Writings about Music

Piano Improvisation Series

Raga-Like Conversations

Don Shirley

Don Shirley said his chief musical gift was interpreting composers like Alexander Scriabin, a pathway denied because he was black. Listening to Don play Scriabin in his glorious Carnegie Hall apartment was a confirmation. I miss him and our raga-like conversations about music, typically lasting five to six hours.

What a cool surprise when an inspired film about Don, Green Book, was made. Listening to the dialogue only once, without actually watching, it was uncanny how closely Mahershala Ali captured the way Don spoke.

It would be wonderful if Don's magnificent paintings were exhibited at the Whitney, their presence on the walls of his home being an intrinsic part of the magical air there.

I would have loved adding the subject of piano playing to our talks if Don was still here.

He preferred being addressed as "Don," with those who were not personal friends asked to use "Dr. Shirley."

- Michael Robinson, December 2022, Maui


© 2022 Michael Robinson All rights reserved


Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer, programmer, jazz pianist and musicologist. His 198 albums include 151 albums for meruvina and 47 albums of piano improvisations. Robinson has been a lecturer at UCLA, Bard College and California State University Long Beach and Dominguez Hills.