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© Ralph Salmins
Artist: Shelly Berg with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor: Jose Serebrier
Venue: Cadogan Hall
Times: 3-6pm 7.30-10.30
“This was a concert with Jazz pianist Shelly Berg and the RPO the day after a recording took place of these pieces at Air Lyndhurst Hall. My friend drummer/ producer Gregg Field called me from LA and asked if I could help out, as this was his project as a producer and he was also playing on the recording but could not stay for the concert in London.
“Any excuse to hang out with one of the finest drummers in jazz, as well as the RPO is good enough for me! I went down to the rehearsals of the piece and both Gregg and I in turn played the tunes with the trio. This was followed by the orchestral rehearsals, then the recording. Gregg played beautifully, of course! He was producing too so was happy to have a helping hand from me. This gave me a good opportunity to hear the music and get it into my system ready for the concert.
“Shelly has adapted Gershwin's orchestral piano music and added improvised jazz sections to the cadenza sections of the music. None of it was too strenuous except for knowing when to come in! Shelly was just nodding us in at the appropriate time. The music was swing: medium, up tempo and a ballad, along with a Latin version of fascinating rhythm. We were only playing as a trio together, in between the orchestral sections of Rhapsody In Blue and some other great Gershwin.
“This was the treat of a lifetime for me, as I got to play with bassist Chuck Berghofer. This guy is a living Legend. He has played with EVERYONE. He told me that he actually turned down Duke Ellington, Theolonius Monk and ELVIS. Latterly he played with Frank Sinatra in his last band with Gregg. What a musician.
“It was all very quiet indeed. Chuck wasn't even using an amp, so I used my Gretsch USA Bebop set – 18”, 12”, 14” - all with Remo Ambassador coated heads except the bass drum which had a Powerstroke 3. No dampening anywhere. Cymbals: a Sabian prototype 21" ride (pictured to my right) and a 22” Artisan ride with three rivets. 14” Very light Artisan hats. Stick choice was Vic Firth AJ6 only for a very quiet clean cymbal sound, but the majority of it was brushes, VF Heritge brush being my choice.
“This was a setting that challenged my ability to play quietly. It was whisper quiet. I hope I pulled it off. Shelly is a monster player and him and Jose seemed to be pleased.”