"I've been looking at Liberace's business," explains Cedric Lawson. "I'm looking to reach a large audience and I'm looking to make a lot of money. Basically, I'm coming strictly at you as a professional with not too much involvement in the art form." The 36-year-old pianist's background includes study at the New England Conservatory, tours as a 16-year-old with Little Anthony and the Imperials, membership in the combos of Miles Davis and Art Blakey, and appearances with the Boston Symphony. Lawson's repertoire encompasses Bach, spirituals, Scott Joplin, "Rhapsody in Blue," bebop, Cecil Taylor and contemporary pop. Lawson will perform a solo program of Jelly Roll Morton tunes today at 3 p.m. in the Palm Court of the National Museum of American History. Admission is free.
"I'm hoping to reach the $400,000-a-night plateau," says Lawson, whose bent for sartorial flamboyance expresses itself in canary yellow tuxedos. "I'm feeling audiences out to see what they like. The big-money audiences have reacted more to 'MacArthur Park' and 'Born Free.' The audiences that like the blues and the inflections of 1920s and 1930s jazz, I don't think they will come up with the budget for me to buy a $96,000 Bo sendorfer. And the so-called sponsors and the benefactors haven't manifested themselves yet."