Erik Griswold/Clocked Out Duo More Than My Old Piano/Water Pushes Sand

Whether tackling Duke Ellington, Merle Haggard or Chinese folk songs, Erik Griswold is a pianist whose sense of humour and play shines through. As does his respect for the diverse styles he brings together in these two recordings. More Than My Old Piano, a solo work for prepared and toy pianos, opens with three quick-paced, Latin rhythmed original pieces given a little extra buzz by objects inserted between the piano's strings. Balanced against these are solemn adaptations of three traditional Sichuan themes played unadorned but for the inherent emotions of the pieces. Between these poles are a couple of Motown songs (Al Green, Stevie Wonder), a couple of children’s songs pounded out a Casio in a kind of avant-garde overdrive, and a few more originals that also highlight a more modern classical approach. On the Water Pushes Sand album Griswold is joined by percussionist Vanessa Tomlinson as the Clocked Out Duo. Tomlinson's instrumental choices are bizarre and unerringly appropriate for each musical situation. For "Bicycle Groove" bicycle bells enhance her spare drum set and horns that, along with a little source tape, invoke crowded Chinese streets. On "Dear Judy," a tribute to pioneering balloonist Judy Dunaway, we are treated to what may be the first piano/balloon duet. Elsewhere typewriters, bowed cymbals, squeeze toys and bottles all find their places alongside the piano/toy keyboard's oriental and modern pastiches. Both albums are delightful and neither flirts with the dreaded "difficult music" tag that stigmatises some modern piano recordings. (Independent)