Raymond Leppard affirmed me in the same way Sweets Edison always did in those years
We were supposed to record in what was then Czechoslovakia. The session had to be changed after one day of rehearsing (a long story…). Thankfully, Christine Reed, the Vice President of A&R for CBS Masterworks, was with us and for us. She made the resources available for us to put together a hasty pick up orchestra of excellent quality in London and also secured the largest stage of the legendary Abbey Road Studio (which I had never heard of). My nickname for her was “mommy” because she was always looking out far above and beyond her job description. She got us to where we needed to be pronto. Ironically, Maurice André (the greatest and my inspiration for playing these exact concertos) was in the another studio working on a recording. I met him and took a lesson on playing trills and other unforeseen problems of playing these pieces. Maurice was as soulful as pot liquor.
Well, even though I had played these pieces since the age of thirteen and fourteen in the front of our house in New Orleans just playing along to Maurice’s records, and even with a couple of orchestras now and then…..the first hour of the session I was too nervous to play even a single phrase without messing something up and just sounding absolutely sad. Thankfully, Maestro Leppard and I had rehearsed a couple of times and he knew that I was at least capable of playing much better but…..the orchestra did not know that. They were saying wtf?????? I was definitely struggling.
I will always remember that irresolute hour. The Maestro did all he could to take care of me. He made every non verbal indication you could possibly make from a podium to tell the orchestra, ”This guy is actually much better than he sounds right now.” It was all unspoken, but so humane and kind and full of older-family-member-type feeling. Tom Mowery, our producer, was also in there working day and night to make this happen and salvage a recording.
Maestro called the break thirty minutes early and told me the facts of the moment as nicely but as clearly as possible, “You have to get it together. We have two days and if we don’t get stuff in this session, we won’t make a recording. This is a lot to go through for nothing. Whatever you have to do to find yourself, this is the time to do it.” I took that fifteen minutes to reflect on those years of practicing and on the serendipity of Maurice actually being in the same place, said a prayer, and then we started playing for real. It was funny because, without saying a word, the Maestro was then smiling and indicating to the orchestra, “I told y’all this guy could play.” They were saying in their posture and playing, “It’s about time. We were feeling like y’all called us for a photo-op with instruments.”
Raymond Leppard affirmed me in the same way Sweets Edison always did in those years. Saying “You’re here. Don’t question it. Do your thing, man.” Yeah and Christine was in there too. “You need support to make it out here.” That’s what Marcus Roberts was to tell me later. I had a lot of it and was lucky to have it. It’s not guaranteed.