by Jon Regen

Most of the time, a musical debut focuses on the artist behind a particular instrument. But last night in New York City, the attention was as much on the instrument as it was on the storied artists sitting behind it.
Roland’s new V-Piano Grand is the latest effort by the renowned instrument maker to recreate not only the touch and sound of an acoustic piano, but the entire experience of playing one.  Featuring a myriad of adjustable parameters – everything from string length to hammer hardness and soundboard composition, along with a responsive piano action, a customized piano enclosure, and a newly-designed speaker system, the Roland V-Piano Grand takes the digital piano to new heights.

Click images below for larger versions. Scroll to the bottom of this page for video interviews with David Benoit and Brian Culbertson, plus concert snippets of the two on duelling V-Piano Grands--one featuring saxophonist Mindi Abair.

 0411 V-Piano grand blogThe Stanley Kaplan Penthouse at New York City’s famed Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts played host to both this flagship instrument from Roland, along with a cast of acclaimed musical artists, all in attendance to celebrate and perform on the V-Piano Grand. Kudos to Roland for putting the V-Piano Grand through a variety of musical paces and styles, demonstrating the instrument’s capacity across the musical divide.
First up on the program was the classical pianist Yana Reznik, who tested the limits of the V-Piano® Grand on pieces by Liszt and Brahms. Reznik’s impressive technique highlighted the tonal tenacity of the V-Piano Grand – the instrument was able to emote both the roaring bass and bell-like treble so inherent and needed in classical piano performance.  Particularly convincing was the V-Piano Grand’s ability to meld seamlessly into a chamber ensemble, as it did when Reznik was joined by a string quartet for her second selection.  Rarely has a digital piano sounded so acoustic in performance.
0411 V-Piano Mindi Abair with Brian Culbertson Next on the program, much to the delight of Contemporary Jazz aficionados, was a rare duo appearance by David Benoit and Brian Culbertson, each seated at his own V-Piano Grand.  All throughout the dynamic set, both artists played with a ferocity rarely seen on a ‘piano-shaped object,’ each digging-into the V-Piano Grand as if it were an acoustic axe. Again, much like Reznik’s set, Benoit and Culbertson dared the instrument to sing across a wide palate of styles – from New Orleans-style piano romps, to more reverent, plaintive pieces as well. Benoit shined in a jazz duo setting, joined by his bassist on the Bill Evans classic “Letter to Evan,” with the V-Piano Grand set to a mellower preset which seemed to capture the woodiness of a vintage piano. Fellow Contemporary Jazz artist Mindi Abair brought her bluesy brand of sax appeal to the set as well, joining Culbertson and Benoit on both ballads and up-tempo burners to the delight of the crowd.
Is the V-Piano Grand the end of the acoustic piano as we know it? Probably not. But it certainly is a giant leap forward in bridging the gap between the digital abyss and the acoustic past.  This piano may plug into an outlet, but it sounds scarily at times like the one you keep paying your piano tuner to work on. And that’s no minor engineering feat.
If this is a taste of things to come in the digitally modeled piano world, rest assured, we are all in good hands.

Can't see the videos below? CLICK HERE.

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Jon Regen Reports from the V-Piano Grand Debut

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