Michael Garson jazzes up Music Recital Hall

By Joseph Muldoon

Pianist Michael Garson, who has played with David Bowie,
Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails and No Doubt, gave a master
class and an improvised jazz performance last Thursday in the Music
Recital Hall. During the master class Garson took the time to give
advice and play with several music students.

In front of a packed house, music students performed in a rock
band, on the piano and in a jazz group. Garson played along with
them and gave pointers on how they might improve their music.

“It was a privilege to play with him because he has played with
so many big names,” said Kateri Lirio, a music student who played
keyboard in the rock band. “I can learn so much about improvising
from him.”

Garson is known for his ability to improvise pieces. During the
master class Garson asked students to shout out four musical notes
and he created an original piece built around those random notes
within moments.

Garson is a master of improvisational piano and has built a
reputation as one of the few pianists to be both a strong rock and
jazz performer.

“I’m a big fan of jazz and knowing he has played with artists
such as Freddie Hubbard, who is my favorite trumpet player, and
Herbie Hancock, made the show that much better,” said Chris
Baliwas, a third-year music business student. “He has played in the
presence of greatness.”

During the master class a student rock group, Abstract Theory,
performed with Garson.

“It was the coolest thing ever to jam with Michael Garson,” said
Wayne Ingram, guitar player in Abstract Theory. “It was a piece of
our song that he added to, when he said play that riff again I want
to jam with that, that was pretty cool.”

Garson also helped Vanessa Estrada, a fourth-year music student,
play her rendition of Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm” on the piano.

“Playing with him was a little intimidating because I don’t know
all the jazz he does of course,” said Estrada. “His skill is beyond
anything I have ever seen or heard. It was a really great
experience.”

Garson called for a few musicians from the audience to come on
stage and have an impromptu jam session for the master class
finale. The crowd was hesitant at first, but after just a few
moments there was an entire jazz band on stage with Garson.

Later that evening Garson performed an improvised concert as
part of a jazz trio with drummer Billy Mintz and bassist Dave
Carpenter. The hall was nearly sold out as the lights dimmed and
the musicians took the stage.

All three musicians are long-time friends and, although, they
have not played together in some years, the connection between them
was very apparent. They are not a formal group, but for the
evening’s concert they called themselves the Michael Garson
Trio.

“Even though they haven’t played together since the nineties,
they have this sort of internal communication that takes place,
which you would expect form a band that tours constantly,” said
Luke Bennett, a fourth-year music production student. “The
performance was amazing; it’s hard to believe at times that the
whole thing is improvisatory.”

During one song, bass player Dave Carpenter broke a string. For
the next piece Carpenter and drummer Billy Mintz created a song
they called “Ode to a Broken D String.”

At the end of the show Garson asked the crowd to shout out their
favorite Gershwin songs. After a few requests, the trio performed a
medley that seamlessly brought several of the requested songs
together.

From David Bowie to Freddie Hubbard, Nine Inch Nails to Abstract
Theory, Michael Garson has left his imprint on the music world, as
well as Cal Poly.

“Play what you hear, practice a lot to make it smooth and follow
your passion,” said Garson. “Do what you love.”

Michael Garson jazzes up Music Recital Hall

Brandon Tan/Poly Post

Michael Garson jazzes up Music Recital Hall

Michael Garson jazzes up Music Recital Hall

Brandon Tan/Poly Post

Michael Garson jazzes up Music Recital Hall

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