Donal Fox brings Scarlatti Jazz Suite Project to Newman Center

Photo: Pianist Donal Fox
Pianist Donal Fox

Pianist Donal Fox brings the Scarlatti Jazz Suite Project -- a jazz-infused take on Bach, Schumann and even Schoenberg -- to the Newman Center at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

Fox is a classically trained pianist who’s equally comfortable interpreting jazz classics. In turn, he improvises over jazz and classical compositions -- something that wasn’t unusual for classical composers a few centuries ago.

“Beethoven and Bach, all those great composers that we learned about in school, they all improvised,” he once told an interviewer when asked about the music he studied in his youth. “And I said, how come all of my piano teachers aren’t letting me improvise?”

Describing the way jazz and classical influences mesh in Fox’s music is tricky. It’s not like when a classical composer takes cues from jazz, as in Darius Milhaud’s “La Creation du Monde” or Leonard Bernstein’s “On the Town.” It often sounds more like Bach by way of Oscar Peterson.

Here’s an example of what makes Fox unique. Watch him improvise on Bach’s Prelude in D minor at WQXR’s Greene Space: