Pianist and New Yorker Thomas Bartlett was raised in rural Vermont by two devoted intellectuals. For the most part self-educated, save a few failed attempts at public high school and 1.5 semesters at Columbia, he is perhaps the most famous person you’ve never heard of.
A studio artist who plays alongside the likes of David Byrne, Yoko Ono, Rufus Wainwright, Grizzly Bear, Antony and the Johnsons and The National; last year he toured with Nico Muhly.
Ineffably gentle, he has a modest but electric air of genius. One wonders why an artist so respected and sought after wouldn’t commit to one of the many big and bright names; the fact that he doesn’t makes him all the more alluring. Bartlett, instead, chooses to hummingbird-it, always after the more adventurous or groundbreaking endeavor.
Back in 2006, a friend of Bartlett’s approached him about an album that would be a vague tribute to a late sister. The friend wanted him to cover the Footloose soundtrack. The teenage sister had tragically died in a car crash in the late eighties, and one of the only things her still-bereaved brother had left was her Footloose soundtrack. Bartlett agreed immediately, and brought a sadness and a sweetness no-one knew songs about dancing in spandex could hold.
Thomas Bartlett, whose alias “Doveman” couldn’t better suit the soaring, meandering genius of his fast fingers and hushed lullaby voice, performs Saturday, 11/20 at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland in support of The Swell Season.