Jon Lord collaborator Paul Mann has recalled the emotional moments when the late Deep Purple keyboardist tracked his final solo.
They were working on the new recording of Lord’s Concerto for Group and Orchestra, which will be released as planned next month, despite his sudden death in July.
Mann remembers how he spent a day in Abbey Road Studios working closely with Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson, one of the guest artists on the album, because Lord was too ill to join in.
The conductor says: “We came in to do the session with Bruce and the hope was Jon would put on an organ solo towards the end of the day. I’d made the decision I wasn’t going to push him to do anything – if he was well enough he’d do it, and we’d just see what happened.
“I ended up working closely with Bruce because Jon was not feeling well during the afternoon. He was resting and he left me to teach the part to Bruce. We had a great time working on all that.
“Towards the end of the afternoon Jon re-emerged and we were able to play him what we’d achieved. Then he decided to go down to the studio and record the solo. He was in that beautiful Studio 2, where all that beautiful music has been made, alone, just him and the Hammond organ.”
Mann says Lord recorded the short passage in one take, and describes the result as “the most extraordinary distilled spirit of Jon at that stage – a combination of energy and exhaustion, and a moment of real rage in that solo, and a kind of calm. I just thought it was extraordinary given the situation he was in.”
Afterwards the conductor felt it was important to demonstrate how he felt, and hugged Lord on his return to the mixing room. “He plays the solo then takes his fingers away from the keys and says something flippant like, ‘Well, that could work.’ I just had to show him how I felt, and I’m glad the film captures that moment – although it’s a very personal moment.
“For me it was the most emotional moment of the whole project and the one that will stay in my heart as an example of his courage and his strength.”
Mann also reveals that the composer had been asked to write a second concerto, but abandoned the idea early on. “He briefly toyed with the idea and he played me some examples of what might be a second concerto. But in the end he couldn’t write it – I think he felt he’d already said it, he’d already done it, and any attempt to revisit it would dilute it.”
The original score was lost in 1970, giving rise to the fear that the work would never again be performed, until a fan spent three years transcribing the notes by listening to an old recording. Mann thinks it would be unlikely they’d use the old paperwork again since the piece has developed since it was first written – but he’d still like to see it.
He says: “We’ve tried everything to find it. We don’t know what happened – I guess somebody just didn’t pick it up, and left it in LA. I would love to see it because I think there’s something in the energy with which Jon put those notes on paper.”
Concerto for Group and Orchestra will be released on October 1. The new recording features Mann conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with guests Dickinson, Steve Morse, Joe Bonamassa and others. Record label EarMusic say: “We decided, together with Jon’s family, to proceed with the release, as this seemed the best way to celebrate and pay tribute to Jon and his beautiful music. This superb recording is exactly the way Jon wanted us to hear it – and it will hopefully become Jon’s legacy for generations to come.”
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