Rhapsody in Blue

by Ken on August 11, 2023

In late 1975 I visited Lori, my fiancee, at her parents’ home we called the “Tree House”. It was a beautiful modern home that they had purchased from my dad a few years prior.

Lori’s dad, Joe, had a beautiful Baldwin full sized grand, perfectly in tune, sitting in a place of importance, just under the spiral staircase leading to the second floor.

He had just obtained a little cassette player/recorder that was to be part of a larger stereo system. It had been burned slightly in a fire, but still worked. He had given it to me. It was a decent little analogue recorder, for its time, recording to a standard cassette tape.

I was rather fresh out of college, and had not been playing a lot, but had, recently, learned the Rhapsody in Blue, by George Gershwin; a 30 page piece of music which I had worked through and memorized.

One afternoon, we set up the recorder on a little chair besides the piano, and found two thin microphones, which plugged into the left and right mic inputs. We placed one on the left side (top of piano open) and one on the right, both on washcloths to reduce any vibration and rattle.

And while Lori sat on a chair to my right, we began this recording as I played, from memory, this beautiful piece.

I was 23, Lori was 19, and her folks listened on as I played.

Listening to it now, these many years later, I wish the recording had been better. The one thing in my favor was that beautiful piano.

That piece only occupies vestigial parts of my mind now РI marvel how that young guy took the time to learn that long piece.  Put it was, and remains today, one of my favorite pieces. Reminds me of New York City.

There are mistakes, especially at the end; my arms and hands were really tired. I was not used to the action on such a grand piano.

But I am glad we recorded it. Good or bad, this recording, remains as a dent in time.

Ken Risley Playing Rhapsody in Blue (Gershwin) recorder late 1975 on a Baldwin Grand Piano

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