By Robbie Gennet
I don't know if you've been watching, but we've been releasing some amazing exclusive footage of our annual NAMM Piano Rumpus on our YouTube page www.youtube.com/keyboardmag1, which I maintain as an adjunct to the videos you see hosted on the main Keyboard site. As we're going through the footage we shot at this years NAMM, we're rediscovering the moments that made us light up, that brought us to laughter and at one point, tears of joy. (See our final video of this series: Marian Petrescu's landmark performance of "Indiana" at the Tiffany Terrace show at the Sheraton.)
What we captured is far beyond what we could have hoped for and we're glad to be able to shed deserving light on some really talented piano and keyboard players.
The purpose of these videos was to test drive all the concert grands in the nine-foot range with a bunch of bad-ass piano players. Little did we know what we were getting ourselves into when we casually ran into some incredible pianists, each amazing in their own right. We witnessed Marian Petrescu's astonishing technique and chops, Glen Stewart's exquisite chord re-harmonizations,
Eddie Bullen's expansive improv skills, plus his talented son Quincy Bullen's firey technique. Tracy Martin and Skylar Thomas stepped out from behind the synths and showed great poise and a deep connection with the acoustic piano. Both are great examples of where talent plus dedication leads you.
All of these pianists cut loose and had fun, and the results speak for themselves. Filmed in HD, these vivid performances show not just the players but also the finely crafted instruments that sat waiting for us all over the upper floors. The piano companies always bring out their finest wares, and we try to hit as many of them as we can. Though each player gave his or her thoughts at the end, the real "review" is what comes out when their hands hit the keys. Each piano has a voice, and you "speak" just a little bit differently as you play around.
Some pianos, such as Estonia, brought out more aggressive punch while Mason and Hamlin's PNG composite action won rave reviews for its ease of fluid expressiveness. Getting to try all these great pianos in a row helped us to hear and feel subtle differences between them, and the NAMM show is a great gathering spot to get that unique perspective. One of the other great things about NAMM is that you run into people by accident who can take your day to a whole new level. Such was the case at NAMM 2011, one of the finest yet in the many years I've been going. I met Eddie and Quincy Bullen wandering the piano floor, while Kevin Gibbs discovered us when he started mind-melting with Glen Stewart over in the Schimmel booth. We had randomly filmed Glen on Hammond organ last year, but his piano skills are simply astonishing, and he shows himself to be one of the brightest unsung players we've seen. His version of "Just the Way You Are" will make you rethink everything you know about how to use chord substitutions. We met the soon-to-be-legendary Marian Petrescu up at the Shigeru Kawai booth and his scorching performance really lit a flame amongst our group. In the video, you can see Quncy Bullen sitting on the seat behind him watching Marian's hands flying across the keys.You can't fail to be affected after seeing that kind of physical showmanship from a few feet away. Marian is on a level all his own and his style doesn't fit purely under jazz or classical. And though he can blaze through an Oscar Peterson piece, he is by no means a clone as some have suggested, though considering Peterson's level of performance and technique, that in itself is a fine if backhanded compliment. The world is just discovering this rare talent and we are lucky to have found him on the rise. We just got word that he'll be appearing at the 2011 Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl this summer, which will give him some great exposure and shine a deserved light on a genius-level talent. Look for a feature on Mr. Petrescu in an upcoming issue of Keyboard magazine around that time.
The clips we captured of these players stretching out on the concert grands at Fazioli, Estonia, Young Chang, Kawai, Mason and Hamlin, Schimmel, Bosendorfer, and Yamaha will inspire and entertain you--and at times,make you drop your jaw in disbelief. I do hope everyone will check back at the YouTube channel over the next few days as we release a few dozen more HD clips from NAMM.