Sharp Radway

We’re proud to welcome pianist, composer, and author Sharp Radway back to Central Library for another Culture Connection concert!

This time, Sharp is bringing our patrons “Music Of The Streets,” a project that pays homage to iconic figures in the world of jazz. Sharp’s concert and presentation on Saturday, November 19 will focus on “The Queens Chapter” and introduce our guests to the rich jazz legacy of Queens.

Sharp Radway, who currently resides in Brooklyn, has worked with several jazz luminaries, including Yusef Lateef, Benny Golson, Curtis Fuller, James Spaulding, and many more. He appeared onscreen with Mos Def, Beyonce Knowles, Cedric the Entertainer, and several others in the film Cadillac Records and acted and performed in a production of the historic Off-Broadway play The Connection under the direction of Living Theatre co-founder Judith Malina, who also directed the first production of the play in 1959. Sharp serves as the music director, pianist, and arranger for The Celebration of Lionel Hampton Big Band and The New York City Ska Orchestra. Staying true to his roots, he continues to play in church regularly, serving as Music Director for a local church in Brooklyn.

Sharp was kind enough to talk with us before his upcoming concert.

This is your second visit to Queens Library, and we’re glad to have you back! What was your experience like playing here last time? 
Thanks for having me back. I always appreciate the opportunity to share music, so I am grateful to be back! My last experience at the library was great; I performed a tribute to the music of Elmo Hope, Bud Powell, and Thelonious Monk. The attendees seemed to really enjoy and appreciate the music. They also gained a lot from the history that we shared with them about those three piano giants.  

What role have libraries played in your life?
For me, libraries have been a source for knowledge, a place of study, a quiet refuge, and also the place where I had a lot of my early music listening experiences. As a young child, I used to go to the library to avail myself of a music collection much larger than the one I had at home. I listened to different artists from different genres on LPs, 45s, and cassettes at the library. I still have very fond memories of those moments, which will always be cherished.

In addition to being a performer, you are also a music teacher. Can you talk about that role and how important it is to you?
I've taught private piano instruction, theory, ear training, jazz ensemble classes, and more, to preschoolers, senior citizens, and everyone in between. Teaching is an essential thing for me. It keeps me fine-tuned and makes me a better student, which, in turn, puts me in a position to learn more and grow as an individual.

Can you talk more about your “Music of the Streets” project? What inspired it, and what can we expect from “The Queens Chapter?” 
Absolutely. "Music of the Streets" is now in its second year. It's a project I put together that honors jazz icons from various cities and neighborhoods—namely Detroit; Philadelphia; Queens; Sugar Hill, in Harlem; Brooklyn; Wilmington, DE; Newark; and many more. Its mission is to call attention to legendary jazz artists from these areas and their compositions. The project also presents original compositions written in honor of these iconic figures. The Queens Chapter of the project features artists primarily from that borough and pays homage to musicians from Hollis, East Elmhurst, Jamaica, Corona, St. Albans, Bayside, Flushing, and Springfield Gardens. We'll be presenting their music set against the backdrop of a historical account of their lives, informed by their significance to the art form. I've also composed some music specifically for this Saturday's presentation that will serve as commemorative pieces for a couple of the artists we'll be discussing.

What are some of your favorite books and who are your favorite authors?
The Complete Life's Little Instruction Book by H. Jackson Brown, Jr., The Complete Works of E.M. Bounds on Prayer, The Speaker's Quote Book by Roy B. Zuck, The Story of Jazz by Marshall W. Stearns, The Destruction Of Black Civilization by Chancellor Williams, The Richest Man In Babylon by George S. Classon, and I am a lover of the Bible.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to be a professional musician?
My most humble but sincere advice would be to read a copy of my book Musicianship 101 (What They Don't Tell You In School) and put everything in there into action immediately.

Which performers and albums have inspired your career as a musician and composer?
Wow! I don't know how to answer that. I am inspired by most musicians—inspired to do by some, inspired in what not to do by others. Some pianists who both inspire and influence my playing are Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, McCoy Tyner, Art Tatum, Ellis Larkins, Red Garland, and Ahmad Jamal. My greatest inspirations, however, are God and life itself.