In this video I play with futuristic transformations to the Pianoteq’s new J. Salodiensis Virginal 1600 after performing a short piece by Frescobaldi using the instrument in its original faithfully reproduced form.
In this little film, I say a few words about my process as an improviser, then perform a melodic and accessible unplanned improvisation in a contemporary classical style.
Why I have more than one project
I’ve released classical-based solo piano music as Phil Best and I also have a jazz-based solo piano album released under the name PJ Best, called Freshly Squeezed: I’ll be releasing more music as PJ with a very acoustic production style, featuring vocals, sometimes with percussion beats on cajon as well as piano.
Who is Louie Harrison?
As Louie Harrison, I create jazzy RnB/soul songs and instrumental tracks that make use of electric pianos and electronic keyboard sounds. My original influence is Stevie Wonder. I love the sweet, melodic vibe of a lot of RnB/soul music especially when it has influences from jazz and jazz funk, making use of rich harmonies and intricate rhythms.
I chose the name Louie Harrison, as it is the masculine form of Louise Harrison who was my Grandma. She was the only adult in my life when I was little, who encouraged me to think of music as pure self-expression and play. She would encourage me to ignore my parents’ when they told me to practise my scales and pieces and to stop improvising and making up catchy tunes. My parents were strictly classical music lovers and were very intolerant of pop music. But as a little kid in the seventies, I’d hear the music and vocal prowess of Stevie, Aretha, Marvin Gaye, Dionne Warwick and so many other artists that I adored and would secretly assimilate their musical language into my own vocabulary.
A fascination with the style of jazzy soul, jazz funk and RnB
As a fluent musician, I love to improvise. I also love catchy melodies. I can still recall the first time I heard the main subject of the first movement of Mozart’s G minor Symphony and I decided that the art of creating a memorable tune that you can hum is definitely one I wanted to learn. Stevie Wonder’s melodies, like Mozart’s, are bold and the feelings that his music conveys are direct, clear , intelligible yet complex and rich. The jazzy harmonies and syncopations were irresistible to me.
I can honestly say that the musical language of jazzy soul was the most fascinating and elusive for me as I worked to expand my musical vocabulary to include all the styles of music I loved. More erudite, abstract-sounding jazz and rich romantic chromaticism in classical music were far easier to work out, as was avant-garde atonality. But the more hidden complexity in jazz funk and jazzy RnB soul is tightly-woven and it’s coherent, effortless, catchiness, some would call cheesy, was much trickier to unpick.
As well as the greats of 70’s soul, I also loved the band Incognito, headed by the brilliant guitarist, songwriter and producer, Bluey Maunick. Incognito’s very lyrical jazz funk style is a wonderful example of this effortless musicianship that shines like the sun and eases the mind like a summer breeze.
Finding my singing confidence
But I also love RnB/soul for its vocals. Sadly, as a child, I was discouraged from singing by my parents. This was because I didn’t even attempt to sound like a classical boy soprano. I loved opening my throat wide and feeling my little unbroken voice soar soulfully. One day, my mother told me that it sounded like disgusting screaming. Although I knew that she considered most pop vocalists to be just “…wailing, screaming and shouting, not singing” as she put it, unfortunately I actually believed that my voice was no good. I did eventually learn to sing in the classical style but my heart was never really in it and it just pulled my vocal technique further away from the soulful style I loved. I’ve been singing my soulful songs for years – I so wanted to be an artist not just a songwriter or producer. But singing well enough to be confident in my work has only come recently as my confidence was so dented by earlier vocal experience. Now I can’t stop singing…
So finally, with a new identity (well… a new name, anyway) I’m releasing my first EP called “The day will come”. It features six tracks – 4 songs, an instrumental and a short piano interlude. The electric pianos are amazing physical models created by Modartt’s Pianoteq software. They sound so authentic and feel amazing to play. These old electric pianos made by Rhodes, Wurlitzer and Hohner help the music have that hallmark 70’s jazzy soul sound: when we hear rich, chromatic jazz harmonies on these sounds, their subtle distortions and harmonics blend to generate a distinctive timbre that is as delicious as cheesecake. Singing with my recently acquired vocal confidence as I accompany myself on these great vintage pianos has been a total joy. I hope you enjoy listening to the sound of Louie Harrison as much as I have enjoyed creating it…
This spontaneous improvisation has a wistful feeling with its modal tonality: the sun should be shining in June and on such a gloomy day, a little improvising on the piano can bring a little warmth and comfort… I will feature it on my album of 16 unplanned improvisations, which will be released in a few weeks’ time.
My Nocturne No. 11 in G minor is one of the 11 Nocturnes that feature in my forthcoming album ‘Nocturnal’ to be released on February 18th. The album version is the original unplanned improvisation, but having created a score, I play it for you here.
Another unplanned improvisation – this time tonally simpler, diatonic, very minor with a dark and wistful mood.
This is an unplanned improvisation. I’d been pondering what a pointless charade politics can become with individuals scoring points off each other rather than using intelligence to find solutions.
So the darkness of the mood and the twisted nature of the complex, jazzy impressionistic tonality arise as my feelings of disappointment and resentment are untangled and resolved by musical patterns, easing my mind.