Hannes Otahal was born on August 18, 1960 in Klosterneuburg, Lower Austria where he currently lives. He became interested in boogie-woogie in 1975 after hearing VINCE WEBER's first record and started teaching himself to play the piano in the same year. His attempts to play Vince Weber tunes by ear with absolutely no knowledge of technique surprised everybody. Just two years later, at age 17, he gave his first performance in Vienna's Jazzland, together with MARTIN PYRKER and JOACHIM PALDEN, amazing his audience by playing the classic pieces of Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson, and Meade Lux Lewis with complete ease.

Although he has undoubtedly been one of the world's top boogie-woogie piano players for over two decades, he never limited himself to just one particular style. Having finished school, he studied classical piano and graduated in 1987 as a fully qualified concert pianist. For his classical performances he preferred the works of BEETHOVEN, CHOPIN and LISZT. On the side he developed a solid feel for jazz piano, as well as gospel, blues, Ragtime and stride. In 1986 CARL KAYE, who recruited him for his newly founded western swing band "ROUTE 66", introduced him to the country music scene. Since then Hannes Otahal has become the most sought after country pianist in Austria.

In 1996 he joined the "MOJO BLUES BAND" and toured Europe with them for one and a half years. During this period he also appeared as one of the "Stars of Boogie-Woogie" in Vienna's "Konzerthaus", played solo concerts in Vienna's "Bösendorfer-Saal", appeared with VINCE WEBER at the Jazz-Festival in Sargans (Switzerland), and jammed night after night with AXEL ZWINGENBERGER and the great jazz pianist RAY BRYANT during a tour that took them across Europe for several weeks.

Although you won't hear him play boogie-woogie that often in public any more, he is still a "key player" who has been working quite successfully in the background. His transcriptions are almost legendary. If you're looking for absolutely authentic sheet music for the works of the classic boogie pianists this is the place to find them. Hannes is also largely responsible for the high standards in the Austrian boogie-woogie scene today, because almost all of the younger generation of boogie-woogie pianists in this country are, or were, his students.

As he withdrew from the soloist scene, the numerous well known bands he was appearing with were given more and more priority. The first to mention is the "Mojo Blues Band". He can be heard on their CD "20 Years In The Blues Jungle", as well as on the first 3 CDs of "Girly And The Blue Caps", one of the best 50s formations in Austria, or on all 9 CDs of the well known Country Band "Route 66" to name just a few. He currently appears with "New West", a 3-time winner of Austria's "County Band Of The Year" award and he can be heard on their first CD "Simply The West" which was voted CD of the Year 2005 by the Austrian Country Music Federation. He accompanies American guest stars as a member of the "Phantoms Of The Opry", which produces live CDs year after year and held the title of "County Band Of The Year" in 2000.

In addition to his regular Bands, he sat in with the "Legendary Daltons", Manfried Chromy's "Texas Schrammeln" and the "Arizona Eagles" in 2004.

Blues, Country, Western-Swing, Jazz, Gospel, Stride, and Salsa... All played with complete authenticity! Still, the roots of this multitalented pianist lie unmistakably in classic boogie-woogie. It's the music he taught himself to play long before he began his education as a classical pianist. That explains the ease with which he interprets a musical style that is usually only authentically reproduced by absolute specialists.


Today his playing is not only expressive and creative, but also enhanced with just the right amount of humor. Not only that, he plays the most difficult works of classic Boogie pianists with a stylistic authenticity and the virtuosity he acquired through his study of classical piano literature.

(by Robert Falkinger)

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