Kenneth Laufer (b. 1943)
Kenneth Laufer is best known for his satirical piano playing in both comedy clubs and concert halls - much of it, of course, his own composition. Born to Austrian parents in New York, 1943, he was raised on Bach and classical music, and was “not too fond of pop music,” in his own words.
Laufer's own music is (perhaps unsurprisingly) a fusion of classical, ragtime, and jazz, refined through a Bachelor’s at the Oberlin Conservatory and a Master’s at the Juilliard School of Music. His first big break came when his 12 Note Rag was published and recorded by Gunther Schuller and the New England Ragtime Ensemble, quickly followed by tours (his 1986 “Mad Musical Evening with Ken Laufer” performed to a sold-out crowd and rave reviews) and recurring accompaniment roles with various vocal groups (Kingsborough Musical Society Chorus, Chorus 802, the Gilbert and Sullivan Society of New York, and others).
Laufer's best-known work, Scars and Scrapes Forever for piccolo and piano (or band), is a brilliant example of his compositional language; satirical, charming, and rich in conflicting musical ideas that are nevertheless gracefully combined. A simple ragtime - the first piece of another work, the Three Light Movements for flute, for example - might transform into a complex recital work with conflicting harmonies and counterpoint; a simple aria - the second of the Light Movements - into a thickly-spiced melodic ramble over the blues. Remarkably, these transformed ideas still hold their easy appeal and rhythmic drive, a result of Laufer's quick familiarity with both the concert hall and comedy club.