Mike Garson – Pianist Behind David Bowie’s Groundbreaking “Aladdin Sane” Solo – Breaks New Ground with World Premiere Art Show

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When Los Angeles-based pianist and composer Mike Garson sits down at a keyboard, the result is usually a passionate musical performance. However, while touring with the Smashing Pumpkins in late 2000, Garson discovered another creative outlet: the computer keyboard. Using various programs on his MAC laptop, Garson has been designing imaginative imagery for nearly four years. On April 12, 2004, while Garson was in Portland, Oregon with David Bowie's "A Reality Tour," the Brian Marki Fine Art Gallery hosted a premiere reception of his avant-garde artwork.

When Los Angeles-based pianist and composer Mike Garson sits down at a keyboard, the result is usually a passionate musical performance. However, while touring with the Smashing Pumpkins in late 2000, Garson discovered another creative outlet: the computer keyboard. Using various programs on his MAC laptop, Garson has been designing imaginative imagery for nearly four years. On April 12, 2004, while Garson was in Portland, Oregon with David Bowie's "A Reality Tour," the Brian Marki Fine Art Gallery hosted a premiere reception of his avant-garde artwork.

“If I am truly passionate about what I do, that feeling can inspire people who receive my art,” Garson believes. “As a musician I'm not concerned with whether I play jazz, rock, classical, or pop so long as it’s creative. Likewise, my visual art acts as a complementary conduit for my creativity.”

Titled “From Pianos to Pixels: The Improvisational Art of Mike Garson,” the event showcased Garson’s improvisational musical ability and engaging visual artistry – challenging him to compose music for pieces of art chosen by the audience. Individuals who purchased pieces at the reception – or at any time during their display through the end of April – will receive a collector’s edition CD of the one-of-a-kind performance.

“I am thrilled to be able to present Mike's work to the world for the first time,” explains gallery owner Brian Marki. “I have always been in love with his music, and his art seems to be his music in a new dimension.”

Garson’s artwork was well received by the Portland community. According to John Foyston of The Oregonian, “If Mike Garson is not a renaissance man, he'll do until one comes along, because this longtime keyboardist with David Bowie's band is also an accomplished visual artist in his own right. The images range from Kandinsky-esque splashes of color to what look like tweaked photomicrographs of crystals. They're all fascinating pieces and suggest that Garson has at least a second career ahead of him.”

Although new to visual composition, Garson has a long history in the arts. He began touring with David Bowie in 1972, and has worked with many of music’s great legends, including Nine Inch Nails, Stan Getz, Freddie Hubbard, Stanley Clarke and Mel Torme. He has composed music for several movies, such as MGM’s “Stigmata” for which he co-composed the score with Billy Corgan.

In March, Garson released a solo album, “Homage to My Heroes,” featuring 16 contemporary classical compositions recorded in real-time on a Yamaha Disklavier piano – no sheet music was written! The CD is available for online purchase at http://www.cdbaby.com/mikegarson. Further fusing his two chosen media of creative expression, Garson’s artwork was used for the album’s cover.

John Kazanjian, principal of “The World’s Finest Resorts” – a private members club offering accommodation and travel benefits in the world's most luxurious resorts – and Jack Schell, a composer and audio engineer, purchased two of Garson’s pieces: “Transition,” a stylized photograph of a recent recording session, and “Distorted Beliefs,” the anchor image for the show featuring a skewed Star of David against an intricate orange pattern.

Created while Garson was performing in Berlin, Germany, the piece presents conflicting images of a fractured faith against a hopeful background of possibility. Kazanjian and Schell were immediately taken by the impact of the image, and were further convinced of its importance after Garson performed “Hatikvah Variations,” an emotional arrangement of Israel’s national anthem. The piece is especially relevant as the tragic events of the Holocaust are globally remembered through the month of April.

“We had seen it in a preview and it was very dramatic,” Kazanjian explains. “When Mike told the story behind the piece and then played the national anthem of Israel, we realized it was so strong that it should be in a Holocaust museum. Until that can happen, we decided to be the custodians of the piece.”

Showing their support for Garson were members of the Bowie band: Sterling Campbell (drums), Gail Ann Dorsey (bass/vocals), Gerry Leonard (band leader/guitar), Earl Slick (guitar) and Catherine “Cat” Russell (keyboards/vocals). Also in attendance from the Bowie tour was Nick Belshaw (road manager), Teddy Antonlin (make-up and hair) and, representing Clear Channel Entertainment, Cynthia Oknanian (tour director’s assistant).

Adding additional appeal to the evening were Courtney Taylor-Taylor, Pete Loew, Brent DeBoer and Zia McCabe of Portland’s own “The Dandy Warhols” who performed later that evening with Garson and his bandmates during an impromptu jam session at the band's eclectic studio.

The following evening, Garson rejoined his colleagues at Portland's Rose Garden for the 76th concert of David Bowie’s worldwide “A Reality Tour.” The 28-song set-list included classic hits such as “Rebel, Rebel” plus new favorites – and featured Garson in a dramatic solo during “Ashes to Ashes.” The tour continues throughout North America, ending in July after performances at several European music festivals. Visit http://www.davidbowie.com/reality for additional information about the tour and to purchase tickets for shows in your area.

A Los Angeles resident, Garson returns to Southern California with the Bowie tour for a very busy week. An April 19 show at the Santa Barbara County Bowl kicks off the series of events, followed by a taping of the Ellen De Generes Show on April 20, an appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno April 21, a sold-out April 22 performance at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, and a show on April 23 at the Anaheim Pond in Anaheim.

Los Angeles radio fans are also in for a special treat! Beginning at 11 p.m. on Tuesday, April 20 and continuing into the early morning hours of April 21, Garson will appear back-to-back on the “Ask Mr. KABC Show” and “Red Eye Radio” hosted by Doug McIntyre on Talk Radio 790-AM KABC. Details about this special appearance – as well as a link to a Web stream of the live broadcast – can be found at http://www.kabc.com.

Garson’s artwork will remain on display - and available for purchase - through the end of April. Brian Marki Fine Art is located at 2236 NE Broadway in the Historic Irvington District in Portland. Gallery hours are Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For additional information about the gallery, visit http://www.brianmarki.com or call 503-249-5659. To experience Garson’s musical and visual artistry, explore http://www.mikegarson.com/prweb where you can download free MP3s and view selected pieces of his original artwork.

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FROM PIANOS TO PIXELSFROM PIANOS TO PIXELSPianist, composer and artist Mike Garson prepares to improvise original musical compositions to accompany pieces of artwork at the Portland, Oregon gallery of Brian Marki Fine Art during the premiere gallery showing of his contemporary artwork. Garson performed two totally improvised shows at the event and plans to repeat the same scenario in other cities across the country. Beyond the artwork, Garson also used a photo collage of his 7-month-old grandson Jacob (visible in the bottom right hand corner of the photo) for inspiration."DANDY" SPIDERS FROM MARS"DANDY" SPIDERS FROM MARSMike Garson’s premiere art show reception at the Portland, Oregon gallery of Brian Marki Fine Art attracted impressive attendance from people local to Portland and those from out of town. Pete Loew, the guitarist for Portland’s own “The Dandy Warhols” joins David Bowie’s band members Sterling Campbell (drums), Gail Ann Dorsey (bass/vocals), and Catherine “Cat” Russell (keyboards/vocals) as they view Garson’s eclectic collection of imaginative images.INSPIRATION FROM TRANSITIONINSPIRATION FROM TRANSITIONWorking from a photo of a recent recording session, Mike Garson stylized the image, making it totally original in nature and titling it “Transition.”A FRACTURED FAITH?A FRACTURED FAITH?“Distorted Beliefs,” the lead image from Mike Garson’s premiere art show reception at the Portland, Oregon gallery of Brian Marki Fine Art, was created while Garson was on tour in Berlin – an experience that evoked conflicting feelings of struggle and triumph over adversity.A HAND AND A NAMEA HAND AND A NAMEJohn Kazanjian purchased Mike Garson’s piece, “Distorted Beliefs” with the intent of donating it to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Garson hopes to perform a special concert simultaneous to the piece’s presentation to the admirable institution.THE AXEMEN COMETHTHE AXEMEN COMETHGerry Leonard (left), David Bowie's band leader and guitarist joins "Dandy Warhols" guitarist Pete Loew at Mike Garson's premiere art gallery reception at Brian Marki Fine Art in Portland, Oregon. Leonard is an afficionado of Garson's art - he purchased one of his pieces titled "Melting Ice." GLOBAL WARMING AS ABSTRACT ART?GLOBAL WARMING AS ABSTRACT ART?The most popular piece at Mike Garson's premiere gallery reception, "Melting Ice," was purchased by Bowie guitarist Gerry Leonard and gallery owner Brian Marki - as well as one other individual.FAME...IS IT ANY WONDER?FAME...IS IT ANY WONDER?Members of David Bowie's fan-based website, BowieNet (www.davidbowie.com) - including gallery owner Brian Marki (back row, standing) - gather to celebrate Mike Garson's premiere art show at Marki's gallery in Portland, Oregon.A ROOM WITH AN ARTISTIC VIEWA ROOM WITH AN ARTISTIC VIEWPortland realtor Mary Norquist enjoys the company of Brian Marki and Mike Garson at the premiere gallery reception of Garson's contemporary artwork. Norquist purchased, "Emerge," the piece in front of which the trio is standing. For more information about Norquist, visit http://your-professional-realtor.com....AND SLICKIE PLAYED GUITAR...AND SLICKIE PLAYED GUITARBowie guitarist Earl Slick celebrates the premiere gallery reception of colleague Mike Garson at Portland's Brian Marki Fine Art Gallery. Slick and Garson go back many years together and can be heard on some of Bowie's earliest albums in addition to his current "A Reality Tour."