The Bemelmans pianist, one of the few who maintain the tradition of the piano bar

Sitting at the piano, Earl Rose creates that kind of atmosphere where anyone even thinks they've stepped into a movie.

Thomas Osborne
Thomas Osborne
26 November 2022 Saturday 23:52
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The Bemelmans pianist, one of the few who maintain the tradition of the piano bar

Sitting at the piano, Earl Rose creates that kind of atmosphere where anyone even thinks they've stepped into a movie. It is not that he is seeing it on the screen, but that he is part of it.

The local contributes to this effect. The Bemelmans bar, in the Carlyle hotel, in the Upper East of Manhattan, has a special decoration. Its walls display the murals that Ludwig Bemelmans, a renowned author of children's illustrated books, designed in the mid-forties. On the walls he recreated scenes in Central Park starring animals with human behaviour.

“I feel like this is my second home,” Rose confesses. For 28 years she has been teaching her in this room with her Steinway.

Almost three decades serving as the pianist of the Bemelmans, where, as if he were the bartender who puts the maracas to his tune with his shaker, he still combines Mozart with Duke Ellington or mixes his own creations with, for example, Song number 6 by Frederic Mompou.

He also has about twenty albums, in which he covers Beatles, standards or jazzy reinterpretations of Disney themes.

And then there is his facet as a composer for television and film. Precisely now the soundtrack that he made for the documentary Alan Pakula has come out. going for truth dedicated to the director of films such as All the President's Men, Klute or Sophie's Decision.

This footage, signed by Matthew Miele, offers the testimonies of many of those who worked with Pakula, including Harrison Ford, Janne Fonda and Meryl Streep, to leave just a sample.

Personally, Rose is closely linked to Hollywood stars. As a teenager, as a student, he became friends with Larry, son of Joey Bishop, one of the members of the Rat Pack with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin or Sammy Davis jr.

"I'm still Larry's friend," he explains, evoking one of their shared anecdotes. He recalls that every summer he spent a few days at the Bishop's house in Beverly Hills. On one of those visits, Larry was invited to Dean Martin's house to celebrate his daughter's birthday. Since he was with them, he had the opportunity to attend the celebration. Excited, he insisted on arriving on time for the appointment.

Larry told her that they shouldn't be in a hurry, that the correct time meant showing up a little late.

But at their insistence, Larry's mother took them to the Mountain Drive residence of the famous actor and singer. Very punctual. Too. They knocked on the door and Dean Martin himself opened it: in his pajamas.

"Guys, you're a little early.

What embarrassment! She ushered them into the living room, while the host went upstairs to change his clothes. The party still took a while to start.

“Luckily I was part of that world,” says Rose.

At the age of ten, this native New Yorker knew he was going to be a musician. He attended Mannes College of Music. Already in the first course, Joey Bishop offered him to work as a page in the NBC studios at Rockefeller Center. The famous Johnny Carson hosted the show at Studio 6B. Young Earl served as attendant to the guests.

This occupation allowed him to live with the musicians of the Tonight Show orchestra under the baton of Doc Severenson. There were Clark Terry, Snooky Young, Lex Tabakan or Bob Haggart. Thanks to that proximity, one day when someone was late, Earl asked if he could interpret one of his compositions, which he had done in his university homework.

Shelly Cohen, assistant conductor of the orchestra, replied that of course. They liked her. Cohen began to give him work related to the show of the show.

In this way he entered the world of compositions for television (he also collaborated on the Dick Cavett program on ABC) and for cinema, which has not ceased.

When the Tonight Show moved to Los Angeles, Earl Rose filled in for Cohen in his absences. And for nearly three decades he toured the United States. Until they offered him to be the pianist at Bemelmans.

It is now one of the few establishments to offer one of New York's most venerable and fragile traditions: piano bars. “We live in a time where you're looking for immediate gratification and you don't think about the long haul,” says Rose to explain that decline. Entrepreneurs prefer Spotify.

“Here you can see the value of investing in live music. The place is always full ”, she underlines. You have to queue.

And until recently, on Mondays like today, my neighbor, in the Carlyle café, was Woody Allen playing the clarinet. No longer, bill of movement

This occupation has allowed Rose to meet many people, from intellectuals like Gore Vidal to a colleague like Billy Joel, who more than once sat down to do duets. They exchanged positions while Blue Moon continued to play.