MIKE PERRY – A SHORT MUSICAL BIOGRAPHY
Born East London 1950, I started playing the piano very young. I was lucky to have a piano and an old gramophone. I was exposed to different sorts of music but the rock revolution of the 60’s really inspired me to make music my career. I played in various bands through school and university (UCT) and went pro at the age of 20. Toured Zimbabwe with Milestones, Thrust and Roadshow in the early 70’s before doing piano on cruise liners round Europe for nearly 3 years.
Returning to Cape Town I joined Scottfree, a versatile 6 piece band led by Mike Scott, and that lasted 5 years. We worked Maseru, Joburg, Sun City and then toured SA on the Tina Turner tour. After a few residencies in Cape Town the band finally split. This band was an important srepping stone for me. It had a strong jazz influence and everyone contributed to material and arrangements. The band was hardworking and we always did jazz gigs in addition to the residency “general business “ musical demands. Branch Office, Joburg Jazz Club, Hillbrow Tower were highlights and Scottfree was also expanded into “Octoplus”, a biggish band well led by trombonist John Davis.
On the road again this time to Botswana for a year as solo pianist at the President and Holiday Inn hotels. I was able to expand my repertoire greatly during this time and in ’82 I got the gig at the new Cape Sun Hotel in Strand Street Cape Town. This led to the Palm Court “mood music “albums and I was able to renew my friendship with sax legend Winston Mankunku. It wasn’t long before we were packing out the Noon gun bar 3 times a week! We still found time to rehearse originals and this woodshedding resulted in a trip to London to record “Jika”, which achieved some international releases and is still active after 20 years.
I left for engagements as a solo pianist in Germany and Switzerland in ’87 and worked piano bars and hotels extensively. On my return I did Cape Sun and Mt. Nelson gigs as well as continuing to work and play with Winston. In ’97 I started at the new Table Bay Hotel on the Waterfront. In the interim “Jika” was still selling well so we recorded “Dudula“ and “Molo Africa. “Molo Africa“ won the SAMA Award in the jazz category in ’99. I then released an album of my own stuff called “ Siyamemeza (We are Calling) in 2001.
The last few years have seen a lot of work for me as solo pianist and I have also done a number of trio gigs with my old buddies Richard Pickett (ex Scottfree and the drummer on “Jika”) and Charles Lazar (bass). We sometimes expand into a quintet featuring Alvin Dyers on guitar and Emily Bruce on vocals. More “ corporate “ work comes up these days and it has been nice to work with “Petals” and also Martin Myers for high profile engagements e.g. Pam Golding Awards evening, Queensplate handicap (Kenilworth), pre-met party Jonkersdrift to mention a few.
At present I play 5 evenings a week (mon – fri) from 4-7 pm on the lovely, and of course very familiar Steinway at the Palm Court of the Cape Sun Hotel. The Palm Court with its beautiful Italian marble finishes and triple volume ceiling is still for me a great pleasure - a unique “room” which I thoroughly enjoy playing in. It feels like coming home full circle!
Mike Perry, June 2009