James P. Johnson was admitted to Queens General Hospital on November 15, 1955, after having suffered his eighth stroke at home and, on November 17, he died due to a final massive stroke. All the major New York newspapers published his obituary, and he was identified not only as a pianist but also as a prolific composer but, according to Down Beat (December 28, 1955), fewer than 75 persons attended the funeral services at University Chapel in midtown Manhattan two days later.
James P. Johnson, the father of stride piano, composer of The Charleston and The Carolina Shout and one of the founders of modern jazz piano lies, shockingly, in an unmarked grave in Maspeth, Queens, Mt. Olivet Cemetery.
The James P. Johnson Foundation, the Johnson family and Smalls Club have organized an all day “rent party” to raise money to buy a monument to commemorate this great musician. It will take place on Sunday, October 4th beginning at 1:00 PM at Smalls Jazz Club, located at 183 West 10th Street at 7th Avenue.
The afternoon will begin with a symposium by musicologist and Johnson scholar Scott Brown on the life and work of James P. Johnson, followed by Mark Borowsky from the James P. Johnson Foundation and, around 3:00 will then be a steady stream of pianists to play solo piano in tribute to James P. Johnson.
This is the complete schedule:
- 1:00 PM Doors Open
- 1:30 PM Opening Words – Barry Glover and The James P. Johson Society
- 2:00 PM Symposium – James P. Johnson: The Man Who Made The Twenties Roar – Scott E. Brown (this will include an exhibit from The James P. Johnson archive housed at The Rutgers Institute for Jazz Studies)
- 3:00 PM Symposium - James P. Johnson: Invisible Pianist of the Harlem Renaissance – Mark Borowsky
- 4:00 PM J. Michael O’Neal and Natalie Wright
- 4:30 PM John Bunch
- 5:00 PM Tardo Hammer
- 5:30 PM Conal Fowkes
- 6:00 PM Terry Waldo
- 6:30 PM Spike Wilner
- 7:00 PM Ethan Iverson
- 7:30 PM Mike Lipskin
- 8:00 PM Aaron Diehl
- 8:30 PM Ted Rosenthal
- 9:00 PM Dick Hyman
Suggested tax-free donations are $20 with all the proceeds to go to the James P. Johnson Foundation.