20 Oct 2020
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Jan Preston - Album Review: Piano Boogie Woman

13 Oct 2020 // A review by Kev Rowland

Jan Preston was born in Greymouth, and after discovering the piano at an early age she went the normal route of classical music exams and ended up taking a 5-year classical piano degree at Auckland university. Having determined she did not want to become a concert pianist or teacher she tried out various different musical styles, moving first to Wellington and then to Sydney where she still resides. It took some time for her to discover her calling, but she is now renowned as Australia’s Queen of Boogie Piano as she concentrates mostly on good time boogie woogie.

The basic tracks for this album were recorded during lockdown in Sydney, but after completing quarantine it was completed in Tauranga, and at the time of writing she is on tour with her trio, so if you are quick you will still catch her. She does have some additional musicians on the album with her, who provide an additional layer, but there are times when it is just Jan and her piano and even when the others are involved the focus is always on her. The reason for this is a simple one, in that her style is welcoming and not aggressive and is incredibly melodic as opposed to the roughhouse which some boogie players epitomise. Add strong songs and lyrics with a voice which is steeped in the blues and jazz styles, and it is something which is both familiar yet quite new.

Added to this is that Preston is a classically trained pianist, so she really knows her way around the keys, and this feels less raw and more refined. I do listen to a lot of jazz, and it is fairy unusual to find musicians prepared to back themselves with their own material, yet the only covers on this album are The Glory Of Love and her arrangement of The Nutcracker Suite, here called Nutboogie. Hearing this makes me smile, as it is a delicate boogie woogie take on a song more than 120 years old, and far gentler than the bombastic version Keith Emerson used to provide!

The finest song on the album isn’t actually a boogie woogie number, but a delicate homage to Jan’s father, There’s Not A Day, and was a highlight of the show I was lucky enough to attend last week, so I was pleased to see it here. Each time I play this it takes me to a quiet place, and I think of my own family, which is some achievement. Overall, this is an album to listen to and enjoy, sitting back and relaxing in a warm and welcoming environment.

Rating: ( 3 / 5 )
 

About Jan Preston

Jan was born in Greymouth on the remote West Coast of the South Island of NZ. Her family had little resources or opportunity, but she grew up in an era where people would gather around the piano and sing together. From when she was very young she played piano while everybody sang along or played tea chest basses, eggbeaters, combs, violins, even an old saxophone.

Jan says "I had an Auntie who played honky tonk style, and heard Winifred Atwell along with early rock n roll on our old Columbus Radio in the kitchen."

"Playing piano from the moment I could reach the keys, and being spurred on by my older sister and brother who both played, I studied classical very seriously, becoming a star student, passing all my grades with distinction and gaining a very prestigious place (one of 4 students from the whole of NZ) to study a 5 year classical piano degree at Auckland University."

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