PIANIST ELISE LEBEC JOINED BY CELLIST DAVID DARLING AND HORN PLAYER JEFF OSTER
Composer Elise Lebec says her new album, Heart Song, is about “seeing the dignity and honor in life. I composed the music from my heart and tried to capture the concept that life is a gift and a journey, both internal and external, full of adventures -- good, bad, beautiful, sad, uplifting and often incredibly heart-touching.”
The album centers around Lebec’s acoustic piano playing (some solo), but many of the tunes are augmented by other musicians including popular flugelhorn player Jeff Oster; cellists David Darling, George Chavez and Elizabeth Vandervennet; and drummer Michael Urbano. Lebec co-produced the recording with producer/engineer Michael Rosen (Santana, Journey, Papa Roach, Tesla, Huey Lewis).
More information on Elise Lebec is available at her website (eliselebec dot com). Her CDs and digital download tracks are available at online sales sites such as CDbaby, Amazon, iTunes, eMusic, Rhapsody and many others.
To further illustrate the musical journey of life, Lebec uses the analogy of sailing vessels and their voyages that dominated global travel for more than 500 years. The Heart Song album cover shows Lebec standing on a beach looking out to sea, and the inside artwork includes a picture of an old wooden sailing ship as well as ancient oceanic maps. “My studio where I most often compose is in the San Francisco Bay area and is on the second floor with a window that looks out at the bay where I can watch ships coming and going.”
Two tunes on the album directly relate to the era of sailing schooners -- “Pirates and Poets” (“Just like there are bad guys and good guys, life has its good moments and not so good ones.”) and “Ghost Ships” (“Scientists now explain them as an optical illusion called a ‘Fata Morgana’ where cold dense air just above the ocean’s surface bends light reflected from a distant object, but I would like to hear them say that to an ancient sailor.”). “Away Into the Horizon” captures the spirit of the next voyage, the next journey. Another piece explores the beauty, romance and wistfulness of “Moonlit Waters.”
But oceanic travels end with a return to shore, and Lebec also offers a musical tribute to the “Sacred Land” featuring an elder from a Guatemalan native tribe, OmeAkaEhekatl Erick González, speaking about respecting and blessing the earth, being grateful and honoring all of nature and life. The tune “A Break in the Clouds” represents a fresh chance to explore something new. “Following the Rain” musically portrays the growing process and nature’s way of rejuvenating. “Green Leaves” (a tip of the hat to the traditional “Greensleeves” which Lebec says is “one of the first songs I ever learned”) symbolizes springtime, rebirth, a new start.
The human element enters into much of the music. The track, “Heart Song,” is first played as a solo piano piece and then revisited with Grammy Award-winning cellist David Darling as “Heart Song avec Cello.” Heart Song also was chosen as the name of the album “because the heart is where we store everything precious to us, and even though no love is perfect, we still gather our deepest feelings, good and bad, and tuck them away in a special place so we can revisit them at appropriate times.” Other music ranges from the light-hearted (“Afternoon Kisses”) to deeply heartfelt (“It Was Always You,” which, according to Lebec, acknowledges “your go-to person, your soulmate or anyone who has been there for the long haul”). She says that “Silence” is her way of pointing out the importance of finding silent time, “clearing the clutter of the world away so you can hear your own thoughts,” and “in this piece I also concentrated on the silence and spaces between the notes.”
Elise was born and raised in San Diego, California, the daughter of “a hippie who sat on the lawn and played the guitar a lot.” Her father brought home a variety of new age and world music albums, and at night Elise would fall asleep wearing headphones and listening to artists such as George Winston, Enya, Loreena McKinnit and Andreas Vollenweider. Elise began “messing around on the piano” when she was only four. Self-taught, she played piano every day. “At first it was very personal because it was the only way I had to vent whatever was going on inside me.” As she got older, she learned pieces by Beethoven and Vivaldi, but also experimented with improvisation and stream of consciousness playing, and began exploring pop and rock music.
Lebec lived in New Zealand for two years and then in Australia where she began performing regularly. In Sydney she became a popular entertainer at both charity events and her own performance-art concerts (sometimes also including jugglers and fire-eaters). A Steinway Piano-sponsored artist in Australia, Lebec began her musical recording career under the name Tabitha. Her first album, Tabitha Lebec Plays Billich, was instrumental piano music composed to be enjoyed in conjunction with paintings by world-renowned artist Charles Billich.
Lebec expanded her musical ambitions when she moved to England where she began to sing professionally. She studied with top vocal coach Glenn Jones (who also has worked with Annie Lennox). Lebec co-founded the band Post Pop Federation with Level 42 keyboardist Mike Lindup and Roland Chadwick, and they performed concerts and released (through Warner Bros.) a CD titled PPF. As a solo artist, Lebec played at top clubs including The Kashmir Klub (with Paul McCartney, Chrissie Hynde and Richard Thompson in the audience), The Troubadour, Floyd’s and the Bartok Café. Lebec sang onstage with Kiki Dee, opened for Sheryl Crow and occasionally performed with Imogen Heap. In addition, Lebec wrote and recorded the song “Rainbow” with Colin Preston (producer for Samantha Mumba), and Lebec performed it on BBC-TV. She also performed several times with best-selling alternative-classical violinist Nigel Kennedy.
After returning to the United States, Lebec worked with producer/arranger Peter Bernstein (Elmer Bernstein’s son), singer/composer Pat Robinson (who has sung with The Textones, Dwight Twilley and Gene Clark), manager Joe Boyland (Lynyrd Skynyrd, Black Crowes), and Nashville songwriter Robert Johnson (Celine Dion). Her second CD, also using her alternate stage-name Tabitha Lebec, was a vocal album, Back to Innocence, featuring all original songs. She went on to record additional vocal material with Chris Boardman, a top arranger for Barbra Streisand, Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban, Celine Dion and more than 200 films. During her career, Lebec has been inspired by a variety of musical artists including Joni Mitchell, Patty Griffin, Natalie Merchant, Sara McLachlan, Dead Can Dance and, in recent years, by Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Beth Orton.
Lebec released another solo piano album, Possible Dreams, that received extensive airplay and went Top 10 on the main international new age music airplay chart. She followed that with several singles -- “A Dance Through Trees,” “The Marriage” and “If You Can See Light.”
Lebec has additionally gotten heavily involved in the world of film music and regularly serves as the music supervisor, sound editor, sound designer or composer for independent films as well as corporate videos and advertising. She performed original songs for the soundtracks of the movies “Americanizing Shelly” and “The Campaign.” Lebec’s music has appeared in several documentaries -- primate activist Jane Goodall’s “From the Ground to the Cloud,” “The Sum Total of Our Memory: Facing Alzheimers Together,” “Stepping Into The Stream,” “Threads of Remorse” and “Caring for Dying: The Art of Being Present.”
Elise has wide-ranging interests that often inspire her music. “I believe in peace, dreams, Mother Earth, love, evolving spirituality, angels, nurturing energy, alternative healing, and kindness and compassion,” she says. “I love nature, the arts, songwriting, children, rain, wildflowers, the sound of wind in trees, sunsets and sunrises, streams and waterfalls, poetry, and moon rituals. I want to see our environment cleaned up. I want people to think for themselves and do meaningful things. I want everyone to count their blessings.”
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