I’d like to share a bit of magic. As 2020— a challenging and opportunity-charged year— wound down, I was blessed by a Zoom trialogue with Pixar co-founder and former President of Disney Animation Studios Ed Catmull. We explored storytelling, virtual reality, personal responsibility— and how the universe intervenes. ROB WOLCOTT
Harold O’Neal has the charmed life of a lauded musician, composer, actor and busy speaker focusing on the creative process. He’s performed with U2, Jay Z, and appeared as a piano playing hepcat on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.
But he tells a story of the night he nearly died, as a reminder to himself and others that the past only has the power to define you if you let it. ELLEN MCGIRT
In other words, the record swings: a major plus for an unpretentious, accessible, this-is-who-I-am kind of record. On the other hand, “Whirling Mantis” comes with ideas, because Mr. O’Neal can write. BEN RATLIFF
A few hundred years ago, classical pianists would impress audiences by improvising cadenzas in the middle of a concerto — riffing, we would say today. Now improvisation is firmly in the realm of jazz. But a new record called Marvelous Fantasy explores the connection between jazz and classical improvisation. It’s by the 30-year-old jazz pianist Harold O’Neal. KURT ANDERSON
Harold O’Neal’s “Marvelous Fantasy” is a solo piano record in two ways. He plays his instrument unaccompanied, and the album is a piece of work that seems to be out there on its own. I have an idea where the music comes from, but I’m not hearing it anywhere else. BEN RATLIFF
My guest is Harold O'Neal. He's a kick boxer, a Rubik's cube champion, a B-boy dancer. Most importantly, he is a jazz pianist, and his new album is a collection of pieces for solo piano. It's called "Marvelous Fantasy." GUY RAZ
Harold O'Neal's Whirling Mantis is named for a defensive move in karate. The martial-arts reference suggests one way to look at how O'Neal's music operates: The players react to each other's moves, deflecting one another in stylized interaction. KEVIN WHITEHEAD