Phish pianist releases debut solo album

Back from the oblivion of his band’s breakup, Page McConnell, former pianist of the seminal jam band Phish, sings, “Though seasons change and seeds may start, the beauty of a broken heart, cannot be seen but in full view; the colors can come back to you.”

They’re telling lyrics from “Beauty of a Broken Heart,” the first track of his debut solo record. The self-titled CD is his first major project following his band’s amicable split in 2004.

“Page McConnell” is packed with much of the hooky piano riffing and high-wire improvisational flourishes that made Phish the band that it was. The record includes contributions from fellow Phish bandmates: guitarist Trey Anastasio, drummer Jon Fishman, bassist Mike Gordon.

“I worked on this album for a long, long time,” says McConnell, who brings his new band to San Francisco’s Fillmore on Tuesday.

“I got into this project probably about four months after Phish stopped playing. I was pretty much on my own, with no real management, no band, no label, no contract or anything like that. It was just me — I decided to put together a home studio and just started trying to write some songs.”

The extended time off left some fans wondering about him; McConnell acknowledges he’s taken a long break from touring. He says, “I didn’t have a rush. There was no pressure. I had been on the road for about 22 years, and being off the road for a year or two was really nice.”

If the CD lacks some of the off-the-cuff dynamic that Phish fans are accustomed to, it’s because, for the most part, McConnell put the album together a piece at a time.

“I was trying to get a live band feel — obviously, with Phish, our typical session was to go into the studio and record the four of us playing live, usually in the same room, and then do overdubs. Then, with me, it was layering one track at a time. I started most of the songs with drum machines, and then built the songs from the ground up — so it was a very different process than what I’m used to.”

But will Phish fans be looking for the same kinds of intense concertgoing experiences that to which they’ve grown accustomed? 

“I would be surprised if that were the case,” he says. “You know, it’s a club, you’re going to see someone in a club; I can’t guarantee any life-changing experiences. But then, I never wanted to guarantee them at any point in my career. It’s a very different thing, it’s a much smaller thing … But I’m definitely enjoying this. I’ve done it for so many years with Phish, and at such a level, that if I wasn’t genuinely enjoying it, I wouldn’t be able to tell you that I was.”

IF YOU GO

Page McConnell

Where: Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., San Francisco
When: 9 p.m. Tuesday
Tickets: $25
Contact: (415) 421-8497 or ticketmaster.com

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