Who said the pipes aren’t versatile?
No prizes for this one, because the book is now out, but which of the pipers told of his first experience playing jazz on the pipes?
“The hardest thing I ever did was a radio play written by Don Paterson based on the idea that jazz was invented in Scotland rather than America and the iconic instrument of jazz rather than being the tenor saxophone was actually the accordion. Don put a band together for the play with a guy playing accordion sounds on a Synclavier, which was one of the early sampling keyboards. He called me up, asking what notes the pipes could play, so I told him about ‘C natural’ and the rest and that although it was difficult we could do it. He wrote tunes that were absolutely littered with these notes, and he sent me bits of it. Not a lot, eight or sixteen bars at most. I then went into the studio with three of the best jazz musicians in Europe, put the pipes up, played the eight bars, and stopped thinking that was the end of it. I asked why they were carrying on after we had played the tune and they said ‘That’s just the head. We just play it again and again and we each get a chance to improvise’. Well I’d never done anything like that before.”
Worse was to come when the piper found out about his character. “We were getting to the end of the session and Don came on the talkback and said ‘Right, your character is a drug dealer and in this section he is on stage playing the pipes and his mobile phone goes and he has to answer it so you need to play this bit with one hand’. I had to take one hand off the chanter and play, still doing chromatic improvisations. Talk about a handicap.”