From a flurry of composition that’s included charting the scores for several full musicals as well as recording, producing and arranging Nordstrom’s holiday disc in the past three years, Dehner Franks returns to Bainbridge Island.
A classically jazzed and accomplished gem on the keys, Franks departed from the intimate concert circuit of the Pacific Northwest for the commercial music hub of Las Vegas, but he’s kept strong ties to his formative stomping grounds.
Franks is returning after a more than five-year hiatus at 4 p.m. March 4 with something new — his own compositions.
“My real passion now is my song writing,” Franks said. “For years they’ve seen me just as a pianist, I wrote music but I didn’t ever show anybody. People are just now starting to recognize it.”
A versatile and accomplished pianist with roots reaching back almost 20 years to the Pacific Northwest, Franks is most well-known for his work covering classics and appealing to audiences with a broad range of requests.
With a repertoire of literally thousands of tunes which he can pull from his head and play on cue, Franks said the diversity of his musical stylings spawned early in his career as he aspired to be a crowd pleaser.
“Usually I’ve been successful at it, because that’s been my whole goal,” Franks said of gaining audience admiration. “When I was starting out … I only knew 30 or 40 songs and if someone would ask me for a song that I didn’t know, I would go home and work on it.”
Now, when he’s not frequenting the lobby piano bench at Caesar’s Palace, Franks has been at home in Las Vegas working on his own creations fusing a base of jazz with heavy blues and gospel influences.
Through his far reaching repertoire garnered as a request pianist, Franks’ originals, in a way, defy specific genres.
Franks, whose jazz and blues themes are evident, also adds hints of classical and stride piano into the mix.
“Dehner Franks is one of the most outstanding solo jazz pianists I have ever heard,” said Darden Burns, organizer of the First Sundays at the Commons concert series. “He has prodigious technique (and) great arrangements. In addition he is a great entertainer with a beaming, infectious personality.”
“My whole focus of music is to try and make everyone in the audience feel happy and fulfilled after they hear one of my concerts,” Franks said.
Though Franks has performed with numerous ensembles and groups throughout his career, he describes his solo show as a “musical adventure.”
Leaving boundaries behind in a solo performance, Franks plans to give Bainbridge a taste of his newest pieces in addition to some classics from the likes of George and Ira Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein.
Tickets for the “not to miss event for anyone who loves music,” Burns said, are $15 for adults and $5 for kids under 18; they will only be available at the door at the Bainbridge Commons, 402 Brien Drive on Bainbridge Island.