Pi­anist come­back


When boo­gie woo­gie pi­ano player Jan Preston tripped over, she was ini­tially wor­ried that her glasses had bro­ken.

Sprawled face first on the ground, Preston then no­ticed her right wrist was at a strange an­gle, while her left wrist didn’t feel all that good ei­ther. And then the pain kicked in.

‘‘I had done what medics call a ‘for­ward fall’ over an un­marked speed bump in a neigh­bour’s drive­way. My feet stayed stuck on one side of the speed bump, and I put my hands out to stop the fall.’’

X-rays con­firmed both wrists were bro­ken, and the pro­fes­sional ivory tin­kler per­mit­ted her­self a mo­ment of panic.

Oper­a­tions and six months of ther­apy fol­lowed, and the Grey­mouth-born, Syd­ney-based mu­si­cian is now on her come­back tour of New Zealand. Jan Preston’s Boo­gie Cir­cus stops off to play at Palmer­ston North’s Globe Theatre on Fri­day night.

The bones may have frac­tured, but the nerves and ten­dons were un­af­fected.

‘‘The sur­geons did a bril­liant job. We don’t play the pi­ano with our wrists – we play with our fin­gers and our arms. I’ve lost a lit­tle wrist flex­i­bil­ity, but not all that much. I could still play when I was in plaster and when I was in the fi­bre­glass moulds.’’

The trau­matic fall did have a sil­ver lin­ing. Preston reck­ons she is play­ing and singing bet­ter than ever thanks to the Taub­man Ap­proach, a tech­nique de­vised last cen­tury by Amer­i­can teacher Dorothy Taub­man to as­sist play­ers with in­juries or suf­fer­ing from carpel tun­nel.

‘‘Michael Hous­toun, I think, used this ap­proach. It means I now sit higher to play.’’

Be­cause she is less hunched over the key­board, the higher cen­tre of grav­ity had helped her vo­cals.

‘‘I do sing – it’s not just a pi­ano con­cert. There are four or five in­stru­men­tals, in­clud­ing the fa­mous Bum­ble Boo­gie but the bulk of the per­for­mance is singing.’’

The per­former has fam­ily liv­ing in Palmer­ston North and said the Globe was one of her favourite New Zealand venues.

‘‘It’s not too big, and there’s a con­nec­tion with the au­di­ence. It’s just a lovely venue for peo­ple and per­form­ers.’’

Preston is joined on Fri­day night by her hus­band, drum­mer Mike Pull­man, and acous­tic bass player Nigel Mas­ters from Tau­ranga jazz combo Kokomo.


Aus­trala­sia’s ‘‘Queen of the boo­gie woo­gie key­board’’ Jan Preston

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