Harold O’Neal is a jazz pianist with an unusual resume. Born in Tanzania and raised in Kansas City, Miss., O’Neal is also a hip-hop dancer, martial artist and actor. He’s just released a new album with an unusual back story of its own: Marvelous Fantasy is a largely improvised collection of solo piano pieces, an homage to the music of silent films.
“Each one of these pieces is a soundtrack in itself,” says O’Neal, whose style has been pegged by critics as straddling the line between jazz and classical. “When I was a kid and first started playing, I didn’t know nothing about different styles of music, like most kids. … I wanted to make a record that someone did not have to be a jazz aficionado or a classical enthusiast to be able to appreciate.”
Guy Raz speaks with Harold O’Neal about making Marvelous Fantasy, and O’Neal performs live at NPR.