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Pink Floyd's best — improvised

Jason Sawford says that playing the music of Pink Floyd is like playing classical music — both have been established and the notes are there to be played.

"But it's all in the interpretations," Sawford said by phone from a hotel in Portland, Ore. "You play the notes but you also try to put your own self into them. At the same time, you try to make it as close to the original as possible."

But there is also a time when you can do a little improvisation in the Pink Floyd songs, Sawford said. "We do the song, 'Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,' and instead of the Floyd version, we based it on the Roger Waters' version with a sax solo. And that calls for a bit of improvisation, which, to us, is fine, because Pink Floyd improvised quite a bit."

Sawford is the keyboardist member of the Australian Pink Floyd, the world's best Pink Floyd cover band. The other members include guitarist/vocalist Steve Mac, bassist/vocalist Colin Wilson, guitarist/vocalist Damian Antony Darlington and drummer Paul Bonney.

The band formed in 1988 when a group of musicians got together in Adelaide, South Australia. Since then, the group has been praised by members of the original Pink Floyd, as well as fans and dignitaries across the globe. "Some of the highlights of the band was playing in Malta and meeting the prime minister," said Sawford, who is classically trained and cut his teeth on Beethoven and Brahms. "But there's also the fact that we have seen our audiences grow. We've played in Salt Lake City a few times, and each time the audience has grown and the people really appreciate what we're trying to do."

Sawford's favorite Pink Floyd album is 1975's "Wish You Were Here." "It's got great keyboards, and I like the overall feel of the album."

There are some unique challenges of being in a Pink Floyd cover band. Aside from the fact that Australian Pink Floyd uses the exact sets and lighting rigs the original Floyd has used, the Australian band has to find common ground between hard-core Pink Floyd fans and the casual fan. "We have a list of songs that the band members would like to do, eventually. But a lot of those songs are obscure. When we choose the songs we do for a set list, we have to keep in mind that we are playing for a diverse audience. And we have to make sure we play the songs that many people will recognize. Also, there are promoters who request we play certain songs, as well.

"The entire 'Dark Side of the Moon' album is always something we like to play. In the future, I would like for us to play 'The Wall.' In fact, we are talking about doing it in the near future."

One song that always brings smiles to the faces of both the band and audience members is "One of These Days." Part of that is the giant inflatable kangaroo named Skippy that dances on the stage — an Australian homage to the giant inflatable pigs that are the original Floyd's trademark. "Yes, we try to put a little humor into the set. Pink Floyd is a very serious band. And we try to liven it up by adding Skippy to dance for us."

If you go

What: Australian Pink Floyd

Where: E Center, 3200 S. Decker Lake Dr., West Valley City

When: tonight, 7:30

How much: $25.50-$35.50

Phone: 467-8499, 800-888-8499