Tony D’anna was born in Chicago 1940. In 1948 he moved to LA with his parents and brother. His older brother played piano and the accordian.
Tony began piano lessons at age seven. It was free as long as he practiced at least one hour per day. His mother made him practice one hour per day. She didn’t approve of jazz so he was trained classically. He learned the formal structure of harmony and chords and that made it easy for him to leap into jazz.
He was invited into a group at the age of fourteen to make $10 or $15 per gig. This was on the job training for the young teenager.
Tony got free violin lessons from his piano teacher as well. He played violin – first chair in junior high and high school.
“I got razzed by the guys in the rough neighborhood in East LA, carrying my little violin case to school, so I dropped the violin, but I wish I would have never stopped.”
He joined Columbia Record Club at 15 and began collecting the records of artists that would influence him. He has been influenced by drummers, horn players, and singers – not just piano players.
He played the accordian doing “Stump the Band” schtick table side at a cheesy restaurant in his early adult years to make a living. He became a piano tuner to earn extra money. He played commercial music dressed in a funny little suit with a bow tie. He actually quit music for awhile because he just couldn’t stand being so commercial, but Fusion brought him back into the fray.
Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – The ignition, the impetus that got Tony going.
Bud Powell blew his mind the first time he heard him. “He was a ferocious piano player,” Tony says
The Be-Bop movement was actually a rebellion of the big band era. It is very restrictive to play in a big band. People wanted more freedom to explore all the music going on in their heads.
The Cool Phase: Cannonball Adderly, Coltrane, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker… “Bill Evans influenced every piano player who came after in voicings and style.” Tony met Nancy Wilson while playing at a funky club in LA at the age of 17. She walked in and wanted to sing. She was driven, sang in odd keys, sounded great and looked hot!
Jazz is different because every member of the band is a star. The players come together to create something fabulous.
When listening to music everything else must stop. “I am a strong devotee of silence,” Tony says.
Fusion! Mahavishu Orchestra, Weather Report
Tony left LA when they began using helicopters to patrol LA neighborhoods. He headed north and got as far as Santa Rosa where he’s been ever since.
He accompanies modern dance and ballet classes which means that he composes every day on the spot. It isn’t really jazz. but a combination of New Age/ World Music. He plays percussion, piano, and drums. The students love it. The teachers love it.
Tony worked with Ann Woodhead, well respected dance teacher at Sonoma State University for many years collaborating on dance concerts. Original scores were composed for these shows.
Currently Tony D’anna works as an accompanist at Sonoma State University for the Modern Dance Department. He also works with the Ballet School, and at Santa Rosa Junior College Theater Arts Department as a pianist for their musical productions. He serves the same function at Cinnebar Theater. He is one of the most popular accompanists for musicians and singers throughout the North Bay. Whatever the genre: Broadway, New Age, Classical, Jazz – Tony answers all calls!
Tony D’anna equals Perfection! That’s how to describe him. So tasty and responsive. He and that piano have been lovers for a long time. Pananica, Thelonius Monk (Tony D’anna playing)