Step Right Up: Chilly Gonzales
Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry
I was first introduced to the music of Gonzales by chance, on a Saturday morning, in my local record store Plugd in Cork City. The beautiful solo piano of Gonzales filled the room and the busy streets outside. I asked Jimmy, ‘Who’s that?’ and he replied, ‘Gonzales’ and showed me the CD. Beautiful artwork graced the front sleeve and once in my hand, I never let it go. The album ‘Solo Piano’ was released in 2004 and is filled with breathtakingly beautiful piano reminiscent of Satie and Gershwin. Gonzales, like a magician, casts a spell on the listener and each of the sixteen varied instrumental cuts is nothing short of magic. The album became an indispensable part of my music collection, which I have returned to many times since. On the album’s liner notes, Gonzales writes: ‘Although they say the piano can create the most colours of any instrument, it is actually black and white, much like an old silent movie. Staring down at my hands, I imagine each piano piece as a shadow against the wall.’
On August 28th 2012, Gonzales, now under the name Chilly Gonzales, will release his highly anticipated follow-up, ‘Solo Piano II’. In the eight years between these two albums, Gonzales has been extremely busy. He has been the producer for an eclectic mix of artists from Feist, Peaches, Jane Birkin to Jamie Lidell and Buck 65. He has been a regular collaborator with (Leslie) Feist and integral to the making of her most recent and strongest album to date, ‘Metals’. Interestingly, in 2009 Gonzales broke the Guinness World Record for the world’s longest solo artist performance, playing the piano in Paris for 27 hours, 3 minutes and 44 seconds.
In December 2011, Gonzales moved his piano into Paris Studio Pigalle. The recording process took ten days whereby the one hundred or so melodies written over the eight years since ‘Solo Piano’ became the fourteen instrumental cuts forming ‘Solo Piano II’. Gonzales played the songs “over and over and over again, until each one’s essence has been captured”. The purest and most microscopic process of recording took place and can be heard on each of the fourteen transcendent solo piano works.
‘Solo Piano II’ by Chilly Gonzales will be out on Arts and Crafts on August 27th.