Cocktail PianoCocktail Piano
The Music You've Been Looking ForThe Music You've Been Looking For
HomeAbout the Artist

Jim Haskins

photo: Monte Costa

  Jim Haskins divides his time between two different worlds. By day he is a professional financial adviser. By night he devotes himself to the piano recordings in this series. He began his musical training in Memphis in the 1940's. His teacher, Suzie Laverne DeShazo, herself a pupil of the great French pianist, Alfred Cortot, gave Jim the essential grounding in the classics. Later on it was the influence of jazz pianists who knew how to play the standards with a respect for classical traditions that laid down the musical path he would follow. "I always cared most about how a pianist sounded playing solo rather than playing with a group which is a whole different genre. It's only in the solo mode that the pianist can change the flow of time and phrase to suit a mood." Jim enjoys playing live and does so in several of Honolulu's finest hotels and restaurants. It was out of that experience that the idea of COCKTAIL PIANO was born. "I felt that people wanted in their homes the sound of the piano music they might have heard in an elegant cocktail lounge or while dining at a fine restaurant - music that is quiet and sophisticated; music that serves as a background to the social experience rather than competing with it for attention."

"That's the COCKTAIL PIANO sound."

Vienna, Home of Bosendorfer

People ask why I chose to record on the Bosendorfer. First, you must understand how very important the piano is to the player. I have played on hundreds of pianos the world over and every one is different. Most of them you pass by quickly because they do nothing for you. You play them. You hit all the notes, but the sound isn’t right. The feel has to be right as well. When your fingers touch the “right” piano it feels like silk. Playing becomes almost effortless. You play like you never played before. You never want it to change. But pianos do change. The amount of moisture in the air makes a great difference because pianos are made of wood, and wood reacts directly to the environment. Too dry and wood shrinks. Too humid and it expands. A good example is a piece of furniture we had made for us in Hawaii years ago. After moving to Philadelphia where we had central heating the drier atmosphere caused the joints to open up to an alarming degree. After moving back to Hawaii three years later the joints closed back up to their original position.

So Many from which to choose. So important a choice.

I chose the Bosendorfer for two main reasons. When I first played on one in Vienna, Austria where they are built the touch was incredible. Second, I loved the long sustain of the notes which produces a singing quality. I was told at the factory that one of the reasons for this is that the inside of the case is lined with the same type of wood that the soundboard is made of. Only technicians would know for sure, but I know how it sounded, and it was just right for my style of playing. My technician, Yoshi Nishimura, says of the Bosendorfer sound that it has a “smiling” quality. I think he’s right.

At last, the right one.

The main showroom on Bosendorfer Strasse

Lastly, I must say that no piano is complete without the regular servicing of a talented technician. I have been most fortunate to have had Yoshi take care of my piano since the day back in 1984 when it first arrived. Yoshi grew up in Japan and went through very rigorous training at the Yamaha factory. After moving to Hawaii in 1970 he started his own piano servicing business. Today he is one of the finest piano technicians anywhere. He has even gone to Europe to work on the pianos of Vladimir Ashkenazy, the great Russian pianist. He makes my Bosendorfer sound like it was meant to sound. And no recording session begins until after he has carefully regulated the action, voiced the hammers, and tuned the strings. He does the final tuning at night because that’s when I like to record. By nightfall a daytime tuning would not have sounded as well.

Dr. Rolan Radler, Bosendorfer CEO with Jim and the new Bosendorfer in Hawaii.

To me there is no musical experience finer than playing and recording on this wonderful instrument.


Dr. Radler, Yoshi Nishimura & Jim