Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Patrick Moraz in Princeton

Patrick Moraz in Princeton

by Jesse Schmitt

Patrick Moraz starts his “Live in Princeton” DVD beating not on the keys of his piano but on the top of the piano; then on the strings of his piano; then on the sides of his piano. Maybe Mr. Moraz had wanted to join the drum corps at some point in his auspicious career.

Those who recognize the name will remember his playing keyboard and touring with the band Yes, in the 1970’s and “The Moody Blues” in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. It could just be that this talented keyboard player was just showing off his understanding of and respect for the importance of rhythm and beat; irregardless of how outlandish his playing style is.

Moraz would go back to that beating before this evening was done; but his piano playing was all this talented artist needed and he obviously played to a beat all his own. Just having a look at his wild shock of black hair or the crystals which hung round his neck let you know that this was a guy who marched to his own beat.

His “Princeton” DVD opens up with “Aural Contact I: Sacrifices” an eight and a half minute introduction that begins with establishing his tempo, continues with his rumbled, garbled, conflicted, yet crystal clear intonations as he dances across the ivories. At times you feel like you are listening to a song you have heard before; maybe a classical tune, maybe some bit of pop snuck in there, maybe even elevator music; but then that distinctive hand of Moraz dices it all up and fakes you out by serving you something you undoubtedly have not heard before. That is the cunning of progressive rock and progress in general; taking you places you have never been before. This is what Moraz does with such finesse.

For fans there are obvious influences; through his long career he came up with the likes of Billy Joel and Elton John; certainly those ghosts are tinged in his seemingly random rants. Moraz’ trick that you will soon familiarize yourself with is that you will only hear it for a moment before it’s gone.

Then, of course, there are the masters. Moraz does a seemingly harried interpretation of the Duke Ellington’s “Talisman.” While the Duke played it slow and close to the chest, Moraz seems a bit impatient to get it out as fast as possible. In spite of his impetuousness, there is definite spirit and respect.

Moraz also attacks Monk in his nine and a half minute tribute to “Blue Monk.” This version was a bit more recognizable and to tempo. Moraz still is able to let his jazzy side shine when he would duck through the side door and totally go off during the breaks; still always careful to return to the melody.

“Patrick Moraz in Princeton” is a colorful and worthwhile showcase of a classical progressive musician in a progressively progressive time and is certainly worth a viewing.

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