The Piano was recorded in a forbidding purist process, long beloved by audiophiles, called direct-to-disc. Hancock’s performances in the studio were cut, in real time, onto master acetate discs, from which plates were made to stamp out the two sides of a high-quality LP. The Piano is a rich, vivid sonic documentation of an individual piano at a specific moment in a particular acoustic space in the hands of a special artist.
Direct-to-disc recording sessions always run a tape back-up, and in the case of The Piano it was a digital tape made on a Sony 1610. This tape was sent from Japan to Sony engineer Mark Wilder 26 years later, and he used it to master the CD.
The digital tape source serves this project extremely well. Most recordings of the piano, regardless of format, portray it as a one-dimensional percussion device of varying pitch, but The Piano gets at the instrument’s very soul, revealing it as a source of vast aural complexity. Of course, the beauty of this piano’s sound is not separable from, and is in fact identical to, what Hancock plays on it. The three standards here-“My Funny Valentine,” “On Green Dolphin Street” and “Someday My Prince Will Come”-are firmly linked to Hancock’s former boss, Miles Davis, and they are among the most stunning achievements of the pianist’s recording career.
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