Review: The Bowie Variations by Mike Garson

I am a big David Bowie fan (as I guess will be most purchasers of this CD) and first noticed Garson’s work in the magnificent, edgy accompaniment to Aladdin Sane – specifically, that track, though he makes a great contribution to the entire album.

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Garson played on many of Bowie’s albums, from Ziggy Stardust through to Reality, and made a key contribution to the sound. I particularly like his work on David Live, Bowie’s live album from 1974, but it is consistently good, which is no doubt why he remained part of the band.

This CD is I guess a kind of tribute and reflection on his work with Bowie; one of the tracks is actually called Tribute to David. Garson performs solo piano variations on a number of Bowie’s songs. Note that these are variations, not performances as such, and since Garson is a creative jazz pianist they really are variations; in some cases it takes a while to work out what the song is, even if you know Bowie’s version well.

The performance is excellent, and the recording quality is outstanding. Nevertheless I was a little disappointed; found it a little too mellow and smooth for my taste. Perhaps Garson needs the interplay with the band to spark that edgy quality that I love.

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