Happy Birthday Page McConnell: ‘Down With Disease’ & ‘Chalk Dust Torture’ Isolated Keyboard Tracks

By Nate Todd May 17, 2021 11:38 am PDT

Today is Phish keyboardist Page McConnell’s birthday 58th birthday. McConnell was born on May 17, 1963 in Philadelphia and went on to join Phish in 1985. Listening to Phish recordings in the mid-1980s, one might notice that Page played a lot of electric piano (probably a Fender Rhodes) and it may have been his sole instrument in the very early days.

It has been fascinating to watch the Chairman Of The Boards build his keyboard world over the years. Page played his first show with a real baby grand piano on February 3, 1993 in Portland, Maine, as per Phish.net. The first song on the baby grand? The debut of The Rolling Stones’ “Loving Cup.” Leo’s main boards of choice are the baby grand, Hammond B3 organ, electric piano (he now plays both Rhodes and Wurlitzer) and Hohner Clavinet, which largely remain his core decks to his day although he has added a number of fun synthesizers over the years (Page recently released a stellar soundscape solo album using only synths called Maybe We’re The Vistors).

With so many keyboards at his disposal, it’s only natural that he plays more than one at once. Page’s immense talent coupled with his background in jazz allows him to do so and he makes it look and sound effortless. Page’s prowess is on full display in a pair of live isolated tracks of “Down With Disease” from December 1, 1995 in Hershey, Pennsylvania as well as “Chalk Dust Torture” from November 16, 1994 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Of the “Disease,” Page works both decks of his Hammond as well as the drawbars — with some great sweeps — and then plays organ and piano on the chorus. He then switched to just piano after Trey’s iconic riff and his baby grand sounds like it has brand new strings and almost drones like sitar at points. It sounds amazing. The same effect is heard on “Chalk Dust” in ‘94, with McConnell starting out on piano then adding organ on the chorus with some amazing sweeps and swoops. At one point, he doubles a pretty mind-boggling run on both instruments.

To celebrate Page McConnell’s birthday, listen to the Chairman Of The Boards preside over keyboard world in isolated tracks of “Down With Disease” and “Chalkdust Torture” below:

Down With Disease

Chalk Dust Torture

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