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Mike Garson: The Bowie Variations

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Having immersed yourself in an album that purports to be an extension on assorted musical themes by rock composer David Bowie, you might be surprised to find yourself not thinking about Bowie at all. Albums of this nature sometimes function as glorified tributes, adding a dollop of original artistry to go along with artistry that has long existed. Pianist Mike Garson’s achievement, though, is to have created something that is quite nearly autonomous, save that it owes its inspiration to the good Mr. Stardust.

The most Bowie-esque moment-from a standpoint of melody-occurs with “Heroes,” but Garson compacts Bowie’s original riff so that it grows in urgency, like some piano-based directive. That riff crops up throughout the album, and each time it reoccurs, the overall work feels less like a collection of variations sourced from songs and more like a piece composed as a whole.

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