Pianists: Musical Matchmaker

Austrian-born Friedrich Gulda, 37, enjoys a dual distinction. He is the best classical pianist now playing jazz, and the best jazz pianist now playing classical music. Last week, at the Village Vanguard, he sat in with the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis band, sight-reading a lengthy jazz arrangement. "He played the hell out of that piece," marveled Drummer Lewis afterward. Two days later, he was onstage at Manhattan's Lincoln Center as the piano soloist in Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20.

Gulda neither rags the classics nor classicizes jazz; he applies serious artistry to the natural idiom of each. On the international...

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