Friday, May 20, 2022

A day in April 2022, or how I improvised and recorded a new album with no planning and loved it

Some many years ago, the fantastic band Rage Against the Machine broke onto the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in the middle of a trading day, set up and just started playing. In fact, they recorded a music video before getting chased out by the police. 

It. Was. AWESOME!!!!!

I love that band. The message, the music, the sheer performance chops of everyone involved. The audacity of it. Just fucking brilliant.

I've done something similar, yet completely different, on a smaller scale and yet larger at the same time.

There is an organization that my wife belongs to that I do not that she's actually fairly high up the food chain in. She's been spending the past few months putting together a reception/party for one of the officers of the group - the first real one since the lock down/pandemic uprooted everything. I've stayed out of it - this is my wife's thing and she's good at it.

The day of the event was April 24th, 2022 in Berkeley, California. I was invited to the event and thought to myself, "at least that's a free lunch". I don't know many people in this organization, don't care for some of them, and don't much like the organization itself. In fact, I was opposed to my wife joining it until she gave me a reason that I simply couldn't counter - which I will not go into here. As long as I'm left out of it it's all good for me, and my wife gets a whole range of things she does without my influence. 

It works.

Anyway, this place in Berkeley had the reception in a downstairs room that came with a kitchen for the caterers, but upstairs was to be the ceremony itself in this HUGE hall with 40 foot ceilings and astonishing acoustics. Seriously, you can hear a person whisper from across the room. And in the center of this room was a baby grand piano. Okay, not right in the center but you get the idea.

Now you can ask anyone - just like a mama bear and a cub you do NOT get in between me and a piano. I have been sitting down and improvising at random pianos for decades now. In restaurants, hotels, airports, parks, zoos, people's homes, cruise ships, and once in a barn. Because my wife was in charge of the part on the floor below we had arrived 4 hours before the event in question. My wife had the key to the hall upstairs though, and I was sent to be out of the way and oh hey there's a piano in there.

I promise you, I was happy with this.

Over the course of a couple of hours I just let my fingers wander around the keys - sometimes playing coherently and sometimes not. I played in many styles and I let my imagination run. The room was open; people could come and go as they pleased and they did. At one point two men came in to set up a P.A. system.for the upcoming event. People wondered in and out of the room, wondering where the noise was coming from and I ignored them all.

This was a beautiful piano, and old Chickering that had been loved and looked after and recently tuned. This is my idea of a little slice of heaven and so after only a few minutes I pulled out my phone and decided to test out an app from Dolby Studios I have. I played for a few minutes and recorded what I played.

And then I did it again. And again. 

I improvised and recorded an entire album with no one else in the room even knowing I was doing it. The album is called "Thousand Year Event" and will be released June 7th, 2022. Just me and the piano and 100% improvised.

You can hear some background noise on the album. That would be the people coming and going. You can hear me breathe. You can hear the P.A. guys arguing at one point, although not the exact words.

This music is hard to categorize. I refer to it as classical with a jazz influence but the streaming services don't much care for that. Alternative New Age? Maybe. I'm not a virtuoso pianist so we won't be calling it that. I've always liked the "Alternative" label because to me that just means I'm not doing things the way you expect. I go off on tangents all the time - just doing the pop and rock stuff alone is kind of boring to me.

Alternative is recording an entire improvised album in a room you're not supposed to be in that belongs to a club you're not a member of with no one else even noticing that you're doing it while they're in the room with you.

There will even be a single, called "Jack", whose voice you can hear but not make out in the recording. There will even be a video. In fact, there will be two.

So that's the story of how I went out to lunch and recorded an album before coming home, without knowing until after I arrived at the venue that I would be doing so.

I'll let you know when the videos are out, or you can follow me on Youtube.

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