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.

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