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Don Airey


Don Airey is nothing if not prolific. With his keyboard work to be heard on over three hundred albums he can lay claim to being one of the most recorded players of all time. And this quantity of output comes, crucially, with a true seal of quality. Working with a true pantheon of legends throughout his time, Don has toured with the great and the good and had a box seat on some of the most amazing events of rock history.

His first stint with a major rock act came in '74 when he spent a year performing with Cozy Powell's Hammer, before moving on to join Jon Hiseman and Gary Moore in the fusion outfit Colosseum II. The band had three successful albums, and the majority of the line-up also recorded another collection that gave them a No.1 hit – named simply 'Variations', it was a collection of variations on a theme of Paganini by one Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Don performed on the Black Sabbath album 'Never Say Die', "they were the nicest bunch of people I ever worked with - Tony was awe inspiring, Ozzy hilarious" but then, in 1978, he teamed up once more with Cozy Powell, but also Ritchie Blackmore and Roger Glover in Rainbow. He enjoyed, of course, huge success over the next three years with massive albums and huge tours. "When we toured Japan, it was like being in the Beatles – Graham Bonnet and I had to run for our lives in a shopping arcade pursued by a vast posse of young ladies." The only way of following this was to spend more time with Ozzy Osbourne and so the next four years were spent touring and working with him – Don, after all, had created the keyboard intro to the seminal track 'Mr. Crowley' on the 'Blizzard of Oz' album and played all of the keyboard parts on the 'Bark At The Moon' album. "Being part of Ozzy's band was an experience that made me proud to be there, but I wouldn't want to go through it again".

By 1986 it was time to take a break from touring; Don had spent 14 years almost constantly on the road, and return home. Whilst not touring, Don kept up his work rate, putting in hours of session work for a myriad of artists, most notably on Gary Moore's 'Out In The Fields' album and Whitesnake's massive '1987' album.

After only a year, a call from Jethro Tull got him out touring with them. This was followed the following year by the release Don's first solo album 'K2'. Returning to work with Gary Moore between 1989 and 1991, playing keyboards of course but also as arranger, Don started work on the acclaimed 'Still Got The Blues' project. "This album, to our surprise, became the biggest selling blues album ever, just reward for the dues that Gary paid over the years".

He put in stints for ELO, Uli Roth, Graham Bonnet, Colin Blunstone, Judas Priest, Tony Iommi, Company Of Snakes and – remarkably – as Musical Director [though he also arranged and performed on the track] even helped Katrina and the Waves win the Eurovision Song Contest in 1997. "Best thing about that evening was Terry Wogan buying me a pint of Guinness afterwards!"

However, it was in 2001 that the opportunity to join Deep Purple came his way. Don stood in – at a day's notice – for Jon Lord ahead of Deep Purple's summer tour. "There was one brief run through with Steve Morse in a hotel room and then out on stage in front of 28000 people at Skanderberg." When Jon then announced his retirement, Don was delighted to join the band fulltime and, of course, hundreds of shows and three studio albums later, remain with them to this day. "The success of the album 'Now What?!' in 2013, and the impact it has had on people's lives, has been one of the most notable things to happen to me. Long may it continue."

Deep Purple is a band that likes to work and so down time is limited, however, in 2007 Don Airey released his second solo album, 'Light in the Sky', through Mascot Records. This was followed in 2011 by 'All Out', again through Mascot and, of course, now he follows it up with the 2014 release of 'Keyed Up'. "I've tried on this new album to refine all I have learnt in the last decade with Purple, viz to capture the sound of Lorenz Hammond's brainchild roaring".

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