- Violinist Rob Landes and Pianist Rob Landes perform Feb. 29 -

This is the story of not one, but two talented musicians named Rob Landes.

A Bender patron suggested to Jennifer Wooden that she showcase the talented Rob Landes.

There’s nothing Wooden appreciates more than audience suggestions. As director of the Humble Civic Center and the Charles Bender Performing Arts Center, she’s brought several brilliant performers recommended by The Bender’s enthusiastic supporters to Humble’s new performance jewel located near Historic Downtown Humble.

Rob Landes with his violin.

Wooden dutifully Googled Rob Landes, discovered he’d graduated from Rice, had developed a unique sound using a “loop pedal,” and was now based in Utah but performing throughout the world.

The contact was made, Rob Landes arrived in Humble, and wowed The Bender audience with a unique and modern fiddle sound, creating complex rhythms and harmonies with his loop pedal.

The problem – if it was a problem – is that this wasn’t the Rob Landes that The Bender patron had recommended.

As Wooden discovered, there are two musicians named Rob Landes who attended college in Houston.

Rob Landes at the piano.

One Rob Landes, the one who performed at The Bender, plays the violin. The other Rob Landes, the one The Bender patron was so enthusiastic about, plays the piano and has toured with singer Marilyn Maye, the Count Basie Orchestra and Liza Minnelli. In fact, Minnelli has been his dinner guest twice. Rob the pianist is an active composer, church musician and organist, and artist-in-residence at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Houston.

Always looking for that unique performer who wows The Bender audience and wanting to make things right with the “other” Rob Landes, Wooden is bringing both gifted musicians to The Bender Saturday, Feb. 29, at 7 p.m.

“It’s piano versus violin. The Robs finally meet on The Bender stage,” Wooden declared.

And the “Robs” are up to the challenge.

“A few years ago, a friend of mine asked me if I knew another musician named Rob Landes,” Rob the pianist said. “I was delighted. I’d heard he’d played in Humble and now I’m thrilled that we’ll be playing together.”

Rob the violinist recalls his time as a Rice grad student in Houston when he was hired to play a wedding and the guests were expecting a pianist.

Rob the pianist is a native Houstonian, nurtured by very musical parents since he was age two, and earning a music degree from the University of Houston in piano under the tutelage of famed pianist Albert Hirsh.

He’s done it all – pianist, organist, arranger, conductor and published composer. He formed a jazz group, the Rob Landes Trio, traveled across the world as pianist/conductor, and has recorded 18 CDs.

“Five of those albums were with ‘Fever Tree,’ a nationally known ‘60s psychedelic rock group that I played keyboard for when I got bored in the ‘60s,” Rob recalled.

Today, Landes is organist/artist-in-residence at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Houston where he writes music for the choirs and produces church musicals. He’s been musical director for many Alley Theatre performances, is a member of the TUTS faculty, served on the board of the University of Houston Alumni Association, and was a panelist for the Cultural Arts Council of Houston.

His Rob Landes Trio performs at Jones Hall, the Houston Jazz Festival and, on March 22, they’ll perform their George Gershwin Songbook at the Grand Opera House in Galveston.

In the year since Rob the violinist appeared on The Bender stage, he’s partnered with a company that developed an innovative app, Trala, that can be downloaded on a phone.

“It listens to you practice as you play and then communicates with you,” Rob the violinist said. “You can watch me play and teach on four different levels. It’s not meant to replace a teacher but to be used as an aid for families that can’t afford a teacher or for those who live too far away.”

Rob the violinist has some new pop arrangements he’ll perform and will include some of his popular video game music, while Rob the pianist will play several of those Great American Standards that inspired him – George Gershwin, George Shearing and Andre Previn, to name a few.

And what kind of duet can we expect? The Robs say it’ll be an enjoyable and pleasant surprise for The Bender audience.

View Rob the pianist on YouTube and as keyboardist for “Fever Tree,” all available on Amazon Music. Check out Rob the violinist at roblandesmusic.com and his YouTube channel, which recently hit 2.3 million subscribers. Then make plans to watch the Two Robs on The Bender stage, Saturday, Feb. 29, at 7 p.m. For tickets, call 281-446-4140 or visit humblepac.com.

The Bender has a full 2020 entertainment schedule. Jade Simmons returns to the stage with Part 2 of her “experience” March 21. Local powerhouse Sarah Grace performs with her band, “The Soul,” April 25. The trendsetting Divisi Strings bring their violins, cellos and DJ to The Bender June 27. The dueling pianos of Brian Holland and Carl Leyland bring along drummer Danny Coots for an appropriately titled “Pianos on Fire” performance July 11.

Tom Broad
Author: Tom BroadEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Columnist
Besides being a proud graduate of The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and, therefore, a Cornhusker, I am retired from Memorial Hermann. I am a correspondent and columnist for Lake Houston's hometown paper, The Tribune, as well as a director of the Lake Houston Redevelopment Corporation, a member of the board of the Humble Area Assistance Ministries, and Volunteer Extraordinaire for the Lake Houston Area Chamber.

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