Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

April 27, 2014

Piano men play for appreciative audience

Flippin-Thompson concert earns 'wow' factor

RACELAND — Longtime musicians Bob Thompson and Jay Flippin performed a two-man piano concert Friday night that was nothing short of legendary.

Thompson, who grew up in New York, but attended college at West Virginia State University, began playing the trumpet in junior high school and his musical career blossomed.

“They had a little jazz band on campus, and that’s when I got interested in playing jazz.” Thompson said he ended up with a jazz trio and spent a lot of time traveling in the area playing and recording. “I came to this part of the country to stay for a year ... and that was 1960. I love living in this part of the country.

“When I was a kid in Stewart, Va., there was no music in the schools, so what little musical training I had was from the church. When I was 7, this guy moved to town to start a piano studio. I studied classical piano with him for five years, then he left and went to Texas. When I was 12, I started playing in a soul band, then a country band and a rock band, and I was playing at three different churches. So until I finished high school I played every kind of music except classical.”

Both Flippin and Thompson have had long, illustrious careers in the music world, and both have taught music to college students. They credit the availability of records to expose them to new music, along with other musicians taking the time to teach them on the side in the informal and universal mentorship the world of music fosters.

And both men followed each other for years before being able to make the opportunity to play together.

 “We had a mutual admiration from day one,” Flippin said, to which Thompson added, “about 40 years now.”

“Bob Thompson and Jay Flippin are the premier piano players in this area — only because they are centered in this area,” local musician Ritch Collins said. “They are really the premier players in the entire country, and possibly the world.”

Collins organized the concert because he loved the music, had a deep respect for both musicians and knew it would be amazing to bring together the phenomenally talented men on a single stage.

Collins has known both men for years; Flippin was one of his college instructors. But the idea came together for Collins when he was involved in the Landau Eugene Murphy concert.

“Jay was playing for Murphy, and when he was unavailable, they called Bob. Then I got to thinking, ‘We have got to get these two together.’”

Collins’ idea yielded standing ovations from the audience at the John P. Stephens Cultural Arts Center on Friday. The two men played a varied list and complemented one another perfectly.

The final song, fittingly, was “Just Friends.”

Attendees spoke to both performers after the concert, and their enjoyment was unanimous. And typical of true musicians — and teachers — when the last person left, they both took the time to bring a young student up with them on the empty stage and continue the tradition of mentorship with a private jam session.

“Teaching is learning,” Thompson said. “And we can never stop learning.”

“You have to learn every day,” Flippin agreed.

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