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Music

Through Improvisation, Music Producer Creates Unconventional Mashups

(SOUNDBITE OF MILES DAVIS' "SOLAR")

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is the Miles Davis tune from the 1950s called "Solar" - found its way into a surprising new context for an artist who's created some intriguing mashups of pop, jazz and classical music.

(SOUNDBITE OF CRAIG HARTLEY'S, "SINCLAIR (PRELUDE NO. 2 IN C MINOR + SOLAR)")

CRAIG HARTLEY: My name is Craig Hartley. I'm a music producer, composer and performer.

(SOUNDBITE OF CRAIG HARTLEY'S "SINCLAIR (PRELUDE NO. 2 IN C MINOR + SOLAR)")

HARTLEY: So the beginning - this is the prelude - Bach's prelude in C minor straight-up. This is the tune itself.

(SOUNDBITE OF CRAIG HARTLEY'S "SINCLAIR (PRELUDE NO. 2 IN C MINOR + SOLAR)")

HARTLEY: And then from here, I'll go off and keep the left hand sort of harmony-intact and start improvising in my right hand over the Bach.

(SOUNDBITE OF CRAIG HARTLEY'S "SINCLAIR (PRELUDE NO. 2 IN C MINOR + SOLAR)")

HARTLEY: And now "Solar" is introduced on top of Bach's harmony.

(SOUNDBITE OF CRAIG HARTLEY'S "SINCLAIR (PRELUDE NO. 2 IN C MINOR + SOLAR)")

HARTLEY: When I play my music, I just start playing it. And actually, people are surprised when they start hearing Miles Davis. They're a little bit confused because I think, you know, we start to play classical. And it's - you know, it's sort of a jazz trio-looking ensemble. So when we begin playing - when I begin playing - a classical piece, they're sort of like, whoa.

(SOUNDBITE OF CRAIG HARTLEY'S "SINCLAIR (PRELUDE NO. 2 IN C MINOR + SOLAR)")

HARTLEY: I really love combine sort of multiple influences to create new ideas. So these juxtapositions are - have become sort of like a part of me in a way.

(SOUNDBITE OF CRAIG HARTLEY'S "IMAGINE PEACE PIECE")

HARTLEY: So this is "Peace Piece," which is composed by Bill Evans. This beginning - this left-hand piano part, which was instrumental in terms of harmony and jazz piano that Bill Evans introduced - it's a beautiful chord progression.

(SOUNDBITE OF CRAIG HARTLEY'S "IMAGINE PEACE PIECE")

HARTLEY: And then right there begins the introduction of sort of "Imagine" - John Lennon's "Imagine."

(SOUNDBITE OF CRAIG HARTLEY'S "IMAGINE PEACE PIECE")

HARTLEY: And now the melody of "Imagine" is introduced.

(SOUNDBITE OF CRAIG HARTLEY'S "IMAGINE PEACE PIECE")

HARTLEY: Now, keeping the same theme of "Peace Piece," we'll switch keys and follow sort of the progression of "Imagine."

(SOUNDBITE OF CRAIG HARTLEY'S "IMAGINE PEACE PIECE")

HARTLEY: This sort of developed naturally and spontaneously. This one was eerily spontaneous. And I wrote this one when I was 19. So yes - quite a while ago.

(SOUNDBITE OF CRAIG HARTLEY'S "IMAGINE PEACE PIECE")

HARTLEY: I'm a huge fan of Bill Evans and the Beatles and a variety of music. And sort of being able to combine these things has been more rewarding than I can actually express. I guess that's why I play.

(SOUNDBITE OF CRAIG HARTLEY'S "IMAGINE PEACE PIECE")

HARTLEY: My new album is "Books On Tape Vol. II - Standard Edition." "Standard Edition" is covering standards - so, like, the American Songbook but also standards like John Lennon and the Beatles and Bach - so a variety of standards from multiple influences and genres.

I kind of go along with this theme of books on tapes. There's a "Books On Tape Vol. I." There's actually a precursor to that, which is just "Books On Tape." They're sort of, like, stories. You know, these are stories and books - audio books, really - that I'm writing of my life and my experiences expressed through song.

(SOUNDBITE OF CRAIG HARTLEY'S "IMAGINE PEACE PIECE")

SIMON: Pianist, producer and composer Craig Hartley. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.