BIG IAN DONAGHY praises the talents of George Hall, keyboard player in Huge and yet so much more than a piano man.

AS another calendar gets thrown in the recycling we look to constants, things that we can measure others by: stand up York piano man George Hall.

Since playing his first gig in the early 1970s, George has gained respect as an ebony and ivory-ist. There is so much more to this man than being the butt of my gags for the past 13 years in York party band Huge. He is not just another Mr Burns or Sven Goran-Eriksson lookalike.

George has a life story befitting a musical Forrest Gump. Here is a man who has shared a pool with Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore before being politely asked to get out.

Back in 1978 George, playing with The Carvells, was sandwiched between Paul McCartney’s Wings and ABBA on Top Of The Tops just a door away from Legs & Co.

Down the decades, George has been an integral part of local favourites such as Relay, Big Business, Daktari, The Lovely Previn Band, Zoot & The Roots, 29 Palms and now Huge, who return to the Grand Opera House, York, for their traditional New Year gig on January 18.

In Zoot & The Roots he played alongside acoustic alchemist Miles Gilderdale and sax hero Snake Davis, who ignited venues all over Europe.

From Canada and the USA, he has played the Palladium to the Marquee, from Ossett to Ottawa. He has toured with Jools Holland and Squeeze. He has filled the Alexandra Palace with The Kinks and shared billing with soul funk legend Curtis Mayfield, Joe Cocker and Ben E. King.

In 29 Palms with Simon Wilson, he played 25 of the finest stadia in Europe with Sting. Many would boast of such accolades, but not George. He was involved as an early member of Beautiful South, sadly before they made their millions.

George had the honour of playing on the last Alex Harvey Band album and has played alongside Philip Bailey and members of Earth Wind & Fire.

Overseas, George has featured on many recordings, including for the multi million-selling Revolver, a Spanish group with an enormous following, when George was brought in to record alongside Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band pianist Roy Bittan.

As well as musical greats, he has accompanied comedians Norman Collier, Roy Chubby Brown and Tim Healy and performed numerous pieces with anarchic York genius Victor Lewis Smith.

With Huge, he has played for James Blunt and Lulu and even did a James Brown set with Justin Timberlake.

Some of his greatest honours have come in informal settings where music royalty have invited him to form scratch bands, such as Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood, Chris Farlowe, Sam Brown and Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall. Their bank balances may differ by many zeroes, but Mr Hall can hold court in any musical company.

York pianist Kieran White says in tribute: “The epithet jack of all trades is a phrase commonly used to denote a person whose experience is broad but whose skills are pedestrian.

“In George’s case, I believe a more appropriate title to be ‘master of all trades’. In the close-knit musical community of York, George has shown his immense skills as a composer, arranger and performer, as fluent playing jazz, blues and rock to transcribing complex scores. It’s with very good reason that he enjoys the admiration of his peers.”

So next time you see George Hall playing with Huge, look a little deeper. There stands a stock pot of musical experience that only Rick Wakeman could trump.

• George Hall will be in action with Huge for a night of music from Michael Bublé to Take That and Adele to Motown at Grand Opera House, York, on January 18. Tickets cost £20 on 0844 871 3024 or £20.