Mike is probably best known as a country rock piano player having played with Albert Lee and Hogan’s heroes for some 12 years. His work with Dennis Locorriere, the voice of Doctor Hook, and with several old Rock’n’Rollers including Lonnie Donegan and Marty Wild, will simply confirm this view.
However, his new album, ”JUST FOR THE RECORD” is something of a departure from that genre although there are inevitably echoes of country music and much besides. You might even say that although essentially it leans heavily towards Jazz, jazz that is of an earlier generation, it is by no means exclusively a jazz record.
Mike himself explains that he grew up listening to Fats Waller, Benny Goodman and Teddy Wilson, Charlie Parker, Coltrane, Adderley and Miles Davis and of Course Oscar Peterson and Bill Evans – Keith Jarrett came a little later. Elvis, Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers were equally influential if not more so at times.
“Just for the record” is a collection of Mike’s original compositions which reflect some of those influences and, despite the jazz labelling, is by no means obscure. You might even call it an eclectic selection.
When asked how he made this album as the sole performer, this was Mike’s reply:
“I begin by recording in its entirety a piece of music on the piano. The performance is the composition. It is not scripted. The piece develops, or not, in the playing which is what jazz has taught me to do. I do this in one sitting as if performing live but with the recording studio as the only listener. If I like the result I keep it and depending on its mood, either leave it as a solo piano piece or develop it further by adding a rhythm section, some soprano saxophone, maybe some voices and various good quality samples.”
“I spent many years playing with other musicians which is by far the more natural and rewarding way to do things, but I also enjoy the freedom of working alone, to be able to shape a composition without compromise. In a recording studio, the process of overdubbing which means adding instruments to enhance the production, is standard practice even with a live band recording. I remember being enormously excited when I first went into a recording studio and discovered the possibilities of multitracking, that’s using another track to add an extra part with the inspiration of being able to hear what has already been recorded.”
“Just for the record” is also a departure from his previous albums which were more reflective, perhaps more commercial.
“I wanted this time to produce something that reflected the way I actually play rather than to design an album for a particular purpose. This inevitably meant defying categorisation despite the emphasis on jazz. I hope, for no other grand design but, just for the record, this is what I have done”.