Earlier this year Jon Lord performed a new composition – actually a work in progress – titled Air on the Blue String at Zermatt Unplugged. Swiss TV filmed the show and you can watch the new track below.
Air on the Blue String was in part inspired by a conversation Jon Lord had with cellist Matthew Barley about classical musicians and improvisation. Barley played cello on the Durham Concerto and is a teacher as well as a cellist, explains Jon Lord.
– Matthew’s a great believer in improvisation. He’s very interested in taking young classical musicians out of the conservatoire mindset and trying to make them think in a bigger picture. Many of them leave music school as brilliant technicians but with not much idea about how to play anything other than exactly what is written on the page.
– So Matthew tries to get these young students to improvise and of course it terrifies them. He had one young cellist, who said ‘I’m not interested in improvising.’ All he wanted to play was the Bach cello suites.
Barley asked him if he knew anything about the blues, which the student didn’t, so Barley told him to listen to it and said: ‘If you understand the blues and if you understand improvising, you might play the Bach cello suites better.’
– I quite liked that, says Jon Lord.
– It’s a controversial thing to say, but it’s got some meat to it. The thought stuck in my mind that if you understand the blues, you might play Bach better.
– So I was improvising at the piano myself one day and I came up with this thing that sounded vaguely Bach-like but had blue notes in it. Then I remembered that one of Bach’s famous pieces is called Air on the G String and I called mine Air on the Blue String.
– Bach was an improvisatory musician himself. He loved to improvise on the organ and on the clavichord. So did Mozart, so did Beethoven, so did Liszt. All great improvisers, but the art of improvisation is slightly lost in the modern classical world.
Jon Lord decided to try out his new piece at Zermatt.
– We played it with me at the piano and my second keyboard player, Hannah Vasanth, playing almost a Hammond sound in the background. It went very well and I was very happy with it, even if it’s a work in progress.
Watch Air on the Blue String filmed at Zermatt Unplugged on April 9, 2008: