(Global Heart | Esther Haasnoot) An Interview with Ed Bazel about his new album: “The London Sessions: Reflections from Studio 2”.
Music to Soothe Your Soul
Contemporary pianist Ed Bazel’s compositions are known as beautiful piano music with a soul-searching touch. His sense of melody, combined with passionate expression, makes him a popular choice for listeners who want to relax and unwind.
Born and raised in Huntington, West Virginia, Ed Bazel has been a pianist since he was 5 years old. He recalls at age 7 being mesmerized watching The Beatles on TV as they made their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Despite having loved music his entire life, Bazel will admit that his parents for 11 years forced him “kicking and screaming” to take piano lessons; later, he credits his parents for the best gift they could have ever given him.
An Interview with Ed Bazel about his new album: “The London Sessions: Reflections from Studio 2” by Esther Haasnoot
Esther Haasnoot: Congratulations, Ed, on your beautiful new album “The London Sessions – Reflections from Studio 2”. Since The Beatles recorded most of their albums in this iconic recording studio, Abbey Road Studios has become almost a sacred cathedral in the music industry. Groundbreaking recordings were made in studio 2 by The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Oasis, and Adele. Your newest album is also recorded in Abbey Road Studios – Studio 2. How does that make you feel? Did a dream come true?
Ed Bazel: Thank you, Esther – and thanks for having me here. How did it make me feel? That’s a great question. The best word I can give to this experience is – profound. Profound speaks so much better of this journey than awesome, amazing, etc.
To open my eyes and find myself in Studio 2 – the size of a basketball gym – in the back left corner where The Beatles would set up – where a tremendous amount of epic songs have been recorded by a hall of fame list of artists – with the lights low. There I was, all alone, just me, the nine-foot Steinway D concert grand, 13 microphones – and everyone else way on the other side of the studio, upstairs in the control room, behind glass. It was just me alone. And to experience me playing my thoughtful, romantic, and haunting style, compared to all the award-winning rock songs that were recorded there. The fewer notes I played as a solo pianist, the more beautiful they became as they were launched into the studio air and the well-saturated walls of Studio 2. It was like watching each note, in slow motion, fly into the air and into the room’s history. I can think of no better word than “profound” to describe my experience.
Honestly, I still can’t believe I recorded at Abbey Road. THE Abbey Road. Abbey Road has been in my life since I heard about it as a kid with The Beatles. Abbey Road Studio 2 is the epicenter of recording in my book. And Studio 2 – THE Studio 2 where The Beatles, Pink Floyd, and so many greats recorded. On the day I recorded in Studio 2, in Studio 1, a colossal orchestra was recording a Harry Potter movie score. And in Studio 3, Taylor Swift was recording.
Esther Haasnoot: Creativity can reach us in many aspects of our lives. How were you inspired to create this album? Where does the impulse to create something come from for you?
Ed Bazel: I always hear melodies in my brain, in the shower, in the gym, sleeping, etc. It’s like my life is like a walking movie soundtrack. They don’t stop, and that’s a good thing. When the melodies arrive in my head, I aim to get to my piano to work them out. For The London Sessions, I ended up with several different verses and bridge ideas in many different keys. I had over 220 of these that I culled into an album of 10 original songs and two covers from The Beatles.
Sitting alone, gazing over the valley, nestled between pine trees swaying in the breeze.
Esther Haasnoot: Let’s talk a bit about your musical genes and history. Does music run in your family? How did you get started with the piano, and what or who made you want to become a musician?
Ed Bazel: I am an “accidental pianist.” My piano exposure was a clever move on my mother’s part. I was full of innocence at that age and didn’t question anything. My sister Patti was three years older and my mom, with me in tow, used to drop Patti off for her 30-minute piano lesson. One day, it dawned on my mother that if she would drop me off for a lesson also – that would equate to one hour of complete freedom from kids for my mother. This was genius on her part. And so it began – me kicking and screaming for 11 years.
Music does not run in my family – but music was always around us. My father was an industrial engineer, and my mother was a homemaker. My father had a creative soul, and his creativity came out through his hobby of woodworking. My parents always played music on the stereo – and their selections stuck with me: Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Carole King, The Beatles, and many more. Those artists and songs created a foundation for my love of music.
Esther Haasnoot: For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, imitating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
Ed Bazel: Great question, Esther. You are right. At first when developing, I would try to emulate anything I would hear on the radio. Chicago’s “Colour My World,” Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” Roger William’s “Born Free,” and Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer.”
And becoming a full-time pianist, I learned to emulate many more. I was a human jukebox and loved Oscar Petersson, Gene Harris, George Shearing, and the list goes on and on. However, when it comes to my own style, it boils down to less flash and more melodic, romantic, thoughtful, and sometimes haunting pieces.
I love playing this way, and it honestly represents me. I love the joy of drawing out the beauty and warmth of the piano and soundboard. It is truly an intimate relationship between the living-breathing piano. I am not a performer – I truly am an instrumentalist.
A poignant, tear-induced last goodbye to a lifelong friend.
Esther Haasnoot: In 2019, seeking peace in an increasingly troubled world, You founded The River of Calm – Music to Soothe Your Soul, an online music channel that today reaches listeners in over 155 countries around the world. What is the vision behind The River of Calm Channel?
Ed Bazel: The River of Calm – Music to Soothe Your Soul™ started as music to soothe my soul. The idea originated when I ran my concert booking company – The Bazel Group. It was joyous – yet stressful. At the end of the night, I would find myself at home sitting at my piano, playing the songs I used to play professionally. “Someone To Watch Over Me,” “Moonlight In Vermont,” “Over The Rainbow,” etc. Each time I would play, I would feel a sense of calm flowing through me on a molecular level. Thus the name The River of Calm. With my computer degree and radio experience, I started the online station with music from my first CD – Bella Piano. I also had my friend and pianist Eric Bikales’s solo piano pieces. Eric was Neil Sedaka’s pianist for decades.
To this day, I still have The River of Calm on at home, as it keeps me calm. I also leave it on for my dog Honey when I leave too. It turns out I am not the only one who likes calming music – as we now have listeners worldwide. In just a few years, The River of Calm has grown from two pianists and about five listeners worldwide to today featuring 237 artists and listeners in 166 countries.
Esther Haasnoot: You decided to include the song “In my life” from The Beatles on your new album. The first lines of this amazing song are:
“There are places I’ll remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain”.
“All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all”.
Are there any people you look up to? If so, what qualities did or do they have that you admire?
Ed Bazel: In my life – I have met so many wonderful people around the world and can cite so many examples. However, for this interview – I want to recognize the musicians of the world. In all my years as a solo pianist and then as a successful concert agent for 30 years – I never met a person who got into music as a game plan for huge financial success. It’s not about the money. There is a calling from deep within to music – the beauty, the expression, and pull they have answered. It can be a lonely life as a musician, especially as an independent artist without a record label. There truly is something to be said for a person who dedicated their life and time to practice and refine their craft, not only for themselves but for the benefit of others who can’t.
A beautiful rendition of a classic Beatles love song. Recorded at Abbey Road Studios – Studio 2 – where The Beatles recorded it.
Esther Haasnoot: Sound and music are one of the most important medicines we have. You provided headphones with healing music to people in middle Tennessee undergoing chemotherapy treatment, and composed music for Vanderbilt’s SENSE Theatre helping autistic children and adults to find their singing voice. How do you see the connection between music, health, and science, and what do you think those three fields can reveal from each other?
Ed Bazel: I am not a scientist, but I can attest from my personal experience that music soothes my soul. It indeed comforts me! Music also is the keeper of our memories and can bring back such beautiful experiences. A prime example is the work of Alive Inside (www.aliveinside.org), a Sundance Film Festival Award Winning project that provides music in headphones to Dementia patients with amazing results. I recommend watching the documentary on YouTube. The River of Calm partners with Alive Inside to bring their proprietary headphones, with curated music from the artists on The River of Calm, to chemotherapy centers at the Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville. Speaking of, I volunteer time to play piano at the Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center waiting room. It is a study in calming, quiet music that helps soothe the anxiety of patients who are there for one of life’s surreal and stressful moments. I get so much joy when a patient walks up to me and sincerely thanks me for helping them.
SENSE Theatre – A Stage of Hope for children, adolescents, and adults with autism (www.sensetheatre.com ) is a program that pairs a typically developing child with a child on the autism spectrum in a theater production. Some of my happiest memories are seeing children in the play and on the spectrum, belting out songs I co-wrote, such as “I Am Weird & Wonderful,” with joyous abandon.
Esther Haasnoot: If you could share a golden nugget with the next generation, what would that be? What is the one thing about music you would love everyone to understand and experience?
Ed Bazel: As a musician – I have three words: Just Show Up. Show up for practice each and every day. Just show up for composing – each and every day. Even if you don’t write a hit song, laying your hands on your instrument can lead to progress. Just show up for social events where you can meet others on the same path. Show up at professional organizations where you can meet others in the same direction. I know I was too shy at first – but I did show up and became the President and Lifetime Member of two concert industry organizations. Just show up and follow a mentor. The hardest part in life is simply getting off the couch and showing up every day – to make improvements or progress of any type.
It all adds up in the end, as it did for me – from being a kicking and screaming kid taking piano lessons – to an award-winning pianist who recorded on the same footprint as The Beatles in Abbey Road Studio 2.
JUST SHOW UP
A touching way to let your loved ones know that you think of them no matter where they go.
Esther Haasnoot: Anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Ed Bazel: I am so thankful that our paths have crossed on this journey. It is not by accident, but perhaps for the love and beauty that music brings each of us. Music transcends language and touches our souls. It is a pleasure to be on this journey with you. I have to go now and practice piano. At the end of each practice session – I raise my hands to the heavens above and thank my late parents for the best gift they ever gave me – the ability to play the piano. It is priceless!
About Ed Bazel:
Ed Bazel’s compositions are known as beautiful piano music with a soul-searching touch. His sense of melody and passionate expression make him a popular choice for listeners who want to relax and unwind. Studying under such greats as Jay Flippin, Lou Levy, Joe Harnell, and Clare Fischer, he has been a noted solo pianist in Los Angeles including The Beverly Hills Country Club and The Ritz-Carlton, as well as a veteran producer of corporate events for Fortune 500 companies. He was named “The Marco Polo of Modern Music” by the Los Angeles Times for groundbreaking work in China. Now based in Nashville, Tennessee, Bazel has been the recipient of Miller Piano Specialists Hall of Fame Award in the Instrumentalist category (2017), Entertainer of the Year (2018) and a Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition to being a pianist, he is the founder of The River of Calm – Music to Soothe Your Soul™ – an online radio station bringing calming music to a stressed-out world.
Source: Global Heart
You may also like: