Liz Story – 17 Seconds…
17 Seconds to Anywhere,
Liz Story’s new ~ Windham Hill album of solo piano compositions, was born in a rehearsal room at Northern Arizona University, not far from the Grand Canyon. Above her grand piano hung grave portraits of Beethoven, Schumann, Schubert, Liszt and other musical titans, staring down at her as she worked through the late night hours. Under their watchful eyes, Liz created her first album of all-original material in over five years…one that would not only please the masters of the past, but one that will also thrill Liz’s many fans around the world.
Because of a recent move to Flagstaff, Arizona, Liz had to scramble to find a suitable setting for composing. Her husband, world-renowned jazz bassist Job DiBartolo, had recently been named head of the Jazz Department at NAU and Liz found the rehearsal room at the University a promising place to work. Given her intense study of harmony over the last few years -evidenced by two recent collections of jazz standards- Liz had figured her new pieces would likely reflect those complexities…
“I thought all the work I’d done in harmony would have a huge impact on what I would write,” she says, “but when I sat down, there I was in F major again! There’s simply a kind of clarity and simplicity that’s part of my musical nature.” Clarity and simplicity aptly describe 17 Seconds to Anywhere, a collection of eleven elegant short works, each in its way a most eloquent utterance.
Typical of Liz, the album title embodies a universe or two of intricate ideas. “It stems from the thinking and reading I do in the realm of physics,” she says. “I like: learning about modern physicists and what their problems are. 17 Seconds to Anywhere is a neurosemantic device, a quantum idea, to assist the expression of the imagination, to dislodge dis-spiritedness. Instead of four years of therapy, how about seventeen seconds to get over it?”
It would take much longer than that to get over the liveliness of this new CD. “Captain April,” with its arpeggiated chords, joyous melody, and bright tonal colors, begins the album, followed by “Rumors of IDiscipline,” a spirited march not unlike one of the Lyric pieces by Grieg. “Beginner’s Mind,” with its finely wrought melodic development, was named for the Zen concept of approaching any task or opportunity as an absolute beginner, so as to see with fresh vision, or the idea that F-major is always new!
The soulful “Voices” is followed by the hymn-like “Out of Tlme” and the mournful, classically-influenced title track; the lushly melodic “Easy Access” contrasts the gently propulsive “The Promise” (the album’s most jazz- influenced piece). The stately “ShorT Fur Coat” is followed by an unabashedly romantic piece, “Foxglove.” 17 Seconds to Anywhere closes with sounds of children playing in the short, gentle “Remember Me This Way.”
Surprisingly, for so gifted a musician, Liz did not originally have a burning desire to compose. She was equally fascinated by language and philosophy. Though she had studied piano throughout her life, she anticipated a career as a music librarian or some other modest goal, but that was before she heard the music of improvisational jazz piano legend Bill Evans. “I knew then I had to learn harmony” she recalls. So she enrolled in the Dick Grove School of Music. To pay the rent, she took a job as a pianist in a little bistro near Paramount Studios. “I arrived the first night with a pile of music,” she recalls, “but because the piano had no front casing, there was no place to put it.” She was forced to put Chopin aside and begin improvising herself.
“That’s how I started writing music,” says Liz. “I always figured if I were to become a composer, I’d be some weird combination of Cecil Taylor and Alban Berg. My true musical voice surprises me to this day.” That “voice” led to a string of top-selling albums which helped establish Liz Story as one of the era’s most inventive adult contemporary instrumental artists and composers.
For a woman of such ferocious intellect, it is a gift to be simple, as her music amply proves. “When I sit at the piano,” she says, “complexity dissolves. I want the music to somehow move me, simple and stripped down as it may be. I wonder at the possibility that a melody of three notes can turn the heart.”
Perhaps seventeen seconds of Liz Story’s new album: provides the answer.