Sunday, 28 October 2012


When I was a student and preparing a concerto to play with the university orchestra in my 2nd year, I was on the receiving end of a hit-and-run driver on a dark country lane near York University. My bike was a right-off but I survived with just a few bruises and a broken right collar bone. A couple of months strapped into a bolt upright position and my arm in a sling. Which is why I ended changing the proposed programme and preparing the Ravel concerto for the left hand. Long after I was back to normal I was still fascinated by the figure of one-handed pianist Paul Wittgenstein and the great legacy of left-hand repertoire he commissioned or arranged himself. Being a left-hander (cack-handed, southpaw, molly-dooker, scrammy...) I was looking into all the handedness and brain hemisphere research at that time. Then I came across an incredible solo piano album by Borah Bergman, one side of which was just improvisations for the left hand (though from the density of the notes and ideas, you'd never have guessed). A few years later I ended up as his student for a few months in NYC, dividing my time between the Creative Music Studio in upstate New York, and the city. I wrote a couple of articles about him for the music press. A man obsessed with practicing he even carried a sawn-off dummy keyboard in a bag so he could train his left hand while riding the subway! He could play fantastic bebop at breakneck speed in a Bud Powell style, normally or with hands crossed so that left hand playing the improvised line, while at the same time explaining where his torrential, jagged form of free jazz had its roots. The most original jazz pianist I ever heard, and one of the great musicians of our time died on October 18th 2012 age 85.
A small dedication from my most recent recording session with cellist Stan Adler.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

6s and 7s #5

I've worked at the Esperaza school of music since 2007. Sadly this year it closes its doors to the hundred students who used it because of funding problems and the mairies of Couiza and Espéraza are not interested in raising their miserly contributions. Merci Monsieur Hortala! Merci Monsieur Torrent! Children of your municipalities will now do without music lessons.
There was something strange, a feeling of time suspended, about spending long hours in that classroom and the half-hourly procession of young pianists.

6s and 7s #4

Emails have started arriving about forthcoming Carnival meetings. Both Kate and I have been with one particular band, Les Droles ever since its inception 6 years ago but have decided to hang up the twirly sticks and masks - all costing too much money... and time. Long meetings discussing minutiae very seriously, like what are we going to eat? and drink at each café on the big day?? Perhaps instead we will go out as goudils - the independent carnivaliers, dressed grotesquely, who follow behind the musicians and generally amuse, annoy or frighten the public.
The source material of no.4 are the chants, shouts and dancing on the table in the cavernous gymnasium with a few hundred other carnival lunatics on the day of all bands La Journée de toutes les bandes 7th March 2010.
I should be posting some Pergolesi instead - I've just accompanied the Chorale Populaire de Limoux in the Musée du Piano on their 1921 Steinway grand in a performance of the Stabat Mater.