Since my days as the only dance accompanist who didn’t know any of Swan Lake, I’ve improvised at the piano.
Sometimes for my own entertainment, sometimes for work and often as a place to hide away from the world for a while. Recording improvisations is a bit of a dark art, in that the more you concentrate on not going wrong, the more likely you are to, and the less interesting your piece is.
Add to that the sense of being observed that comes from being in a recording studio and being live on a video stream, and finding a quiet space inside yourself to just play something becomes a bit of a challenge.
And then there’s the self doubt. I’m not by any stretch of the imagination a ‘pianist’, and often gaze in slack-jawed admiration at the amazing feats of my colleagues who’ve made the instrument their life’s study. Man, there are some wonderful players out there.
So it would be perfectly valid to ask, “why are you inflicting your self indulgent noodlings on the rest of us? Go away and write some proper pieces with lots of instruments in, please.” I guess the answer would be that I’ve always being fascinated by artists’ sketches. Sure, it’s wonderful to see the final masterwork, framed and perfect, but there is an intimacy and an honesty about the pencil sketch, the quick watercolour impression, or the jottings in the margin that can get lost, particularly now in music when so much is ‘tidied up’.
One of my favourite albums, by one of my favourite artists, is Keith Jarrett’s The Melody at Night With You.
The story goes that he recorded the album in his home during a period of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. You can read him being interviewed about it here. There’s a poignancy and honesty about where this once fiercely energetic artist was with his music at that time that never fails to move me.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not in any way comparing myself to Keith Jarrett. I wouldn’t come out of that very well. But as an inspiration in terms of sharing a musical journey, honestly and with integrity, he’s always been a hero of mine.
So really, I suggest you go and buy his album, as it’s wonderful, but if you want to have a listen to what was inside my head on July 17 2012, do have a look in the store at
I hope you find something to connect to there.