INTERVIEW: Patrick Moraz will bring 40 years of music improvisation to NYC

Patrick Moraz, formerly of Refugee, YES and the Moody Blues, will play two concerts at New York City’s Iridium Tuesday, Jan. 17. Photo courtesy of the artist.

There are so many iterations of Patrick Moraz’s career that it’s almost impossible to keep count. The master keyboardist and pianist has struck many musical chords and continues to challenge himself with different projects, albums and concerts.

He will bring his unique style of improvisation and musical excellence to New York City’s famed Iridium Tuesday, Jan. 17 for shows at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.

As far as recognition, Moraz is probably best remembered as the keyboardist for YES in 1974 when the band recorded the album Relayer. He then moved on to the Moody Blues, offering his percussive talents from the late 1970s to early 1990s. He was on their Long Distance Voyager album in 1980, plus several other studio efforts.

Since his Moody days, Moraz has kept busy with a motley variety of solo compositions and group work. However, even when performing in two of the best-known bands from the 1970s and 1980s, Moraz was still cutting his solo teeth. In fact, the Iridium concerts will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Moraz’s first solo record, i, aka The Story of i.

With such an extensive repertory to pull from, it’s no wonder that Moraz is keeping the Iridium’s set list a secret … even to himself. “I wanted to keep the program and what I’m going to be doing as under wraps as possible, but I know the two concerts are announced as ‘An Evening with P.M.,” Moraz said recently in a phone interview. “Basically I’m playing a grand piano, and I’m doing what I do when I play the piano. I’m really looking forward to that because it’s been quite a while.”

When Moraz is not gearing up for a concert, he isn’t taking a break from the passion and profession he’s been with for more than four decades. “I’m playing seven hours a day, and I’m also recording every day and every night,” he said. “I’ve composed many hundreds of pieces of music.”

The set list at the Iridium could feature tunes from YES and the Moody Blues. It could also dip into his time with Refugee or the many solo piano albums he has recorded.

CATEGORIZING THE UNCATEGORIZABLE

Moraz’s approach to playing the keys or piano is dynamic and difficult to categorize. His playing style and composing have been called neoclassical, world music and prog rock. He doesn’t seem too enamored of any single title. After all, “music is music.”

“I’ve got a lot of repertory ready to play,” he said. “Since I’m going to be just on my own, I’m taking the liberty to be able to decide on the spot how I’m going to start the concert and what I’m going to play, although, of course, I’ll always have a list either in my head, or maybe I’ll have a paper in front of me reminding me of some of the tunes. But anyway I do also a lot of improvisation and a lot of recent compositions.”

A safe bet for the evening is some acknowledgment of i, that first solo album back when Moraz was still a member of YES. The year was 1975, and each member of the band decided to record a solo effort. Moraz’s output kept him in the studio from September 1975 to January 1976, and then he released i June 12, 1976.

The album, featuring the compositions “Impact,” “Warmer Hands,” “The Storm” and “Indoors,” is a wonderfully infectious ride into the musical unknown. Machinery-like beats are coupled with sci-fi sounds to make for a trippy journey. There’s a sense of falling in “Descent” and a lightheartedness to “Dancing Now.” Innocence pervades the ballad “Like a Child in Disguise,” and multiple influences seem to compete in the rhythmic circularity of “Cachaca (Baiao).” “Symphony in Space” finishes the 14-track creation on a somber, yet still otherworldly, note.

The time of the recording of i was a remarkable run for YES, a band known for such songs as “Roundabout,” “Long Distance Runaround,” “I’ve Seen All Good People” and “Heart of the Sunrise,” among many other now-classic rock tunes. Moraz remembers one concert at the time of i’s release that saw some of the largest crowds in the band’s history at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia. The opening act was Peter Frampton.

It was that rock-infused time post-1960s when big bands sold out arenas, lyrics grew edgier and the synthesizers started warming up. Moraz said he was surrounded by musicians that he loved.

Later in his career, after Refugee, YES and the Moody Blues, Moraz kept his projects more intimate, more personal. He joined with drummer Bill Bruford to cut records under the name Moraz-Bruford in the 1980s. Their partnership resulted in two studio albums and two live albums. Another partnership emerged in 2014 when Moraz joined Greg Alban for The MAP (Moraz Alban Project). His latest project is a full-circle moment called i NOW with Bunny Brunel and Virgil Donati. They will make their debut on Cruise to the Edge in February.

Still, at the Iridium concert, fans shouldn’t expect a casual trip down memory lane. The pianist said instant composition and improvisation will be worked into the evening, and both concerts will be similar but different.

“I’ve got the same kind of aspect of stage fright as any artist, or any musician or trapeze artist trapezing without a net,” he said. “I think the challenge of being able to lead oneself in that kind of position … on stage even in such a prestigious town and highly artistic [part] of New York really is one of the most interesting challenges that an artist can have, and that’s what I’m really, really looking for. As soon as my managers ask me would I like to do a couple of concerts at the Iridium, I immediately jumped.”

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

Patrick Moraz will play New York City’s Iridium Tuesday, Jan. 17 at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Tickets are $30 and $40. Click here for more information and tickets.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

2 thoughts on “INTERVIEW: Patrick Moraz will bring 40 years of music improvisation to NYC

  • January 16, 2017 at 7:34 pm
    Permalink

    BRIAN????!!!!!!

    Bill. Bill Bruford…

    Reply
  • January 16, 2017 at 7:58 pm
    Permalink

    Fixed. Thanks for reading.

    Reply

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