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Deep Purple keyboardist Don Airey heads to Cambridge next week

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Don Airey. Picture: Paul Bergen
Don Airey. Picture: Paul Bergen

Don Airey is one of the best-known keyboard players in rock, and the CV of this Great Gransden-based musician reads like a 'who's who' of some of the biggest names in the genre over the past 40 years.

Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Gary Moore and Whitesnake are just some of the acts to have benefitted from Don’s immense talent, and his ongoing tenure as a full-time member of Deep Purple has resulted in hundreds of more shows and three studio albums.

Presently on some rare down time away from the band, Don, 69, will be putting on a concert at The Junction on March 20. Billed as ‘Don Airey & Friends’, it will feature current Nazareth vocalist Carl Sentance, Dave Marks (Hans Zimmer, Robert Plant) on bass, Simon McBride (Sweet Savage) on guitar and Jon Finnigan (Gang of Four) on drums.

Don told the Cambridge Independent: “I do this little tour every year. We set off on a tour bus and we’re going all over Europe – the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Austria, Holland – and we come back and play The Junction and then we go back and we’ve got four gigs in Germany.”

He continued: “We tend to mix it up, we’ve got quite a vast repertoire. We play a lot of Rainbow, we play some Ozzy Osbourne, Gary Moore, a little bit of Deep Purple – stuff from all over my career.

“And we’ll be playing some new material as well, from an album that’s coming out in May.”

Don said the band have been together for about 10 years, with various line-up changes, making four albums and staging eight tours during that time.

“Most bands, I kind of lead from behind but this band I lead from the front,” he laughs. “I’m not finding it quite as easy as I used to, I have to say, but it’s still great fun and I still love playing. It’s always a thrill to be out there, especially with good musicians.”

Don, who is currently writing his memoirs, has fond memories of many of the top names he has recorded and performed with, and the famous tracks on which he has appeared.

“I had a very long association with Gary Moore, for about 35 years,” he recalled. “We started off together in a band called Colosseum II and we recorded together a lot.

“I did his blues album and I would say that the Still Got the Blues track is quite a standout piece of work.

“If you have a hit single, it’s a great thing and Since You’ve Been Gone with Rainbow, that was another highlight.”

Deep Purple are still very active and have recently been out on their Long Goodbye tour.

“Purple were on the road for about eight months last year and we finished just before Christmas,” said Don. “We’re having a break till May, so this [the solo tour] fits in very nicely.”

Don took over keyboard duties in Deep Purple in 2002 following the retirement of the late Jon Lord, who had been with them as a founding member since 1968.

“It was a daunting prospect, but it’s such a great band that it was easy to fit in. They’re such great players and so much energy, you just get swept along by it all – so that made it a lot easier.”

PRS Guitars Presents Don Airey & Friends will be on at J1 at The Junction on Tuesday, March 20 at 7pm.

Tickets: £17.

Box office: junction.co.uk or 01223 511511.

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