Allan Zavod is a man of many keyboards and many keyboard styles.  Scottsdale, Arizona review of Allan's performances at the Boojum Tree Lounge of the Phoenix Doubletree Inn, where he supplemented the lounge's baby grand with some electronic keyboards.

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Article by: Pat McElfresh
Featured in the Weekend Edition of the Scottsdale [Arizona] Daily Progress
Friday, July 23, 1982

Allan Zavod. A man of many keyboards and many keyboard styles

Allan Zavod is a man of many keyboards and many keyboard styles.  Scottsdale, Arizona review of Allan's performances at the Boojum Tree Lounge of the Phoenix Doubletree Inn, where he supplemented the lounge's baby grand with some electronic keyboards.

Allan Zavod is a man of many keyboards and many keyboard styles.

He can be as lyrical as Bill Evans (his idol) or as avant garde as Cecil Taylor. He's as much at home at the bench of a baby grand performing solo as he is standing amid a panoply of electronic instruments to back fusion-violinist Jean-Luc Ponty.

Wherever the stage and whatever the scene, Zavod is turned on to his music and, although he has recorded extensively, he says he prefers concerts to other uses of his musical talents.

"Live performing is the most personalized form of my music, playing for people and exchanging emotions with them. To me, music is emotion through sound," said the Australian born musician in an interview for Weekend. "You can have all the technique in the world - and I have that, but it's merely a skill, a means to an end, but without emotion behind it. Playing before a live audience is sharing and exchanging emotion."

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Zavod, 34, is known for his versatility of performance, honed by his diverse background. He grew up in Australia studying the classics, made his professional debut as a Peter Nero-style player and then moved on to play with the big bands of Woody Herman, Maynard Ferguson and Don Ellis. Then he recorded with Gary Burton and Billy Cobham before joining Ponty in 1976.

Those musical styles are distinctly different, but Zavod, in town this week and next performing in the Boojum Tree Lounge of the Phoenix Doubletree Inn, said there's no transition required of him to play them.

"There's no adjustment. If you know your work, it's like one minute saying "A" and then "B". You just throw yourself right into a situation you're familiar with. It's really that simple," he said.

For his 9 and 11 pm Monday through Saturday sets, Zavod said he will supplement the lounge's baby grand with some electronic keyboards. "But the acoustic is the great love of mine. The club isn't that large to be setting up 12 keyboards (which he plays on tour with Ponty). I don't want to put the acoustic in the corner; it's the main instrument for me."

Still, even on just one keyboard, Zavod's incredible energy level bursts out. The first time he played the lounge, in May 1981, he played only the baby grand, but how he played it: pouncing, pummelling and pounding to create musical effects. His dark curly mop of hair flipped from side to side as he dug into a tune, two-finger syncopating the beat and elbowing in the treble range, then plucking the piano's innards for a final swipe.

The secret to his on-stage energy, he said, is wanting to play to the ultimate in each performance. "You spend enough time traveling and getting a few less hours sleep to get to the next town, and then you have the sound check to get your instruments ready.

You've gone to all this trouble, you've obligated yourself to the road, so you might as well make it all worthwhile. In those few moments, to self yourself down would be a real disappointment and not fulfilling."

"The other thing is the sheer love of playing. It's there or you wouldn't take all the trouble. You could sit in a studio and do commercials or just write."

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Zavod said he watches his diet and exercises to keep his energy level high. "While I'm here, I'll play tennis everyday in 110 degrees. Then I'll get in a steam room and an icy pool. Then I'm ready to play piano."

His sets in Phoenix may include tributes to late piano greats including Evans, Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington. "I always mix classical and jazz," he said, "but the pure mainstream element is going to be there also. We do a lot of styles in one night, from "Feel like Makin' Love" to "Sophisticated Lady."

The "we" of his group this tour is Phoenix bassist Ron Scott and drummer Rayford Griffin of the Ponty aggregation. "I ran into Ron when I was here playing at the Scottsdale Center (two years ago). I was having a very tall Margarita at B.B. Singer's and heard this great bass playing. I put my triple Margarita down and here's this guy playing with this beautiful smile on his face. His vibes are beautiful. I said, "Listen, I want you to play with me" But he's so busy here, I can't get him out of Phoenix, so I get him when I'm here."

Zavod is just back from an Australian tour with Ponty, and before that played Hawaii with his own band. "George Benson lives there and he sat in every night," he said.

When he closes at the end of next week in the Boojum Tree, Zavod will rejoin Ponty for the Edmonton Jazz Festival in Canada, then perform around Los Angeles and in Miami, Florida.

He has recorded several albums, written for concert orchestra, and written, conducted, produced and performed a jazz concerto.

Zavod, who began studying classical piano at the age of 9 in Melbourne, Australia, earned a degree from the Australian Conservatory and then came to the United States.

"When Duke Ellington was in Australia on a tour in 1969, I asked him where I should go to get more schooling in jazz. He contacted the people at Berklee (School of Music in Boston) and I was studying and teaching there within a year."

He began performing with the college big band before going on the road.

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