Al Wold’s Grand Piano Lives on at PAL Vancouver
Who is Al Wold?
Among musicians, Al was a star, both on piano and woodwinds. He graduated from The University of British Columbia (UBC) as a clarinet player and took piano lessons from Edward Parker. While he was at UBC, he worked in the club we now call Celebrities on Davie St. In the late 1960s, BC started to have strippers in bars; however, the Liquor Control Board stipulated that three musicians had to be playing in order to allow dancers to work in these establishments. So, Al worked for 12 hours a day as a leader in that club and was thus able to graduate with no student debt and even treated himself by acquiring the last 12-cylinder Jaguar E-Type roadster to come into Canada.
After graduating UBC Music, Al became a stalwart of the commercial music industry, playing hundreds of shows, recordings, and radio/television broadcasts, both on saxophone and piano.
A long-time member of the Bobby Hale’s Big Band, Hale wrote a baritone saxophone feature for Al, called “Low and BeWold.” Later it was performed by Tommy Banks, a JUNO Award-winning, Montreux Festival piece. Al, for many years worked with Dave Robbins at the Bayshore Hotel, a venue that coincidentally is PAL’s next-door neighbour, and in many of Dave’s bands. In later life, Al was the star of the WOW Jazz Orchestra, playing tenor saxophone. The WOW Orchestra also included David Guiney as a bass player who is currently a PAL resident.
He was enormously proud of his Swing Machine band in which he played both piano and tenor saxophone as well as being the leader, composer, and arranger. Other personnel included Stew Barnett, trumpet; Jack Stafford, tenor saxophone; Olive Gannon, guitar; Stan Johnston, bass; and Blaine Wikjord, drums.
Al also became a teacher and helped to guide music students at Capilano College (Capilano University since 2008) for thirty-one years. He is remembered by his students for his encyclopedic musical knowledge and his gentle, respectful ways.
What is the history of the piano?
Originally from the 1920s, its Vancouver debut was made in the living room of legendary classical pianist and professor, Edward Parker. Edward, his sons Ian and Keath, nephews James Parker and Jon Kimura Parker, and niece Liz Parker, and countless other local prodigies grew as musicians while playing it.
Edward already had this 9-foot Knabe grand piano at the time he bought a new 9-foot Steinway piano. Wanting to have a matching set of 2, 9-foot Steinways, he had a Steinway logo stenciled on the fallboard of the Knabe piano.
After Al Wold studied with Edward Parker at UBC, he purchased the Knabe grand piano from his professor in the late 1970s. It stayed with Al until his recent death.
Knabe was a famous piano manufacturer in the early 20th century, being the official supplier to the Metropolitan Opera for forty years. The grand piano is a concert-quality instrument with a pedigree and worthy of a continued performance life at PAL Vancouver.
To hear clips of Al Wold & the Knabe Grand Piano, please listen through this link here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/lg0ag99gwjebgdy/AABYordl6hzM_OTSx7kY_QAea?dl=0
Who helped with the completion of this major donation to PAL Vancouver?
With PAL Vancouver as its new home, the piano has been brought back to life, through the generosity of Al’s older sister. The piano survived a trek to PAL Vancouver and a crane ride to our 8th floor.
PAL Vancouver thanks Isaac Bull from the Vancouver Musicians’ Association for arranging the piano’s airlift, and PAL director Sharman King who performed with Al many times. Piano technician Justis Tylor worked for several months doing the initial repairs on this historical instrument and is worthy of a round of applause from all its future users.
What kind of legacy or message remains for those who use the piano in the future?
“Musicians come and go, but the legacy of their creative music making lingers, as it does with our memories of Al, his music and this piano.”
“Al’s legacy was sharing his serious talents as a bandsman, leader, and soloist with the world while being down to earth and giving his all to his craft and being a role model for generations of musicians to follow.”
Thank you to Sharman King who shared so much of this history and provided us with the backstory for this article.