KEVIN KASTNING
Piano 1
(Greydisc)

 

Although he is renowned for his expertise as a guitarist, composer, recording artist and designer of the most unique carbon fibre guitars on the planet, Kevin Kastning proves his worth once again, this time as an improvisational pianist on, Piano 1, his sixth solo album for Greydisc Records. Throughout the 9 track Piano 1, Kevin lives up to his reputation as one of the most ingenius American talents on the 21st century worldwide musical scene. Throughout his various albums, many recorded with his talented friends, like Michael Manring, Carl Clements, Sandor Szabo and Mark Wingfield, Kevin has always made recording quality music his top priority. Although he has featured his recorded piano sound on earlier Greydisc albums, including The Book Of Crossing (2012), A Connection Of Secrets (2017) and in 2018 on the Ethereal 1 album with Sándor Szabó, Kevin’s first completely solo piano album has his trademark sound all over it. Long time followers of his recording style and musical vision will easily detect Piano 1 as clearly being an album very much true to Kevin's own style and influences. Speaking to mwe3.com about Piano 1, the artist explains, “The pieces on Piano I were all improvised, all first-take recordings. I had an overall compositional concept and direction in mind for the album, and constructed the pieces to fit into that.” Kevin has clearly earned his standing among the most unique modern-day American musical improvisers and Piano 1 album also makes a strong statement of appreciation for the great pioneering composers of the past. Regarding that last statement he explains, “The composers by which I’ve been influenced for keyboard works would be quite a long list. Bach, Schoenberg, and Bartok are the first that immediately come to mind, but are certainly only the tip of that iceberg. Keith Jarrett’s solo works have had a massive, tremendous impact on me for sure, but far more on the guitar side of things than the piano side. I am not trying to rethink classical music… I just recorded a few piano pieces.” With its steady flow of convincing and compelling musical ideas, all expressed by a singular artist performing solo on the stately piano, Piano 1 takes Kevin Kastnings’s career in a new and exciting musical direction. www.kevinkastning.com




mwe3.com presents an interview with
KEVIN KASTNING
The Piano 1 Interview


mwe3
: Why did it take so long for you to release an album of solo piano and is Piano 1 the start of your new series of piano albums? Were you getting positive feedback from your initial use on the A Connection Of Secrets album and then decided to take the full length piano album further?

Kevin Kastning: Actually, yes that was part of it. When I did that one piano piece on A Connection Of Secrets, I had no plans for any further solo piano recordings. When that record was released in 2017, the music journalist and critic Mark S. Tucker had a very strong reaction. He posted something on his website which was basically a public demand for an entire solo piano record from me. That was what originally planted the thought in my mind. When Mark mentioned it to me, I politely thanked him, but rejected the idea, as I had never considered it. But then I began to think about it more and more, especially after doing some piano work on the record The Line to Three with Mark Wingfield. In fact, Wingfield had said the same thing, that I should think about an entire solo piano record. Tucker had emailed me a couple of times about the solo piano project, even though I told him I wasn’t thinking in that direction. Tragically, he passed on not long after that. I wish he was still here. Sandor Szabo was very supportive of the idea, and was also part of the catalyst for this one. Regarding Piano I being the start of a piano series, I don’t think so. Then again, I had never planned to do a piano record at all, so I suppose you never know.

mwe3: What piano-centric recording artists were you most influenced by? How about names like Jarrett and Corea and is there a precedent in your mind about what kind of album you had in mind for Piano 1? I read some interesting things on the Second Inversion web site, subtitled “Rethink Classical”. Is Piano 1 an album that kind of rethinks piano-based classical music?

Kevin Kastning: The composers by which I’ve been influenced for keyboard works would be quite a long list. Bach, Schoenberg, and Bartok are the first that immediately come to mind, but are certainly only the tip of that iceberg. Keith Jarrett’s solo works have had a massive, tremendous impact on me for sure, but far more on the guitar side of things than the piano side. I am not trying to rethink classical music… I just recorded a few piano pieces.

mwe3: You have composed works for various instruments. Is the piano an instrument you studied early on at Berklee and how does Piano 1 fit into your earlier and present compositional style? Was piano your first instrument?

Kevin Kastning: Actually trumpet was my first instrument; I began that at age 7 or 8. I started playing both piano and guitar around the same time at age 10 or 11. I took formal lessons on guitar right away, so that became my main instrument over piano. Though it was not my main instrument, I studied piano formally when I was majoring in music as an undergrad at WSU, and was required to pass piano proficiency exams each semester. When I arrived at Berklee, I didn’t take any piano classes, but did spend a good amount of time in the piano practice rooms when I was there. All the compositions I was required to do at Berklee were all written on piano. Piano has been my instrument of choice when composing; all the string quartets and chamber pieces I’ve written were all done on piano. I’ve always seen piano as a compositional tool in my life. It’s only recently that I’ve begun to consider it as a performing instrument.

mwe3: Tell us about the instrument you recorded Piano 1 with. How about pianos have you played in the past and what are your favorite pianos? Everyone talks quite a bit about Steinway and Yamaha pianos. Maybe after all, it’s the player and not so much the instrument.

Kevin Kastning: It is a Kawai on the record. I’m don’t think I’m enough of a piano expert to really answer that question. In my limited experience, Steinways always sound very balanced, and the Yamahas are a bit brighter. I know most pianists hate the small quirks and inconsistencies exhibited by some pianos, but when I am at an unfamiliar piano, I will often find those quirks and work with them or around them, which forces me to think a bit differently. It’s a good challenge and forces me into a different place.

mwe3: The cover art of Piano 1 depicts a pretty barren winter scene. Who is the photographer? You have said that winter is your favorite time of year to record. Tell us about your mindset during the recording of Piano 1.

Kevin Kastning: That is one of my photos. It is a hill and forested area near my house. I love watching the seasons change that hill. The forest has a series of hiking trails, and I’ve gone hiking there many times. The two smaller misshapen trees in the foreground are significant. When I was trying to find cover art to fit this project, I was working with some of the artists that have worked with Greydisc in the past, amazing artists and photographers, but nothing seemed to fit. I don’t like to use my own photography, but this time that photo fit the pieces on the record quite well. And that scene is very special to me; there is an emotional resonance there. The gatefold photo inside the CD album cover is that same hill, shot from the same perspective, but during a blizzard. Yes, this album was recorded in winter. Two pieces in December 2017 during the recording sessions for the album 30/36. The remainder were tracked in December 2018.

mwe3: Was all the music on Piano 1 improvised or did you have some specific compositional and even written musical ideas prior to recording the album? Were your other / earlier works on piano composed or improvised?

Kevin Kastning: The pieces on Piano I were all improvised, all first-take recordings. I had an overall compositional concept and direction in mind for the album, and constructed the pieces to fit into that. As for composed piano pieces, I have around ten fully composed, long-form piano sonatas, but they’ve not been recorded.

mwe3: What’s upcoming for you and Greydisc in 2019? You always have some intriguing albums on tap for release.

Kevin Kastning: It’s going to be a busy year. The next two albums in the Ethereal series are in the can, and Ethereal III will be released soon. This is a duo album with Sándor Szabó, but is highly different from anything we’ve ever done. An entirely new direction for us. The next record with Mark Wingfield is also in the can, and will be out this year. I’ve started work on the next solo record; it’s going to be different than the others and more involved, but I hope it will be completed this year. Carl Clements and I are starting on our next one soon. Estonian guitarist and composer Robert Jurjendal and I have been talking about an album project. There is a trio record in the can with Sándor, Carl, and me, which should be released this year as well. I will be recording an album with percussion artist Will Clipman in the near future; I am looking forward to that. And the next instrument in the Emerald Guitars Kevin Kastning Series will be announced soon. So, I’m trying to stay busy.



 

 
   
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