Beginning in 1972, super-versatile pianist Mike Garson performed, toured internationally and recorded with one of the most creative figures in popular music, David Bowie.
Garson writes, "When I met David, I sensed that he was an immense artist and a songwriter with a flair for great melodies and unique harmonies. The Ziggy Stardust tour changed the course of my life in many ways and began a working relationship and a special friendship that has spanned four decades."
Having played the Bowie songbook in concert countless times, Garson always had the ambition to record his own original variations on these well-known themes. This is the year it came to fruition!
Thanks to the advanced digital technology of the Yamaha Disklavier piano, Garson was able to create several exciting sonic overlays, without abandoning RR's audiophile approach to recording. "It's like having six hands!" he exclaimed.
Recorded in the fine natural acoustics of the Oxnard, California, Center for the Performing Arts (venue of several previous RR successes), this program has realistic spatial characteristics not possible with standard studio techniques. Grammy® award winning engineer Keith Johnson has created another touchstone piano recording.
"I have to say I had serious misgivings when I got the press release from Reference Recordings in the States about Mike Garson's new disc The Bowie Variations: I have a serious problem with so many 're-interpretations' of music I love, to the extent that despite being a big fan of Philip Glass, I really loathed his ponderous, over-portentous Heroes Symphony, based on Bowie's album... But I really needn't have been so concerned that I was going to be confronted with lounge versions of the Bowie catalogue, a la Mike Flowers' Wonderwall Garson's disc is no novelty item, but rather a beautifully crafted disc of solo jazz arrangements from the pianist who was, after all, described as 'the fourth Spider'
"...So, The Bowie Variations, then: a series of short piano works based on tracks such as Space Oddity, Life on Mars, John, I'm Only Dancing, Ashes to Ashes and, of course, variations on the song that started it all, Changes. And each and every track is surprising, involving, and just superb.
"Using a Yamaha Disklavier piano, which is able to record a performer's playing then play it back on cue, Garson has created multiple layers of sound while still playing live 'It's like having six hands,' he says.
"The music was recorded at the Oxnard Centre for the Performing Arts in California, which Reference Recordings has used several times in the past and what a recording it is!
"In the hands of engineer 'Prof' Keith O Johnson (left), Reference Recordings' chief engineer and technical director and fresh from his success in the most recent Grammy Awards, this HDCD-encoded disc is perhaps the best-sounding piano disc I have ever encountered.
"It has a stunning sense of the presence of the instrument in a very real acoustic, and really breathtaking percussive impact as the hammers hit the strings.
"Plus there's a beautiful combination of close-up definition and the natural decay of notes.
"I've only ever really heard a piano sound much better than this once, and that was when I sat up close and personal at a very small, intimate recital given in the Bosendorfer Hall in Vienna last year, after a day spent touring the company's piano factory.
"Yes, this recording is that good.
"If you're a Bowie fan, you should hear this disc. If you're a fan of jazz you should, too.
"And even if you just want to hear just how good a CD can sound, with a disc able to push your system to its limits, this is one you should have." - Andrew Everard, Whathifi.com, August 2011
"A jazz-loving audiophile's dream: great musicians, inspired playing, and jaw-dropping sound quality... a must-have for all jazz lovers." - Stereophile
"Whatever Mike lends his hands to invariably becomes something magical." - David Bowie
A Prof. Keith Johnson 24-bit HDCD Recording
Mike Garson, piano
1. Space Oddity
2. John, I'm Only Dancing
3. Life On Mars
5. Ashes to Ashes
6. Variations on "Changes"
7. Let's Dance
8. Medley: Battle for Britain / Loneliest Guy / Disco King
9. Tribute to David
10. Wild is the Wind
11. Space Oddity-take 2
Total playing time, 49:22