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Keith Emerson

an English keyboard player and composer. Formerly a member of the Keith Emerson Trio, John Brown's Bodies, The T-Bones, The V.I.P.'s, P.P. Arnold's backing band, and The Nice (which evolved from P.P. Arnold's band), he was a founder of Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP), one of the early supergroups, in 1970. Following the breakup of ELP, circa 1979, Emerson had modest success with Emerson, Lake & Powell in the 1980s as well as with 3, with the album To the Power of Three. ELP reunited during the early 1990s, releasing the album Black Moon. Emerson also reunited The Nice in 2002 for a tour. His latest album, Keith Emerson Band featuring Marc Bonilla, was released in 2008.

Along with contemporaries Richard Wright of Pink Floyd, Tony Banks of Genesis, and Rick Wakeman of Yes, Emerson is widely regarded as one of the top keyboard players of the progressive rock era. Allmusic refers to Emerson as "perhaps the greatest, most technically accomplished keyboardist in rock history"

As a child, he learned western classical music, from which he derived a lot of inspiration to create his own style, combining classical music, jazz, and rock themes. Emerson became intrigued with the Hammond organ after hearing jazz organist Jack McDuff perform "Rock Candy" and it subsequently became his instrument of choice for performing in the late 1960s. This blending of elements is illustrated in his participation in the 1969 Music From Free Creek "supersession" project, where Emerson performs with drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Chuck Rainey covering, among other tracks, the Eddie Harris instrumental "Freedom Jazz Dance".

Emerson acquired his first Hammond organ when he was 15 or 16, an L-100, on "hire purchase," also known as rent-to-own.[6]

The flamboyance that Emerson came to be known for began by chance when a fight broke out during a V.I.P.s performance in France. The band told him to keep playing so he made some explosion and machine gun sounds with his Hammond organ, which stopped the fight; everyone looked on with amazement. The other band members told him to do it at the next concert, which he did with success.[7]

Emerson first heard the Moog when a record shop owner played Switched-On Bach for him. Emerson said: "My God that's incredible, what is that played on?" The owner then showed him the album cover. So I said, "What is that?" And he said, "That's the Moog synthesizer." My first impression was that it looked a bit like electronic skiffle."[7]

Without one of his own, Emerson borrowed Mike Vickers' Moog for an upcoming Nice concert at the Royal Festival Hall, London with the Royal Philharmonic. Mike helped patch the Moog and the concert was a great success. Emerson's performance of Also sprach Zarathustra from the recently released 2001: A Space Odyssey was a show stopper. Emerson: "I thought this was great. I've got to have one of these."[7]

With ELP's record deal with Atlantic came funds to buy the Moog. Keith: "It cost a lot of money and it arrived and I excitedly got it out of the box stuck it on the table and thought, 'Wow That's Great! a Moog synthesizer [pause] How do you switch it on?...There were all these leads and stuff, there was no instruction manual." Mike Vickers came through by patching it to produce six sounds and those six sounds became the foundation of ELP's sound.[7]

In 1969, Emerson incorporated the Moog modular synthesizer into his battery of keyboards. While other artists such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones had used the Moog in studio recordings, Emerson was the first artist to tour with one. Emerson's use of the Moog was so important to the development of new models that he was given prototypes, such as the Constellation he took on one tour[7] and the Apollo, which had its debut on the opening track of Brain Salad Surgery, "Jerusalem."

The Moog was a temperamental device; the oscillators went out of tune with temperature change. Emerson: "I had my faithful roady Rocky tune the instrument to A 440 just prior to the audience coming in, but once the audience came into the auditorium and the temperature rose up then everything went out of tune."[7]
Emerson with the Moog.

His willingness to experiment with the Moog led to unexpected results, such as the time he stumbled into the signature sound for Hoedown, one of ELP's most popular tunes. Emerson: "We'd started working on that arrangement and then I hit, I don't know what, I switched a blue button and I put a patch cord in there, but anyway 'whoooeee.'"[7]

The so-called "Monster Moog," built from numerous modules, weighed in at a whopping 550 pounds, stood 10 feet tall and took 4 roadies to move. Even with its unpredictability, it became an indispensable component of not only ELP's concerts but also Emerson's.[8]

He is known for his technical skill and for his live antics, including using knives to wedge down specific keys of his Hammond organ during solos, playing the organ upside down while having it lie over him and backwards while standing behind it, and has cited guitarist Jimi Hendrix and English organist Don Shinn as his chief theatrical influences. He also employed a special rig to rotate his piano end-over-end while he was playing it, though this of course is purely for visual effect, as a piano cannot operate as an instrument while upside down.

Emerson has performed several notable rock arrangements of classical compositions, ranging from J. S. Bach via Modest Mussorgsky to 20th century composers such as Béla Bartók, Aaron Copland, Leoš Janáček and Alberto Ginastera. Occasionally Emerson has quoted from classical and jazz works without giving credit, particularly early in his career, from the late 1960s until 1972. The song "Rondo" by The Nice is a 4/4 interpretation of "Blue Rondo à la Turk" by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, originally in 9/8 time signature. The piece is introduced by an extensive quote from Bach's Italian Concerto, third movement. In fact, considering the Bach and Emerson's own improvisations, the Brubeck contribution is merely the anchoring theme.

On ELP's eponymous first album, Emerson's classical quotes went largely uncredited. "The Barbarian" is heavily influenced by "Allegro barbaro" by Bartók, and "Knife Edge" was virtually a note-for-note restatement of "Sinfonietta" by Janáček. Note-for-note extracts were taken from pieces by Bartók, Janáček and Bach, mixed in with some original material, and credited completely to Emerson, Lake, Palmer and roadie Richard Fraser. By 1971, with the releases Pictures at an Exhibition and Trilogy, Emerson began to fully credit classical composers, Modest Mussorgsky for the piano piece which inspired the first album, and Aaron Copland for "Hoedown" on the second. Emerson was adamant that he did not use Maurice Ravel's orchestration of Pictures at an Exhibition in developing his own version.
Emerson, photographed in the mid-1980s.

Emerson provided music for a number of films since 1980, including Dario Argento's Inferno and World of Horror, the 1981 thriller Nighthawks and, more recently, Godzilla: Final Wars. He was also the composer for the short-lived 1994 animated television series Iron Man.

In 1990 Emerson toured with The Best, a short-lived supergroup which also included John Entwistle, Joe Walsh, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter and Simon Phillips.

In 2002 Emerson re-formed and toured with The Nice, though performing a longer set of ELP music using a backing band including guitarist/vocalist Dave Kilminster.

In 2004, Emerson published his autobiography entitled Pictures of an Exhibitionist, which dealt with his entire career, particularly focusing on his early days with The Nice, and his nearly career-ending nerve-graft surgery in 1993. Emerson was the headliner of both the first and third Moogfest, a festival held in honour of Robert Moog at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York City in 2004 and 2006 respectively.[9][10]

Emerson opened the Led Zeppelin reunion/Ahmet Ertegun tribute concert at the O2 Arena in London on 10 December 2007, along with Chris Squire and Alan White (Yes) and Simon Kirke (Bad Company/Free). The supergroup played the new arrangement of "Fanfare for the Common Man".

The album Keith Emerson Band Featuring Marc Bonilla was released in August 2008. He toured with his own band in Russia, the Baltic States and Japan between August and October 2008. The tour band members were Marc Bonilla, Travis Davis and Tony Pia. On 30 June 2009, Emerson appeared as a guest during Spinal Tap's 'One Night Only World Tour' at Wembley Arena, during the songs "Short And Sweet" and "Heavy Duty".

In March 2010, Emerson received a Frankfurt Music Prize from the city of Frankfurt. In the same month, Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra made a premier performance of "Tarkus" arranged by a renowned Japanese composer Takashi Yoshimatsu.
Keith Emerson & Monster Moog synthesizer, May 2010

Emerson toured with Greg Lake in the US and Canada during spring of 2010, doing a series of "An Intimate Evening with Emerson and Lake" duo shows in which they performed newly arranged versions of the music of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, The Nice, and King Crimson as well as Emerson's new original composition.

On 25 July 2010, a one-off Emerson, Lake & Palmer reunion concert closed the High Voltage Festival as the main act in Victoria Park, East London to commemorate the band's 40th anniversary.

In September 2010, Emerson released a message stating "During a routine medical examination, a colonoscopy revealed a rather dangerous polyp in my lower colon. It is of the conclusion of the doctors here in London that I must undergo surgery immediately. Unfortunately, the timing of this urgent surgery does not allow me to start touring in early October because of the required period of hospitalization and recuperation. I must remain optimistic that all will turn out well".

In September 2011, Emerson began working with the renowned conductor Terje Mikkelsen, along with the Keith Emerson Band featuring Marc Bonilla and The Munich Radio Orchestra on new orchestral renditions of ELP classics and their new compositions. In recent years, several notable classic music composers, conductors and musicians have been performing various orchestral versions of Emerson’s compositions, such as “Tarkus” and “Piano Concerto No.1”, around the world. As of 2011, the documentary film about Emerson is in production. He occasionally sits in with jazz orchestras performing new arrangements of ELP pieces as well as standard jazz pieces.

Inferno - soundtrack (1980)
Nighthawks - soundtrack (1981)
Honky (1982)
Best Revenge - soundtrack (1985)
Murder Rock - soundtrack (1986)
The Emerson Collection (1986)
Harmageddon/China Free Fall (1987)
The Christmas Album (1988)
Changing States (aka Cream of Emerson Soup) (1995)
Emerson Plays Emerson (2002)
La Chiesa - soundtrack (2002)
Godzilla: Final Wars - soundtrack (2004)
At the Movies (2005)
Hammer It Out (anthology) (2005)
Off the Shelf (2006)
Keith Emerson Band featuring Marc Bonilla (2008)
"Moscow" - live album CD & DVD (2010)
With the Nice

"America, 2nd Amendment", from West Side Story's "America", by Leonard Bernstein, credited, quoting Antonín Dvořák's symphony No. 9, From the New World, uncredited.
"Rondo", derived from Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo à la Turk", uncredited, quoting Bach, Italian Concerto third movement, uncredited.
"Diary of an Empty Day", from Symphonie Espagnole by Édouard Lalo, credited.
"Azrael Revisited", quoting Sergei Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C-sharp minor, credited, and Lennie Tristano's Turkish Mambo, uncredited.
"Ars Longa Vita Brevis" - Bach, the third Brandenburg Concerto, Allegro, credited.
"Intermezzo from the Karelia Suite" - Sibelius, credited.
"Pathetique", Symphony No. 6 by Tchaikovsky, credited.
"Hang on to a Dream", from "How Can We Hang On To A Dream?" by Tim Hardin, credited, quoting (during a live recording) "Summertime", from Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin, uncredited.
"She Belongs to Me", by Bob Dylan, credited, quoting Bach, uncredited, and fragments of the theme from The Magnificent Seven, by Elmer Bernstein, uncredited.
"Country Pie", by Bob Dylan, credited, lyrics partly set to Bach, the sixth Brandenburg Concerto, credited.

With ELP

"The Barbarian", based on Allegro barbaro, Sz. 49, BB 63 by Béla Bartók, uncredited on US release of Emerson Lake & Palmer (credited on the British Manticore re-pressing of the original LP, on the back cover of the LP jacket).
"Knife Edge", based on Sinfonietta by Leoš Janáček, uncredited on US release (credited on the British Manticore re-pressing of the original LP, on the back cover of the LP jacket); middle section based on French Suites by J.S. Bach, uncredited.
"The Only Way (Hymn)", incorporating (in the song's introduction and bridge) J.S. Bach's Toccata in F and Prelude VI, credited on Tarkus.
"Are You Ready Eddy?", based on the tune of Bobby Troup's song "The Girl Can't Help It" and including a quote from the Assembly bugle call, both uncredited (on Tarkus).
Pictures at an Exhibition, by Modest Mussorgsky, credited.
"Blues Variation" from Pictures at an Exhibition also contains an uncredited quote of the 'head' of Bill Evans' minor blues piece "Interplay", during Keith Emerson's Hammond Organ solo.
"Nutrocker", adapted by Kim Fowley (credited) from Tchaikovsky's "March of the Wooden Soldiers" (uncredited).
"Hoedown", from Rodeo by Aaron Copland, credited, quoting "Shortenin' Bread" and "Turkey in the Straw"", both traditional.
"Abaddon's Bolero", quoting "The Girl I Left Behind", traditional.
"Jerusalem", by C. Hubert H. Parry, credited.
"Toccata", from a piano concerto by Alberto Ginastera, endorsed by the composer, credited.
"Karn Evil 9, 2nd Impression", quoting "St. Thomas", a Caribbean melody sometimes attributed to Sonny Rollins, uncredited.
"Fanfare for the Common Man", by Aaron Copland, credited.
Carmina Burana, by Carl Orff, quoted in an extended solo in live recordings from Poland.
With Emerson, Lake & Powell, the main theme to "Touch & Go" is identical to the English folk song "Lovely Joan", better known as the counterpoint tune in Ralph Vaughan Williams Fantasia on Greensleeves Not credited.[13]
"Romeo & Juliet" from Romeo and Juliet suite by Sergei Prokofiev, credited.
"Love at First Sight" intro, 12 Etudes Op.10 (a son ami Franz Liszst) - No.1 in C major, allegro, by Frederic Chopin,

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