Glass-fronted demonstration Yamaha NU1 at Oakland's Piedmont Piano

Glass-fronted demonstration Yamaha NU1 at Oakland’s Piedmont Piano

I was noodling on the gleaming grand pianos at Piedmont Piano in downtown Oakland on a recent Sunday afternoon when Manny Moka (aka Norman Landsberg, general manager at Piedmont Piano) approached and we started talking about our respective music projects. He showed me a video of a recent recording he did.

20150204-105157-39117588.jpgIt sounded great, but I was surprised that he was playing a small upright piano. “Everyone in the recording session was amazed at how good it sounds,” Norman said. “Here, do you want to try it yourself?” It turns out this is no ordinary upright piano; it’s a Yamaha NU1, a $5,000 hybrid piano that combines a real acoustic piano action with digital sampled piano sounds, including that of Yamaha’s concert grand pianos (suggested retail price of the S6BB, for example? $89,000 smackeroos). He took me over to the NU1 and I tried it.

Wow. If you play digital keyboard at all, you know how much you miss the feel of a real piano after a few minutes. This has an incredible responsive real piano feel, but at a touch of a button you can hear via the internal speakers (or headphones) one of several sampled piano sounds.

Check out this video of Manny Moka’s 12 horn big band (expanded from his usual 4 horn ensemble format) for a smokin’ arrangement of the Cole Porter classic from his latest album, “Brooklyn Battery”. Great solos by trumpeter Erik Jekabson, Max Perkoff on trombone, Anton Schwartz on sax, and Mike Olmos on trumpet. All the usual suspects in the session (in addition to the above): Wayne Wallace and Jeff Cressman on trombone, Mary Fettig on reeds, Louis Fasman on trumpet, Omar Ledezma Jr. on timbales, David Belove on bass. And Manny on the easily transportable Yamaha NU1, of course.