Kit Downes didn't start playing the piano
until he was 10 years old.
After playing through the works of Bach and Beethoven, it
was whilst listening to a CD by the great jazz pianist Oscar
Peterson that inspiration struck.
Now a student at The Purcell School Of Music
in London, Kit has performed on the South Bank, at the Royal
Albert Hall and in Covent Garden.
Closer to his Norfolk home, Kit has also
performed extensively in the county with gigs at the John
Innes Centre, The King of Hearts, St Andrew's Hall and the
Kit will be showcasing his skills as a solo
pianist with a concert during the Norfolk and Norwich Festival
2004. He's been speaking to BBC Norfolk's
SB: Is playing the piano something you
need a great deal of discipline for?
KD: I probably should have a lot of
discipline. [laughs] But, yeah. It helps a lot.
If you really love it you listen to a lot
and you transcribe a lot. If you like it, then it makes it
SB: Is 10 a late start for playing the
KD: At the school I go to in London,
a lot of the people there have been playing since they were
a foetus. [laughs]
There are some just absolute wizards who
are about six years old, so yeah, I guess 10 is quite old.
I've only been playing jazz for about three
years. I wasn't so serious about the piano before then. Previously
I was playing classical piano and cello, particularly badly
I might add. [laughs]
The cello was one of my favourite instruments,
but sadly I massacred everything that I played on it.
SB: So what finally drew you to the
KD: I started listening to an Oscar
Peterson album. I listen to it and tried to emulate some of
the stuff I heard on it, doing it by ear.
Gradually my ear got better, my tastes developed
to include jazz musicians Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett and
I really started to love it.
SB: What will you be performing during
your solo gig at the festival?
KD: I'll be doing some popular stuff
and some not so well known - including Nardis by Bill Evans
and they'll be a great township song that I got from one of
my friends at school.
Listen to Kit
in action and get a quick music lesson
SB: Do you have to look after your hands?
KD: Yeah, you definitely have to keep
your fingers in good nick.
I try and keep my hands warm before playing
and I've got a pair of fingerless mittens. It sounds a bit
pre-madonnaish, but it makes a difference when you get up.
If you've got freezing cold hands, as well
as being physically disadvantageous, it's actually quite demoralising
too as you can't play what you want and it gets really frustrating.
One of the stupidest things I ever done,
I was playing a cricket match on a Saturday before a concert
at The Festival Hall on the Sunday.
I play wicket keeper and I managed to fracture
my little fingers so I really struggled through the whole
SB: You've performed in many of the top
venues in London...
KD: Well, I've played in them - but I haven't
played what I want to play in them yet.
It's an amazing opportunity to play in places
like say Covent Garden, but the stuff I've been playing is
very much through school and stuff I've been prepared to play.
What I'd really love to do is just go there
with a programme of my own, but that's the kind of stuff that
you work 60 years to get. [laughs]
SB: I think you're being very modest.
What about other musicians. Are you all of the same mentality
or some people very, very different?
KD: [laughs] I'm one of four jazz
musicians at my school, were' not very many in number.
The rest are all classical musicians.
I'm not trying to stereotype between classical
and jazz, it's the same music with a different label - but
some of the people performing classical, sometimes because
they've been living with praise all their lives - especially
some from countries without top flight musicians - they end
up perhaps being a bit too forward sometimes.
SB: Very discretely put. So, big ambitions
- you've already said you want to be in a concert hall with
your own programme, where would that be?
KD: My ultimate dream would be to
play the Barbican with a jazz trio, but I'm quite happy to
be living in a scummy flat playing jazz venues for the rest
of my life in London.
I know it sounds a bit naff, but I am quite
happy doing it. I'm sure when I get a family and I'll need
some money, things will change.
more about the Norfolk and Norwich Festival
BBC Blast: Music
& Norwich Festival
Oscar Peterson website
BBC Music: Jazz
Royal Academy of Music: Junior Academy
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