I’m trying to think of the best way to say these thoughts. It’s very interesting listening to Emerson’s recordings and catching the difference in his playing later on. My favorites are the early stuff from the 1960s and 1970s. That’s when he was at his very best! He played a lot of amazing things on the piano, Hammond organ, and the Moog synthesizer, combining both classical and jazz styles together.
Keith was my introduction to keyboards. It was really cool what he did, adding a mixture of Bach, Copland, some jazz, and blues together to create his sound. He was also really amazing at orchestration in his improvizations on the piano, Hammond organ, and synth. Some piano and organ examples include: The Nice – Rondo 69, She Belongs to Me, America from the Elegy album, and Hang On to a Dream also from the Elegy album. Some of the synthesizer solos that stand out for me include: ELP – Trilogy, the last section in the live version of Tarkus from the live album Welcome Back My Friends…, Fanfare for the Common Man, and Abaddon’s Bolero.
He was very influential for me when it came to the Hammond organ. Pictures at an Exhibition and Knife Edge were the songs that got me interested in playing the organ. Then it was Karn Evil 9, Tarkus, Rondo from the Isle of Wight performance, then a lot of The Nice starting with the Tchaikovsky Pathetique third movement, then Country Pie, Little Arabella, the Intermezzo from Karelia Suite by Sibelius, Ars Longa Vita Brevis, and Five Bridges.
He did a lot of wild effects with the instrument: turning the motor
on and off, using the noise from the reverb springs, etc. Those things were done with the Hammond L100. Also, for the piano, he plucked the strings for the beginning of Take a Pebble.
I would like to think before he had the nerve condition, he played
so many fun things – his unique use of intervals, lots of wide chord stretches (the song Nighthawking from the Nighthawks soundtrack which is also from the compilation At The Movies), fast arpeggios and phrases with lots of excitement (probably the most famous would be his solo spot from the Cal Jam performance during the Brain Salad Surgery tour), and so many other examples. You can feel the joy and excitement when he played those things, particularly in the Welcome Back My Friends album.
I was really glad to meet him for a brief time. He was really nice. I miss him.