Peter Mintun, Society Pianist

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The San Francisco Chronicle
January 26, 2012


Peter Mintun Loves and Lives the '30s

Sam Whiting, Chronicle Staff Writer

The Peter Mintun Orchestra musters once a year on New Year's Eve when the time traveling pianist returns to San Francisco from New York. Before putting on his tux at Davies Symphony Hall, Mintun, 61, sat backstage in his civvies, 80 years removed from 2012.
Anybody who visited the lounge at L'Etoile on Nob Hill late last century will remember the mood.

Paul Chinn / The Chronicle
Pianist Peter Mintun, a Berkeley native now living in New York, returns yearly to perform New Year's Eve concerts at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco
.


Q: So you still live in the 1930s?

A: In many ways I do. I listen to the music all the time. I play the music all the time. I keep up on current events by reading '30s magazines.


Q: How long has it been since you decamped for New York?

A: It will be 11 years in March.


Q: Describe your long stint on Nob Hill?

A: When I was 22 I started playing at L'Etoile, a restaurant in the Huntington Hotel that opened in the 1960s. The piano was not being used, so they hired me on a temporary basis, and it lasted for 16 1/2 years.


Q: Where can we find you in New York?

A: At Feinstein's at Loews Regency (Hotel), Park Avenue and 61st Street, once a month (every third Monday) from 10:30 to 11:30. We call it Monday Nights with Mintun.


Q: What music do you play at home?

A: I'm learning new old songs all the time. My turntable plays 78-rpm records.


Q: Latest project?

A: Recently I was hired to play the piano for "Boardwalk Empire," which is an HBO series. I also worked on the set twice as an extra. I put together an outfit of my own cutaway coat and striped trousers, and the costume department let me wear them for the filming. Nobody does that.


Q: Where did you grow up?

A: I was born and raised in Berkeley. My dad, Del Mintun, was an old-fashioned family doctor in Berkeley for about 40 years.


Q: Growing up in Berkeley how did you become so dedicated to the distant past?

A: My parents were playing recordings of Glenn Miller and Fats Waller and Teddy Wilson and Benny Goodman. I just thought this was the greatest, and I lost interest in the top 40 and what was playing on the local radio station. I missed out on the whole rock 'n' roll phenomenon. I know nothing about disco or hip-hop.


Q: Go to Berkeley High?

A: I did, class of 1968. During my last year, I'd wear white slacks and two-tone spectator shoes. For the school photograph, I was the only kid who showed up in his own tuxedo.


Q: Have a pet?


A: I have a boxer-Lab mix named Nina Mae for a torch singer in the '20s and '30s.


Q: What kind of car do you drive?

A: When I was 18, I had a 1938 Buick that I used for 27 years. Then a friend bequeathed me his 1930 Lincoln five-passenger sedan. But when I moved to New York, I sold the cars.


Q: What would you buy if you could?

A: It would be nice to have a place where people could come in and sit down and listen to me play the piano and have a drink. It could be in New York, could be in San Francisco.


Q: What would surprise people to know about you?

A: Sometimes people are surprised that I have a cell phone.


Q: Secret talent?

A: I do a pretty good Pee-wee Herman impersonation.


Q: How do you avoid gray hair?

A: Everybody thinks I dye it, but it's natural. What's gray is my mustache, so I shave it off.


Q: Did you see the Woody Allen movie "Midnight in Paris"?

A: Yes, I did, only one time.


Q: If you were in that movie and could go back in time, where would you go?

A: It would be 1932 at the Peacock Court ballroom in the Mark Hopkins Hotel, where San Francisco's greatest dance orchestra, Anson Weeks, would be playing "I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan." I could also stop in at the St. Francis to hear Phil Harris singing "When It's Sleepy Time Down South," with his Lofner-Harris Orchestra. I could see and hear all these legends by just walking or hanging on a cable car.


E-mail Sam Whiting at swhiting@sfchronicle.com.
http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/01/26/DDO51MG0HF.DTL
This article appeared on page E - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle
© 2012 Hearst Communications Inc.

 

 

The Wall Street Journal
August 12, 2011

More in New York-Culture 
The Jazz Scene:
Big Bands and Bombshells 
By Will Friedwald

Peter Mintun 
Feinstein's at Loews Regency 
540 Park Ave., (212) 339-4095 

"Pianist and occasional vocalist Peter Mintun launched his series of monthly shows with the  zesty "Waltz from Swingtime," then noted the address with "Slumming on Park Avenue" and  dryly commented on Hamptons-style weekends with "Mrs. Lowsborough-Goodby." Which  made the point that although he can play Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin and Cole Porter better than  almost anybody, Mr. Mintun's specialty is the "second-tier" songwriting teams of the 1920s and  '30s, like Mack Gordon and Harry Revel ("A Dream Walking"), and the composing bandleaders  Johnny Green ("Body and Soul") and Richard Himber ("Monday in Manhattan").

Mr. Mintun  renders their words and music with such elegance that you'll inevitably start wondering why all  these deco-age songwriters aren't as well known or as widely celebrated as Rodgers and Hart.  No matter the song, Mr. Mintun's playing is filled with the joy of living."

 

The New York Social Diary:
The Peter Mintun Orchestra topped the program at Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall

 

Read the New York Times article, STREETSCAPES: 1897 Town House That Looks Like an 1897 Town House featuring Peter Mintun.

"Peter Mintun is in charge...elegant, agreeable and reassuring...A genuine throwback to a gentler time, this elegant performer specializes in curios from the twenties and thirties like Kitten On The Keys, but he has also been known to play cartoon theme songs if the mood (or crowd) warrants it. Agreeable and assuring without being over-gracious, he's sort of a curio himself" -
The New Yorker

Nobody knows better, or plays better...popular music of the 1920s, '30s and '40s.
Alistair Cooke

Most gifted of all saloon pianists...the Vladimir Horowitz of cocktail pianists."-
Herb Caen, San Francisco Chronicle

Thumbs up to pianist Peter Mintun.
Peter Duchin, U.S.A. Today

His intuition transcends the gaucheries of nostalgia
James T. Maher, editor, American Popular Song

No one has a better style at the piano, and knows more music than this charming gentleman.
Margaret Whiting

One of the best melodic players on the scene today...He's got style, he knows how to please an audience, and he plays impeccably.
Bob Doerschuk, Keyboard

Peter Mintun's music-making belongs to the world, not only to San Francisco, where he plays nightly in the everyone-ends-up-there-sooner-or-later bar...His piano purrs, and it's a friendly as a drink on a rainy night.
George Christy, The Hollywood Reporter

...a course on what cocktail pianists are all about..a bright spot on the Manhattan music scene.
syndicated columnist, Gary Stevens

...charming, elegant...very pleasantly habit-forming.
Eric Myers, Time Out New York

When I grow up I want to be Peter Mintun.
Michael Feinstein

 

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