In the early 1980's I began working as a staff engineer at Dragon Studios, in Redwood City, California. A normal day might include a morning session with a classical music project, an afternoon session with a blues band and an evening session with a rock band. Often, these sessions were assigned to me by the owner of the studio, and I had never met the people I'd be recording. One day I was assigned such a project, a solo piano recording with a client I'd never previously met, a Redwood City resident at that time: his name was Kent Darnielle. The diversity of the clientele at Dragon Studios was astonishing, so I really never knew what to expect when meeting a client. Within the first few minutes of Kent's session, I knew I'd been assigned to something really special. Kent was obviously very intelligent, and his musical skills were among the most accomplished I'd ever witnessed up close. His piano playing and his compositions absolutely blew me away. Then and now, Kent makes his living as a piano teacher, carrying an average student load of around 50 per week.
I've known some amazing musicians in my life. It's always been difficult for me to understand the enigma of what causes one musician to become famous and successful, and another to not receive the attention they so obviously deserve. If success and fame were based solely on talent and accomplishment, Kent's would be a household name.
When I was asked to do some live performance in support of Slider - Ambient Excursions for Pedal Steel Guitar, my first choice for accompanist was Kent. I knew that he was completely overqualified for the job, but that at the same time was pretty much the only person I knew who I thought would play the music how I wanted to hear it; he delivered. In addition to being an incredible pianist, I was aware that Kent had also played guitar, and I believe he'd also dabbled with sitar. Basically, he's one of those people who could pick up just about anything and make music with it, so it really didn't surprise me when he took up an interest in playing slide instruments. He began with Dobro, and quickly became proficient not only at playing it, but writing for it. When I finally retired my Dekley pedal steel (it had been my only pedal steel for more than 20 years!), because Kent had been toying with the idea of purchasing a pedal steel, I gave it to him on a semi-permanent loan.
As I began to conceptualize what I wanted Hybrid to feel like, it quickly struck me that I'd love it if Kent would both contribute a composition for piano and pedal steel, and play the piano part. I asked him to consider it and in short order he presented me with a few sketches to choose from. Maya was one of those sketches. My writing style is so different than Kent's that I know I could never have written a piece like this. I'm so glad he did!