Though he has been playing piano since he was a wee lad, Bralove says that it’s only in recent years that he’s devoted himself to honing and deepening his keyboard skills, in part because of the influence of T.C. “I wasn’t playing much until Dose Hermanos came around,” he says. “I wasn’t working on my chops the way they needed to be worked on, but once you’re sitting next to Tom, you’ve got to kick up the gears just to keep up.” Indeed, T.C. is a true piano virtuoso, schooled in the classics and modern music. “Tom and I share a deep interest in the 20th century classical aesthetic,” he notes, adding that he’s been influenced by the piano work of Jarrett, Terry Riley, Bill Evans and many others—“anyone who’s at all adventurous,” he says.
Bralove recorded Stories in Black and White at home on a 1916 Steinway piano that once belonged to his father. “They’re improvisations, of course,” he says matter of factly. "I was doing all these improvisations and I started recording them, but when I’d listen back I found I was sort of editing myself too quickly. I was so inside the music that I wasn’t letting things develop. So I did these sessions over a few months where I invited one or two people over as an audience. We’d start by eating a ‘cookie.’ I’d put some food in the oven, play a set, take a break; we’d eat dinner. And then I’d play a second set. So I did a series of these with a whole bunch of friends and it was really fun and I found that working that way it opened up my playing a lot and I got into some interesting areas.” As with many of his recent explorations, Bralove has devised spacey video accompaniment tied into his music, as well.
You can read more about Stories in Black and White and order your own copy now through Bob’s cool website—bobbralove.com—or through iTunes.
But wait, there’s more! Bob told us that he’s also been working on mixes for a forthcoming CD by the Psychedelic Keyboard Trio, an aggregation featuring Bralove, T.C. and the late, great Vince Welnick. “These are recordings we did here in my house about a year and a half ago,” he reveals. “We got Tom in for about a week, and Vince was around. We had just done a show in New Paltz [NY] which was like the second show we’d done together, and we realized something special was happening, so we figured, we better get this on record quick! So I had the Steinway in the living room wired down to the studio; I had a Hammond B-3 in the garage; I had a Fender Rhodes 88 in the basement, and three MIDI keyboards in the studio. And for the entire week we were like: ‘I’ve got an idea for the Steinway!’ ‘Let’s try this on the Fender Rhodes!’ Anybody could grab whatever they wanted and then when we started working really late at night, for my neighbor’s sake, we’d go into headphones in the studio and do MIDI stuff,” he chuckles. It’s mainly instrumental music, though “we also have this really great version of [Dylan’s] ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ that Tom does that’s just so wacky; the organ part he plays on it is outrageous. There are also a couple of Vinnie songs, and one or two of mine that might get on there.
“It was crazy. I was producing, engineering, composing and playing at the same time, and we’d have three people on three different floors all wired in…” he laughs at the recollection.
When we reached T.C. the next day, he said of the Trio’s work, “It’s utterly, totally wonderful; it was lightning in a bottle. It was Vince at his best because nobody was dumping on him; nobody was saying, ‘You better do this, boy.’ He was free to be himself. And we all brought out the best in each other. Some of it is radically new stuff.
“I’ve been playing with the mixes a lot,” Bralove offers. “On Infrared Roses, I liked to play with the sonic movement, but I’m finding with this material it’s wonderful to really feel like there are three distinct voices interacting, and if you play with it too much, the energy of listening and talking to each other through the music gets overwhelmed.”
We’ll let you know when the Psychedelic Keyboard Trio disc is ready to come out.