For many years keyboard ace Jim Gilmour has been ripping it up with Canadian prog/AOR legends Saga, releasing a few solo albums along the way. However, the recent solo effort on ProgRock Records Great Escape is a refreshing mix of prog rock, jazz, and classical styles that once shows the true talents of this master musician, stretching out even more than he does with his main band Saga. Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo had an opportunity to talk shop with Jim recently, who had a bit to say about the new solo record as well as Saga's upcoming Trust.
Read on for the full interview!
Sea of Tranquility: You've obviously been pretty busy with your solo album Great Escape and the soon to be released new one from Saga. How hard was it to juggle the two, or did you have the solo record done before you began the Saga album?
Jim Gilmour: It's easy to juggle my two interests because I love what I do. When Saga reunited in 1993, we entered an extensive period of innovation and creativity that's never ended. As a result, my playing has matured and I'm always writing new material. Modern technology allows me to be at home, and every day I sit at my KORG keyboards and let my imagination run wild. I wrote the Great Escape in 2005 and completed the album after the last Saga Network tour.
SoT: Great Escape is a very strong, keyboard oriented, contemporary prog rock album. Did you intentionally try to put together something that was a bit more adventurous that a typical Saga record?
Jim: For sure! In Saga, the creative process is a group effort and each member is an important contributor to the bands distinctive sound. With a solo album, the sky is the limit. You are free to express yourself in anyway, shape or form you wish. From start to finish the Great Escape was my own concept and vision, incorporating all the music styles I love – classic rock, today's sounds, jazz, folk and pop music. For inspiration, I was listening to Pat Metheny, pianist Bill Evans and Thievery Corporation.
SoT: What types of keyboards did you use for the album?
Jim: I have an exclusive partnership with KORG keyboards, which I used on the entire CD. I have no desire to use the other technologies. Thanks to KORG, I have access to an endless world of music possibilities. KORG keyboards deliver the ultimate sonic arsenal from realistic sounding piano to symphonic string sounds. Great Stuff!
SoT: You assembled some excellent players for Great Escape-can you talk a little bit about how you hooked up with John Bianchini, Roger Banks, and the rest of the musicians for the album?
Jim: All the players are exceptional artists who also happen to be my friends. You know Christian from the last Saga album Network. He shared drumming duties with Roger Banks who can be heard on several projects engineered by Tom Lord-Alge. John Bianchini and I have worked on several projects together, and he also produced and played on my first solo CD. It has been my dream to work with a female vocalist, so I added Corrina Tofani's angelic voice to several songs.
SoT: How hard was it to put together an epic piece like "Last Portage"?
Jim: It wasn't difficult. The writing process was pure escapism! The piano piece that closes the song is improvisation.
SoT: There's a nice mix of catchy progressive hard rock with some blazing instrumentals on the CD-have you put any thought into doing a purely instrumental album along the lines of songs like "Algonquin", "Killarney Sunrise", and "Radiant Lake"?
Jim: Actually, my first solo album Instrumental Encounters is entirely instrumental with the music and sounds influenced by Vangelis and Yanni. The working title and theme of my next CD is Group of Seven. Expect more songs without words, and some great jazz improvisation added to the mix. I'm also looking for new opportunities, especially in film. I would love to provide the soundtrack music to an independent movie or feature flick. Working with other artists, especially jazz musicians would also be an exciting and rewarding experience.
SoT: Are you planning any live shows to promote the solo album?
Jim: Activities to promote the Great Escape will hopefully begin after the upcoming Saga tour. I would love to do some live shows. Stay Tuned! Look for regular updates on my website at www.jimgilmour.net
SoT: The new Saga record is coming out in a few weeks. Can you talk a little bit about the album and what the fans can expect?
Jim: For many years, Saga fans have wanted a CD featuring the distinctive musical elements that characterized songs like "Will It Be You" and "Don't Be Late". They wanted more soaring vocals parts and more epic keyboard and guitar sounds. So that's what we gave them. On our new CD Trust, we deliberately merged our older Saga sound with new modern inspirations to keep things interesting for us. I know the fans are going to love the extended jam on "Back To The Shadows".
SoT: Are there any plans for Saga to tour the US in the near future-you have a lot of starving fans here!
Jim: We've been away from North America for too long and we are hoping that will change now that we are represented by InsideOut Music America. They are huge fans of the band with ambitious plan for us. Stay Tuned!
(Click here to read our reviews of the CD Great Escape)