Yes, pianist Arlington Jones does live in Arlington, Texas, but that’s not where his name comes from.
“That’s my real name. I was named for my dad, but I was born in Chicago,” he explained.
And while the 44-year-old pianist comes to perform at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at McLennan Community College as part of the college’s Steinway Series, he’s doing more than the classical music that the name “Steinway” might suggest.
He’s equally comfortable in jazz and his repertory is wide-ranging. Tuesday’s concert, however, will draw on his personal repertory of original compositions, many from his latest album “Soul Gent.”
“They show a combination of all my influences,” he said.
Jones started as an eight-year-old in Dallas, so eager to play the piano his New Jersey grandmother had provided his family that he asked for piano lessons. That zeal started to flag once actual practice began, but his parents kept him on course.
“My parents had a big role in making sure I practiced,” he recalled.
Playing at his church as he grew up added gospel music to his background and his college studies at Texas Tech University opened an even bigger horizon to jazz, where he found himself gravitating to the works of Art Tatum and stride piano masters Willie “the Lion” Smith and James P. Johnson.
Jones’ composition classes expanded his music reach even more, and he found Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson and Claude Debussy contributing their stylistic influences to his palette.
The pianist didn’t find a classical/jazz dichotomy in his studies, however. “There’s no new musical theory for jazz, but it’s applied in a different way,” he noted.
Crafting a career
After graduate studies at Southwest Texas State University, Jones went on to craft a career as performer, forming a group The Brethren to back him, a music educator and a recording label head with his own Zamaria Records, on which he’s released seven albums.
He’s worked with students of all ages in to stimulate interest in music and pursuit of it as a career, creating curriculum and workshops as well as teaching at Cedar Valley College in Lancaster for 12 years.
Jones and his wife Hope, who manages his career, have founded the nonprofit The Music Stand, a faith-oriented music support organization. The two have a 19-year-old daughter Christian and 13-year-old son Arlington III.
He travels more these days, with master classes a major outlet for his teaching, and finds his concerts a way of introducing audiences to jazz as well as sparking a general love for music. “I love to see all ages at my concerts,” he said.