Mike Allen sat in front of a Yamaha C7 piano owned by the late Canadian jazz pianist Bob Murphy, which Murphy affectionately called Racehorse.
Ten months had passed since Murphy’s death. Allen was in Murphy’s home recording studio finishing songs the two had created together.
“It was a very emotional experience to make music in Bob’s space on his piano without him,” said Allen.
Allen had been friends with Murphy for years, but they had never released an album even though they had recorded songs.
To pay homage to Murphy, Allen worked with his longtime friend Miles Black to create an album. The result was Bob’s Piano, which was released Jan. 10.
“It’s an album that pays homage to Bob Murphy and his legacy as a Canadian jazz piano icon,” said Allen. “It’s just a way of keeping him with us.”
Six songs on the album feature Allen and Black and four are songs that Allen and Murphy completed.
The recording session began with reverential overtones, said Allen, but as the day progressed the two “sensed Bob’s playful spirit in the room” and began to relax, which helped propel their creativity.
Allen said he was influenced by Murphy’s music career and artistry and it was an honour to continue to put his music and spirit out there.
“Bob was a very soulful musician and a spiritual musician,” said Allen.
Allen met Black in 1996, he was the second jazz pianist he had worked with after Murphy.
“I was just floored when I heard him the first time,” said Allen about Black. “I was so excited to work with such a great musician.”
While Allen started learning piano when he was 11 years old and performs on piano in some instances, he is best known for his tenor saxophone playing.
Over the years he has won numerous awards including a Western Canadian Music Award for Best Jazz Album and he was the sideman on Michael Bublé’s Grammy winning album Crazy Love.
Allen and Black are touring Vancouver Island performing songs from Bob’s Piano.
The duo performs in Victoria at the Tom Lee Music Hall Jan. 26. The Nanaimo performance is Jan. 27 at 8 p.m. at the Nanaimo Conservatory of Music. Tickets are $25 at the door or $20 in advance from Arbutus Music and Fascinating Rhythm. The next night, Jan. 28, they perform in Cumberland at Studio Live and on Jan. 29 play at the McMillan Arts Centre in Parksville.
“I love playing many nights in a row. There is a real thrill to tour and to be playing,” said Allen.
He said the live performances will stay true to the album’s sound, as this will be the first time some audience members will get a change to hear the music.
For more information about Allen, please go to www.mikeallenjazz.com.