Jazz Drummer, the First Black Piano Maker Lands on Fox's Empire and at the Vatican
-- Being America's First African American Piano Manufacturer is Just One of His Many Accomplishments --
Black Jazz News Staff
Warren Shadd with the Shadd piano
When Jamal Lyon (Jussie Smollett) and Skye Summers (Alicia Keys) sang "Powerful" in the historic show Empire back in 2015, history was also being made as they sang the song on the first piano ever manufactured by an African American, Warren Shadd. That was back in 2015 and this little known milestone has gone essentially unknown to the American public until now as the Washington Post recently published a feature on Shadd and his pianos. Empire now uses six and the Shadd Piano has just been called up to the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican! (read here)
The importance of Shadd's accomplishment cannot be overstated in a world where young creative black men pursuing careers in entertainment mostly look to rapping or singing. Manufacturing musical instruments opens up a whole new world of opportunity.
If becoming America's first black piano manufacturer wasn't amazing enough, another little known fact about this Washington, DC native, is that he is a historically important jazz drummer-- a former child prodigy known as "Smoke" back in the 1970's and 80's who recorded extensively with the foremost musicologist on the improvisations of John Coltrane, the great Andrew White.
And lastly, as we are throwing out little known facts about Warren Shadd, he was 'Prince' before there was a Prince, self producing obscure indie rock recordings in the 1970's as a band leader, writer, vocalist, drummer and accomplished keyboardist. He was the drummer and nephew of Grammy Award Winning jazz legend Shirley Horn and also played behind Sarah Vaughn and Ella Fitzgerald. Shadd was an original member of the famed Howard University Jazz Ensemble, played organ in Lionel Hampton's Orchestra, wrote and sang the Billboard charting 1980's dance track Pretty Girl Baby Girl, and as a boy of 12, played in Washington, DC's red light district of night clubs and burlesque houses. Hmm sounds like a movie in the making!