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Huntington native ragtime jazz pianist delights crowd at HMA

Jul. 14, 2013 @ 11:22 PM

HUNTINGTON -- While the summer sun baked outside, a Sunday afternoon crowd in the Huntington Museum of Art's auditorium was whisked back to the cool ragtime jazz of the early 20th Century, thanks to the magical fingers of Huntington native and renowned ragtime and jazz pianist Ethan Uslan.

The Charlotte, N.C., resident -- who has performed on such revered shows as "A Prairie Home Companion" and has twice won the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest -- delighted the crowd playing to a Buster Keaton silent movie, as well as a slew of other ragtime songs by everyone from Charlie Chaplin to Scott Joplin.

Taking the stage and seeing a standing-room-only crowd, Uslan, the son of Huntington residents Mark and Niza Uslan, promptly thanked his mom, who many folks know from her years of work at the Cabell County Public Library.

"It is great to see such a big crowd here -- thanks, Mom, for getting the great marketing," Ethan said before tearing into his first song, Joplin's signature "Maple Leaf Rag," which Uslan tabbed as "straight outta 1899."

A classical trained pianist, Uslan said he thinks his love of such an old music form comes his family taking him at a young age to New Orleans, soaked in music on a river boat cruise and jazz out on the streets.

"Ever since then, I have had a fondness for it," Uslan said before doing a couple classic New Orleans' numbers, "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" and "Muskrat Ramble."

Huntington Museum of Art director Margaret Mary Layne said they were excited to have Uslan as part of the Music at the Museum series and to have the show on the museum's Steinway, sponsored by the Arthur and Joan Weisberg Family Foundation Inc. in memory of Art Weisberg.

For folks who missed the concert, Layne said the museum will sell three of Uslan's CDs in the gift shop.

Check out some of his videos and tunes online at www.uslanmusic.com.

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