Todd Holder practices on a Perzina piano
By Pete Zamplas-Spicing up the romantic holiday with a special meal then concert, My Jazzy Valentine enables some diners at Iannucci’s Pizzeria & Italian Restaurant in Hendersonville or South Asheville to hear for free a local jazz concert hosted by Freeburg Pianos.
Concert tickets go only to those who reserve for the My Jazzy Valentine event, to dine at 4:30 p.m. at either Iannucci’s and who of course buy dinner then. Early response was strong. Late last week, 25 of the 70 seats were reserved, John Iannucci said. Most remaining tickets are expected to get claimed this week. Tickets are handed to patrons after dinner. They then go to Freeburg Pianos, for a reception at 6 p.m. then the show 6:30-8 p.m.
The jazz trio concert’s playlist suits a romantic mood. Jazz-R&B standards include “Unforgettable” by Nat King Cole, Ray Charles’ “Georgia on My Mind,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’”(by Fats Waller in ’29) in Art Tatham’s 1949 version, and “The Way You Look Tonight” crooned softly by Todd Holder a la Tony Bennett.
Keith Freeburg said his trio will also perform Rodgers and Hart’s “My Funny Valentine” show tune from 1937, and pop hits such as two penned by Van Morrison — “Crazy Love” (covered by Michael Buble and Rod Stewart) and Grammy-winning “Have I Told You Lately” that Stewart sang into a mega-hit.
“These are three professional, classically-trained people playing stylistic jazz,” Bob Tavernier said of the ensemble. The forestry commodities broker volunteers for Freeburg, as a marketing consultant. He did much to set up the dinner-concert. He said, “Keith is a concert string bass player. Morgen Cobb’s drumming precision is phenomenal. Their performances are fantastic.”
Freeburg will play a German 1984 Wilfer double bass, using a bow on one song. He performs with the Symphony of Rutherford County and in jazz ensembles, and subs for the Hendersonville Swing Band.
Cobb drums for Southern rock band The Lonesome Three, and in many musicals. He is a protege of River Guerguerian. Cobb’s father, Dr. John Cobb, is an acclaimed pianist and instructor including for Bob and Kim Tavernier’s eldest son Christopher. The lad is affiliated with Freeburg Pianos, as a Perzina (piano brand) performing artist.
Holder plays piano, and sings, in the unnamed jazz trio he calls Hearts in Jazz for the event. He eagerly helps “connect the music community with performers.” He is a piano specialist at Freeburg Pianos, which is managed by the Freeburgs’ son Levi who also handles marketing. Levi drums in some gigs. Elise Pratt will sing on two songs, on Saturday.
The venue is the Master Works Theatre, Freeburg Pianos’ small concert hall. “It’s great acoustically,” said Keith Freeburg, and others agree. He and his wife, Dr. Joann Freeburg, own the store. She coordinates events. They brainstormed with piano client Tavernier about joining with a restaurant for a dinner-show.
This theater is like a very large living room, thus showcasing how a piano can sound in a customer’s room and along with other instruments, Keith Freeburg said. “We give the feeling of an intimate theater space, with acoustics of a smaller area.”
Freeburg Pianos emerged last August, at 2314 Asheville Highway (25 North) in Blue Ridge Plaza where Stan’s Electronics is. This is about a mile northwest on 25 from Iannucci’s, in Hendersonville.
The restaurant is at 1508 Asheville Hwy., near the Beverly-Hanks Centre entrance. It opened four years ago, as of Feb. 1. Iannucci’s has also been at 1981 Hendersonville Road in Skyland, since 1988. It opened in ’78, off Tunnel Road.
Tavernier is a regular Iannucci’s customer. He chose the restaurant for its Italian meals more than proximity to the Freeburg studio. “When I first ate there, I said ‘my gosh, this is good!’”
The Iannuccis put their mouths where their business is. “We eat a lot of pizza,” John said. He was age two, when his father John Iannucci started the first restaurant. Elder John retired a dozen years ago. His son John said, “We’re a very family-oriented restaurant.” Dropping by each day are John and Tiffany Iannucci’s four-year-old triplets, including the third-generation John.
Running the Asheville restaurant are the second John’s brothers. Nicholas and Danielle Iannucci have two daughters, and Michael and Meredith have a son and daughter.
John Iannnucci tending the oven-
John Iannucci said the music perk is new. “We’re providing a service with this entertainment to make our friends happy on Valentine’s Day weekend, and a place for Freeburg guests to gather and dine.” He added, “I’ll be more than happy, to do it again.” Keith Freeburg said another free show might be near July Fourth.
Tavernier calls the dinner-concert a “reciprocity program” for both businesses. “Iannucci’s is fantastic to work with. Iannucci’s gets an earlier crowd. In turn, they explain about the show and give the tickets. This introduces patrons to the Master Works Theatre, and exposes new prospects to Freeburg Pianos. A couple can enjoy a delicious romantic meal for 30 bucks, and then a (free) show.”
Keith Freeburg said “part of our vision is to reach out, increase musical awareness, promote the piano and bring people in.” As for a Valentine’s concert, “I’m excited. It’s the theme of love. It’s rich. It’ll be a great date night.”
In its Hearts for the Arts, Freeburg Pianos lets piano teachers use the theater for free to stage recitals and enables local youth to play on concert pianos.
Freeburg has been a registered piano technician and master tuner for over 35 years. He tunes by ear, hearing up to 12 beats per second on about 230 strings. “Tuning requires precision. A well-tuned piano resonates throughout the scale, by itself,” he said. “If it’s even slightly out of tune, it sounds coarse.” Bob Tavernier said Freeburg sets concert pianos impeccably, to “bring out the deep rich bass, resonant midrange and sparkling treble tones.” For the concert, Freeburg will tune the piano to classic, slower-beat Equal Beating Victorian Temperament (EBVT) for a “warmer and more pure sound.”
Holder will play a Perzina 5-foot-3 piano Saturday. Christopher Tavernier has played with Dr. Cobb on 6-1 Perzinas in four recent concerts, and on seven-foot handcrafted Mason & Hamlin grand pianos with the Asheville Symphony.
The Taverniers bought twin 6-1 Perzina grands. Perzina costs half as much as some brands, but “equal in quality and sounds fabulous,” Bob Tavernier said. Its keys have a soft touch — easier on fingers, and enable “extremely fast repetition of Christopher’s flying fingers.” He said, “I saw the value in the Perzina piano, and realized Keith had an exclusive on the N.C. market.” Freeburg’s brands include handcrafted Mason & Hamlin, which outperformed Steinway at a recent exposition, Holder noted.
A bonus to the dinner-concert Saturday is a half-hour reception, which the Freeburg and Cobb families will attend. Christopher Tavernier hopes to make it, after a concerto competition accompanying the Charlotte Symphony. This is for grades 7-12; Tavernier is a Hendersonville Middle seventh-grader. He is up against youth as old as 21, as a finalist in Fayetteville Sunday then Augusta, Ga. Feb. 23. On May 5 he turns 14, the minimal age to compete in Charleston, S.C. a week earlier (April 25-27), but is considered for an age exemption.
He performs publicly with Freeburg for the first time, May 4 in Rutherfordton, playing baroque chamber music on harpsichord. Last fall at age 13 in Rocky Mount, he became evidently the youngest to ever perform publicly as a concert pianist in the state.
Christopher Tavernier headlines a free annual classical music concert by 13 local students (including his younger brother Nicholas) this Sunday afternoon, Feb. 16, in First United Methodist Church at 204 Sixth Ave. W. in Hendersonville. WTZQ 1600 AM will broadcast the show live.
To reserve the My Jazzy Valentine dinner-concert, call Iannucci’s in Hendersonville (693-4300) or South Asheville (684-5050). Call the Methodist church at 693-4275, regarding the free concert Sunday. For more about Freeburg Pianos including using its theater for free for Hearts for the Arts, call 697-0110 or check freeburgpianos.com.