‘I connected with him very intensely’: Deep Purple’s Steve Morse remembers Jon Lord

As Deep Purple gathers to pay tribute to Jon Lord tonight, guitarist Steve Morse remembers the band’s co-founding keyboardist as someone he “connected with intensely,” and from the first. In the end, Morse remains “one of Jon’s biggest fans.”

Deep Purple will appear along with the Orion Orchestra at a tribute concert for Lord to be held April 4, 2014 at London’s Royal Albert Hall, along with Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson, Yes’ Rick Wakeman, former Purple member Glenn Hughes, Lord sideman Steve Balsamo and others. Morse, Balsamo and Dickinson memorably appeared on the long-awaited solo rendition of Lord’s masterwork Concerto for Group and Orchestra. Paul Mann, who conducted for that 2012 release, will also lead the Orion Orchestra for tonight’s show.

Morse tells us, in an exclusive SER Sitdown, that he still marvels over being asked to join in what would be the final studio effort from Lord, who died in 2012 after a cancer battle: “The original concept was not to have us involved with it, so that it wouldn’t be diluted — and wouldn’t give people any expectations that it would sound like Deep Purple. So, it was a big deal,” Morse says.

Lord had worked on the concerto for most of his career, releasing a 1969 version with Deep Purple — it was recored in concert with the Royal Philharmonic — and then another in 1999 with an updated score.

“Originally, when he did the concerto with Deep Purple live, that was sort of hurriedly done — though Jon had spent a lot of time writing it,” Morse tells us. “The second time we did it, when I was in the band, it was still with Deep Purple. This was his first chance to do his own recording without being associated with Deep Purple, and from what I understand he didn’t really intend to ask me to do it. He just got used to the way that I played some of the sections. He was describing to the guitarist maybe in too much detail, trying to get them to recreate the way that I did it. I guess it just got easier to ask me.”

Lord was with Deep Purple from its founding in 1968 through an initial split in 1976, then again from 1984-2002 — and the latter period coincided with Morse’s arrival. Lord was also a member of Whitesnake with Purple alum David Coverdale, and of Paice Ashton and Lord with fellow Purple co-founder Ian Paice.

“I’m one of Jon’s biggest fans,” Morse adds. “I connected with him very intensely, especially on our first album (together, 1996′s) Purpendicular. He just had this certain something; he could hear things that no one else could. When everyone else was saying ‘nah, that’s not working,’ Jon could say: ‘Wait a second. Let’s just twist it this way, and look again.’”

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Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.

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