a variety of musical styles. He has performed in concert with artists ranging from Aretha Franklin and Bonnie Raitt to the Boston Pops and the Boston Classical Orchestra, has appeared on more than 70 recordings, and has played at Carnegie Hall, the White House, the Kennedy Center, and the 1992 presidential Inauguration. Mr. Ray has also performed repeatedly on “The Tonight Show,” “Late Night with David Letterman,” “The Conan O’Brien Show,” and other national TV and radio broadcasts. This was his first time performing on the Vineyard.
For the penultimate performance, four pianists joined together on some rollicking blues and rock numbers. The evening finished up with Mr. Harris accompanying himself on piano, showing off his considerable blues vocal talents.
At this point the enthused crowd of around 100 people were keeping beat — clapping and knee-slapping. A few brave souls even got up to dance. The evening will certainly be remembered as a highlight of the Pathways season.
The next musical evening at Pathways, on April 7, will feature African musician, dancer, and choreographer Godfrey Muwulya, who will perform traditional East African dances and music. Mr. Muwulya, who is currently in residency at the Yard, will also be appearing at the Oak Bluffs library on Thursday, April 6, and the Edgartown library on Sunday, April 8.