I think he was the brilliant artist that he was because there was not a single element of skill foundation out of place. Fundamentals were practised and honed to a place of perfection that saw them so rock steady that they could not be knocked off of their artistic mooring. An obsessive focus on piano-playing technique, articulation, musical muscle tone, and finger dexterity matched a studied appreciation of the spirit and building blocks of music.
Mentally, his understanding of how music was created was keen. Classical, blues and jazz theory were respected not only in study but in the midst of performance. Harmonic progression was in constant evolution, and the flight paths melodies took were breathtaking when rocketing by, and they were equally breathtaking when tempered, gentle and heavy, weighted with emotion and nuanced subtlety.
He was as demanding of himself and his music as he was of those who made music with him. His demand was as respected and understood as it was enjoyed. The communal sound remains unmatched.
The piano was like Ali’s ring. A place where art in motion, like sport, applied blinding skill that made the result look like ease. That’s when the artistry brought all of the elements together to give life, emotion, and enjoyment to an always beautiful, momentum-graced fancy.