Imagine a sound so beautiful and inspiring, you have to share it with the whole world. Jonathan Crayford has heard that sound.

There's just one problem: it's made by a particular Steinway concert grand piano; the piano is for sale but Crayford doesn't have the thousands of dollars it costs to own such an instrument.

But he's a resourceful guy and has convinced a friend to buy the piano. Now Crayford's taking the Steinway on tour, including a Tuesday performance in Wynyard Quarter's silos as part of Auckland Arts Festival's Sonic Silos concerts.

"The silo's fascinating," says Crayford. "It's a big old cement tube and it's very reverberant and interesting to play to because it echoes so much that it kind of dictates what you have to play."


Crayford has a large selection of classical music up his sleeve for the concert but because his natural home is jazz, there will be plenty of improvisation.

"One of the nicest things to do is improvise," he says. "You tap into a very live wire, it's outside of yourself. I don't like anything I already know; I prefer to be a bit freaked out and have to solve a problem by creating my way out of it."

If that sounds like self-indulgence, someone playing music for themselves without thought for the audience, Crayford insists it's not the case.

"Improvising is a huge part of my work but I still have to hinge it on something, I always have to tell some sort of story. If I'm involved in the story I'm telling, it will translate and the audience won't feel I'm leaving them alone, they'll be with me, and you can really feel when you've got people with you."

After the arts festival, Crayford heads across Cook Strait, taking the piano to small and unusual venues such as a wine cave in Central Otago and the Christchurch creative incubator The Exchange.

Crayford's done this sort of thing before.

"I did a lot of concerts in Europe that were pop-up in nature," he says. "They'd be in weird spaces but sound amazing. It'd just be the performance, maybe a glass of wine, and you sat on a box in a cave or an unused railway station.

"It's quite beautiful because it reduces a concert to what's important: the instrument, the mind of the player, the sound of the room. That's really all you need."

For all the simplicity of the concept, a tour like this requires logistical precision. Crayford has hired a movie crew, reasoning that transporting unusual equipment is similar to shooting a film. He'll also have a specialist piano tuner on tour with him to ensure that any fluffed notes are his own fault, not the instrument's.

Crayford's not concerned about making mistakes.

"That's the beauty of being able to put a very fine, top-of-its-game, as-good-as-it-gets instrument into a space and invite an audience," he says. "I know that instrument will make me deliver something, I'll know I'll be in good hands. My imaginative world will be super-open."

* Voices NZ Chamber Choir perform on Saturday at Silo 6 as part of Sonic Silos.

What: Jonathan Crayford, The Steinway Tour
Where & When: Silo 6, Wynyard Quarter, March 20 for Auckland Arts Festival's Sonic Silos series, then at venues around the country