Sometimes life requires us to go the proverbial extra mile, against the odds, around the houses, into wormholes that we may not have thought of.  Sometimes, the way is wild. There is nothing that cannot be dreamed into being. Every strange method, every thing in our world, once existed as a (maybe madcap) mental map.

So I found myself, sometime back in 2009, without access to a studio that housed a decent (recording quality) piano.

I had had previous access to a very fortunate situation – ‘Overtones’ studio, and in permanent situ/loan, the glorious piano of French jazz /concert pianist and friend of Madonna, Katia Labeque. No ordinary instrument, this was a limited edition (one of maybe 4 or 5) Yamaha/Steinway hybrid. It’s presence was that of a mighty galleon – filling the entire room, top lifted like a sail to reveal the guts. It was both ship and whale. The vessel and the journey. I steered it through treacly, dark, mermaid dwelling deeps. Merely pressing a single bass key, was to sound a sonorous bottom end orchestra of vibration through the floor. It’s  sustain pedal was somewhat clunky, but an intrinsic part of its charm.

I cried frustrated tears when the Arts Council cuts that year, slashed the studio right out of existence. 100% gone. The way appeared to be blocked. There followed some self-pity. In time,  with some inspiration from my shamanic lucid dreaming practice, I went into wild vision space. After much patience, trust and affirmative thought process, I dreamed a series of rooms, filled with pianos. Uprights, grands, vintage blonde wood harpsichords, white rock n’ roll kitsch and bluesy baroque curlicue. The rooms had a warehouse, matter of fact quality – not especially beautiful – but piano filled.

About 6 months later, ordinary reality manifested a welcome solution. Imagine my surprise and delight upon discovering Jaques Samuel’s piano studio/practice rooms, in Marble Arch. Inexpensive, friendly, efficient and filled with brand new (tuned weekly) Kawai pianos for hire, practise and purchase. Even a kitchen to make coffee and eat sandwiches.  Myself and genius engineer Felix Macintosh, managed to record the basis of an album here, using small, clip on and free standing mikes and a laptop/portable drive. Also, imaginative scheduling around building works/random flurries of Rachmaninov from prospective customers. (We returned later in the year to record numerous overdubs for my current CD, ‘Dangerous Loving’.)

I’ve come to appreciate the wyrd way, into the unknown, sometimes against conventional wisdom and yet…with the flow. Nature always has a canny plan. Sometimes better than the original plan.

And I’ve come to appreciate the neat, woody, cherry plummery, round sound of Kawai (literally ‘cute’ in Japanese), and the easy depression and weight of the keyboard. Almost like a toy piano.

Katia Labeque’s  gorgeous behemoth ended up at Cheltenham Jazz festival, I hear. (But can be heard on all 11 tracks of my 2006 CD, ‘Going Solo’.)



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