My background in music is very traditional. As a child I embarked on a musical education through the Royal Conservatory of Music. I learned my piano studies, did my technique drills, studied music theory and history, and took various Royal Conservatory exams culminating in a Performer’s ARCT. As a composer and performer, this education has been invaluable. But there is a part of my identity as a musician that does not flow out of the teachings of the Royal Conservatory of Music. That is my love and practice of improvising. I have always done it and never really thought about why or how it happened. I’ve only had three piano teachers and none of them actively promoted the skill - in fact, I never really told them I was doing it. My improvising has always been a very personal and somewhat hidden activity - something I just did for myself. In high school, a music teacher, Bob Rebagliati overheard me playing some of my piano compositions and encouraged me to join the jazz band. The three years I spent studying jazz improvisation with him represents the only formal training in improvisation that I have ever received. For whatever reason, I never really took to jazz improvising. In fact I would go so far as to say that at best I was no more than mediocre. I learned a few tricks and I certainly picked up a few chords I still use in my playing. All I know is that it is something I need to do and have always done. But I don’t see myself as a jazz improviser. I use no chord charts as a guide and I can’t rattle off or even recognise a complex chain of colourful chords if they are presented to me. I guess my chord chart is all the music I have learned and played as a student of the Royal Conservatory of Music. I simply sit at the piano, start playing, and draw on my traditional knowledge of music theory and performance practice. The fun begins when a mistake occurs. The mistake is the opportunity to explore and make it into something meaningful musically. Just about three years ago, I started improvising in the practice room when rehearsing with Howard Meadows (together, we are the Amicus Music Duo). It is Howard who is responsible for my sharing improvisations with others. He has relentlessly encouraged me to do this and the consequence is a number of improvisations on our Purple Patches CD and now this album. My improvisations are essentially meditative in their experience. There are the occasional bursts of fire, but for me they are about slowing down and indulging in the moment. My favourite moments are usually very simple moments.
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