"He is incontestably one of the finest solo pianists in the world."
Claude Nobs, Founder and Artistic Director,
the Montreux Jazz Festival
"Man, you're great."
Tenor saxophone legend Sonny Rollins
"Dan Knight is a composer who uses twentieth century artists to inspire his work. His palette is made up of musical notes and scales: his brushes are the keys."
Christopher Lydon, on National Public Radio's "The Connection with Christopher Lydon," from WBUR-FM, Boston.
"His musical heritage . . . is a fusion of the best of both the classical and the jazz worlds, combining the passion and the technique of Paderewski with the improvisational virtuosity of Art Tatum."
The Encyclopedia of Jazz, Rutgers University.
"An excellent composer/pianist who can communicate well with a wide variety of audiences . . . a fine musician . . . personable and articulate . . . I recommend him to you without hesitation."
Jazz legend Dr. Billy Taylor
"Calling Dan Knight a pianist is like calling Michael Jordan a basketball player."
Richard Rives Bird, President, Rives Audio
Dan Knight isn't a "young lion." Far from it, in fact.
He was born in Ottumwa, Iowa in 1953. At three years of age he could sing any melody he heard after hearing it only once. He began playing keyboard instruments at age four by singing the melodies he knew and matching the pitches on his older sister's chord organ.
The problem for Danny was that the chord organ was "off limits" for him. His parents forbade him to play it for fear that he'd break it, so he practiced in secret.
His ability to play didn't become known to his family until almost a year later, when they visited an aunt who owned a piano. As his older sister and a cousin attempted to play the "Dragnet" television show theme on the piano, with no success, Danny walked up to the piano and played the theme. Correctly.
His secret was out. Danny's parents went home and bought a piano.
His mother spent the better part of the next few months coaxing Tillie Maither, a former student of the great Ignace Jan Paderewski, into accepting Danny as a student. By the time Mrs. Maither consented, Danny had a repertoire of over thirty songs, including church hymns, television show themes, popular songs, and a two-handed, boogie-woogie version of "Sentimental Journey."
He began piano lessons with Maither in 1958, just before his fifth birthday. Her influence and instruction laid the groundwork for the technical prowess that was to become a hallmark of his musical career. She taught her "little Paderewski" the finer points of technique at an early age, with music theory and ear training as well.
Knight's love of jazz came from his uncle, Charles W. Knight, who lived with their family. "Uncle Charlie" was himself a fine pianist, and shared his record collection of 78 rpm recordings of pianists Thomas "Fats" Waller, Teddy Wilson and others with his young nephew. This love was solidified forever when Danny saw a 1958 NBC Television series entitled "The Subject is Jazz." It was the first television series to feature jazz. Its musical director was a young jazz pianist named Billy Taylor. Danny not only watched -- he insisted the rest of his family watch, too.
Maither discovered Danny's interest in jazz after he heard Dave Brubeck's recording of "Take Five" for the first time, when he ran to her studio to ask if it was possible to have five counts in a measure. She was furious. For her, classical music was the only "serious" music, and she had proclaimed Danny to be destined for a great career as a "serious" pianist. As she lectured him sternly on "the evils of jazz," Danny decided he would learn it anyway. On his own.
And learn it he did. As a child he transcribed every jazz record he could get his hands on, by ear. What he heard, he could play. And what he could play, he could notate.
A middle school music teacher, Miss Corine Gilbert, made her extensive personal jazz record collection available to him, and through her he heard many of the jazz masters for the first time: John Coltrane; Dizzy Gillespie; Sonny Rollins; Bill Evans; Teddy Wilson; Art Tatum, and Billy Taylor.
He also heard Stravinsky for the first time, and Prokofieff. Bartók. Berlioz. Bernstein. He heard "Rhapsody in Blue" for the first time, and Ellington's "Black, Brown and Beige."
After graduating secondary school he was on his way to college, and a career in music, when a near-fatal motorcycle accident involving a drunk driver and years of ensuing illness nearly ended it all. Struggling in college, a brief marriage ended in divorce and his infant son died. He put his dreams of music aside.
A summer jazz program at the University of Massachusetts in 1988 brought him back to life, and to Dr. Billy Taylor. It was the same Billy Taylor whose playing had captured his heart as a five-year-old.
The experience of studying with Dr. Taylor brought him musically and spiritually back to life. With Taylor's encouragement and support, Knight began again to make music his life's work.
Dan met his life partner, his wife-to-be, Julie, the following year, and as they say, the rest is history.
Dan Knight steadily proceeded to quietly and not-so-quietly demolish each obstacle in his way, culminating with his inclusion in 1996 on the Worldwide Steinway Artist Roster. Paderewski had been a Steinway Artist, of course. He was one of the "immortals." Ellington had been a Steinway Artist. So was Gershwin. Cole Porter. Rachmaninoff. Horowitz. Rubinstein. And Dr. Taylor. It had been Tillie Maither's dream that her "little Paderewski" would someday become a Steinway Artist. Her dream, and his own, came true.
His career, like his life, is a fusion of the best of the classical and jazz worlds. He now performs across the globe in some of the finest venues and music festivals in the world.
At the forefront of the "modern" classical movement, Knight is a composer and performer equal to the improvisational masters of the Baroque and Classical periods. His suite for solo piano and spoken word, "The Walt Whitman Suite," based on Whitman's "Leaves of Grass," was nominated for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in Music.
His work is often inspired by masterpieces of visual art, and by dance (and dancers), and often include both composition and improvisation.
His personal worldwide "firsts" include performances in the Acoustic Concerts Series at the legendary Montreux Jazz Festival, where he was the first person in history to play for three consecutive years (1997, 1998 and 1999).
After years of "paying his dues," Tillie Maither's "little Paderewski" has become one the finest solo pianists in the world. His compositions and performances are informed with harmony and dissonance: beauty steeped in the experiences of life.
He is indeed not a "young lion" anymore. He is, in fact, far more than that.
He is an original. He's a powerful, adult lion now, wise from years of life and dedication to his art, and at the peak of his prowess.
And he roars. Indeed. He roars.