Piano Improvisation Series
Nobody Told You
Azure Miles Records Piano Improvisation Series
Cover art is hand silkscreened paper from Japan
available on myriad additional platforms
Seven Albums Of Unique Takes On Standards (All About Jazz)
1. I Am the Walrus (John Lennon and Paul McCartney) 22:27
Michael Robinson - piano (with naturally occurring percussion)
2. While My Guitar Gently Weeps (George Harrison) 25:32
Michael Robinson - piano
3. Street of Dreams (Victor Young and Sam M. Lewis) 11:44
Michael Robinson - piano
All music performed by Michael Robinson on piano
Recorded, Mixed and Mastered by Catharine Wood at Planetwood Studios
All songs used with licensing permission from the publishers
When I began recording piano improvisations using jazz standards just last year, I never in a million years expected to turn my extemporization focus towards any songs by the Beatles. My fascination in doing so began with exploring the unusual melodic movement at the beginning of I Am the Walrus. From there, I expanded to three additional songs also credited to John Lennon - If I Fell, Strawberry Fields Forever and Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds; and three songs by George Harrison - Within You Without You, Blue Jay Way, and While My Guitar Gently Weeps.
An overview of these seven Beatles songs, for their output truly illustrates a collaborative effort irrespective of who originally wrote any particular song, finds a most definite connection with Indian ragas in terms of rasa, melodic content and formal design even though only two of the songs were consciously conceived as such, these being Within Without You and Blue Jay Way.
Given how I've been using ragas as a basis for composition since 1995, it was entirely natural to find myself intuitively exploring elements of raga ritual and practice as a central aspect of my individual approach towards piano improvisations using jazz standards and Beatles songs. Perhaps the most obvious manifestation of this phenomenon is the sheer length of my improvisations, reflecting how Indian ragas are generally much longer in duration than renderings of jazz standards and Beatles songs.
Additionally, my tendency is to begin each improvisation rather slowly, reflecting how ragas begin with a tempo-less alap. Recalling a tamboura, my left hand supports the right hand despite the difference of not playing repeated patterns, but rather improvising new content in contrapuntal form.
Together with the Beatles, it was most engaging to focus on three songs by Frank Loesser, and single efforts from a number of other great composers and lyricists. Having spent time with George Harrison adds emotional resonance for me.
During the recording of I Am the Walrus some thunderous chords caused the left microphone wire to come loose inside the piano, something that had never happened before in the history of this recording studio. At the time, I only heard a momentary, very slight vibration and so continued playing. However, the actual recording amplified this vibration, sounding very much like a woodpecker! Because the unexpected sound only appears about midway through the track very briefly with a few additional fleeting visits, I found myself rather enjoying the unexpected and mysterious accompaniment, crediting it as "naturally occurring percussion."
In My Tree includes Say It (Over and Over Again), If I Fell, Strawberry Fields Forever and Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds.
Past My Bed features Within You Without You, Blue Jay Way, I Like the Sunrise, I've Never Been In Love Before and On A Slow Boat To China.
Nobody Told You has I Am the Walrus, While My Guitar Gently Weeps and Street of Dreams
June Night follows with I'll Never Smile Again, Body and Soul, I Only Have Eyes For You and Moonlight Serenade.
- Michael Robinson, April 2022, Los Angeles
© 2022 Michael Robinson All rights reserved