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Pianist Brickman has no trouble defying expectations

Tribune correspondent
Published: March 18, 2014
Joining pianist Jim Brickman for his Clearwater show will be vocalists Anne Cochran and Rex Smith.

After Jim Brickman completed one of his Magic of Christmas shows in December, he was asked what a nice Jewish boy was doing singing the songs of gentiles.

“I’m Jewish, but I didn’t grow up religious,” Brickman said while laughing during a call from Chicago. “I love the beauty of those songs. That’s why I do it.”

Brickman, 52, is an unconventional sort who does what he feels, not what someone thinks he should be obliged to do. That’s part of the reason he’s one of the few instrumental recording artists with a Billboard hit to his credit.

“I don’t feel the need to do what everybody else does,” Brickman said. “I don’t mind taking a chance.”

Brickman, who will perform Thursday at the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater, has no problem strolling out of his comfort zone. The charismatic pianist knows what works and how to make it function. There’s a reason he has six platinum or gold albums. He has no issues deviating from his usual path. His 2010 album, “Yesterday Once More: A Tribute to the Music of the Carpenters,” is a successful tip of the cap from the New Age recording artist to Richard Carpenter.

“He made some terrific music,” Brickman said. “To me, it’s all about supporting the music.”

Brickman, who is on his “Love Songs and More” tour, has made tribute albums. He has worked with the likes of Martina McBride, Donny Osmond and Lady Antebellum.

“It’s fun seeing what you can come up with when you’re working with vocalists,” Brickman said. “I’ve had some great experiences with each artist who joined me, but it’s really interesting seeing what’s happened with Lady Antebellum. They’re huge.”

The classically trained Brickman, who will be joined by vocalists Anne Cochran and Rex Smith, has always been a warm and engaging entertainer.

“I have always had this theatrical sensibility,” Brickman said. “I grew up with that and honed it while playing places where no one knew who I was way back when. There are less artists who have that today, and that’s a shame. But that’s the way it is in this age of ‘American Idol’-ing. Some performers go from nothing to stardom pretty quickly, and go back just as quickly.”

Brickman’s popularity never spiked and dropped. It’s been strong and steady throughout his 20-plus-year career.

“That’s good for me,” Brickman said. “I would rather be able to do what I do for a long time with some popularity than to be on top of the world one day and forgotten the next.”