PIANO SUPERSTAR DAVID LANZ bridges the gap between contemporary instrumental music and popular hit songs. His multi-million selling albums have won him recognition world-wide as a musical trend-setter whose talents encompass both recordings and the concert stage.
Lanz (pronounced LAHNZ) has successfully established himself as a critically-acclaimed concert artist, one of the few contemporary instrumental recording stars to also win roaring approval for his live stage performances.
Lanz, who uses concerts as an opportunity to "create vivid musical pictures" transports his audiences on a breathtaking nature walk through his native Northwest in Behind the Waterfall or back in time with Cristofori's Dream, heralding the Italian harpsichord builder who conceived the modern piano. By combining brilliant pop stylings with a unique sense of showmanship, Lanz creates an unforgettable evening of solo piano artistry.
To understand how David Lanz evolved into one of America's best-loved contemporary recording artists, one needs only to take a few steps back to the early years.
TAKING THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED is how Seattle-born pianist David Lanz found his way from traditional jazz and rock'n'roll to an unexpected carer twist over a decade ago. As one of the most successful creators of contemporary instrumental music, he transcended "new age" labels to establish himself as the best-selling creator of CRISTOFORI'S DREAM (which was the No. 1 chart hit on Billboard's adult alternative/new age chart for 27 consecutive weeks).
Lanz started his performing career in the 1970s playing keyboards with local bands or as a solo act, deftly playing blues and jazz songs in small smoky clubs, until he "stumbled" onto a different path in the early 1980s.
"A friend of mine was leading a seminar on chakras and body work and wanted music to illustrate the flow of energy through the chakras," Lanz says. "I made a little tape of music for the seminar and everone who heard it wanted a copy."
"There was no musical style quite like it in those days," Lanz says. "And it certainly wasn't called New Age. I used some of the music from the seminar on my first solo album for Narada, HEARTSOUNDS."
For David Lanz, it was the first step in a direction that has led to fourteen albums in just over fifteen years. FOLLOWING A DISTINCTLY UNIQUE PATH came naturally to David Lanz, the son of two iconoclastic parents who also chose unique careers. David's father, Howard Lanz, started out running a beauty salon, "but taught himself to be a chemist," David says, "and would experiment at night in our garage inventing his own line of shampoos, conditioners and beauty products."
And candy, too. Vogue magazine calls the gourmet licorice David's father invented and sells from his own little Chateau d'Lanz company "the best licorice in the world." "My father is also very charming and funny," says David, "a natural comedian."
David's mother, Helen, a secretary by profession, was very active in Seattly choral groups and played piano. "She was my first musical influence," Lanz says. "She played Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles and Nat King Cole, which I though was great."
Helen Lanz also loved the infectious jazzy boogie-woogie style which David was skillfully playing by age ten, composing his own boogie-woogie tune the same year.
By the time Lanz, who was born in 1950, was 13 years old, his musical tastes changed from jazz and pop to the distinctive sounds that followed America's sudden invasion by The Beatles. "I went nuts!" David says, "I loved their energy and their sound."
Lanz was soon asked to join a high school rock "combo," playing bass clarinet; he returned to the piano a few months later when he put his own band together, "The Town Cryers" (Helen Lanz named her son's trio), which played community dances for the wildly large fee of 50 dollars (I know musicians," David says, "who are still making that now!")
IN THE EARLY YEARS OF LANZ'S CAREER, the talented young musician honed his skills working on an eclectic array of gigs and projects, including playing keyboards on Tarry Jack's 1974 hit Seasons in the Sun, and a long and fruitful collaboration with guitarist Paul Speer.
As a nightclub artist, Lanz even sang the pop tunes he was writing. "I used to sing a lot in those days," Lanz says. "It was part of my thing. I used to write a lot of pop songs." And although Lanz included a pair of vocal tracks on his 1993 BRIDGE OF DREAMS album ("Only because the vocals came out of the story of that record," he says), David isn't interested in pursuing a singing career.
"Just let me play the piano," he says.
PLAYING THE PIANO, Lanz says, is his greatest form of self-expression, especially at his concert performances where he effortlessly blends his emotionally affecting music ("a gift to the soul" wrote a recent reviewer) with audience involvement and his own charming comic take on what it's like to be a SNAG.
A SNAG? "My acronym for a Sensitive New Age Guy," Lanz says, grinning. "It was a comfortable and funny way of breaking through misconceptions of the 'New Age' label in a way similar to Victor Borge's unique talent for making classical music more accessible by including his own witty personality as part of his concerts."
"When I was a kid," Lanz adds, "I thought Victor Borge was cool. Years later, I noticed that, with a few exceptions, most solo pianists didn't seem to be reaching out to the audience."
"The chance to play the music is great," says Lanz, whose solo concerts have won critical raves. "But concerts are also opportunities to expose the audience to more of myself than just the songs."
Because many of Lanz's compositions are autobiograhical, the stories that inspired them strike chords with concertgoers, especially Return to the Heart, from Lanz's 1991 album of the same name.
Return to the Heart, which Lanz calls "my most personal song," was written after his wife Alicia was unexpectedly contacted by a young woman named Pamela, the daughter she had given up for adoption 21 years earlier.
"Alicia was thrilled," Lanz says. "She had been trying to find Pamela for years. Pamela flew to Seattle to meet Alicia and they had a reunion which was very touching. While they were getting to know each other, I started to write music based on what was going on. At my concerts, during this song, I can see people taking tissues out. It's one of the more emotional moments."
Lanz donated a portion of his RETURN TO THE HEART revenues to the National Coalition for the Homeless in Washington, D.C. All royalties from Lanz's song Dream of the Forgotten Children are also donated to the Coalition.
David and Alicia share a home in Seattle with their teenage son Michael, "who is more interested in baseball these days than music."
But he has well-balanced musical tasted," Lanz says. "He likes everthing from Soundgarden to Green Day to classical and jazz. And my albums, of course. He's a big fan."
1997 WAS A BUSY YEAR FOR DAVID, even though he did not tour. After numerous requests over the years, David created an instructional piano video, Through The Hands Of David Lanz. In this video, David reveals his versatile style through discussions, demonstrations and performances of his beloved melodies. The video includes complete performances of some of David's most popular songs.
David became a spokesperson for the National Association for Music Therapy (recently renamed the American Music Therapy Association), a professional association which represents 5,000 trained music therapists who provide treatment to approximately one million people through the application of music. David joins a list of artists who have become involved in promoting music therapy, including Craig Chaquico, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Stanley Jordan, Pat Martino, and Russ Freeman.
"I am honored to have been named a spokesperson for NAMT and welcome the opportunity to shed light on the outstanding work of America's dedicated music therapists. Over the last two decades from my perspective as a performer, composer and recording artist, the beneficial effects of music have fascinated me," says David of his partnership with the NAMT.
David recently completed the recording of his upcoming release, Songs From An English Garden. Produced by Ed Thacker, who has worked with 10,000 Maniacs, the Sugarcubes and Phish, Songs From An English Garden features acclaimed guest musicians like Herb Alpert, Roy Bittan (E Street Band), Matt Chamberlain, Matthew Fisher (of Procol Harum), Dave Koz, Tony Levin (Peter Gabriel), and members of the Seattle Symphony.
David says about Songs From An English Garden, "Music is one of the greatest tools we have for the rediscovery of our past. In the creation of this recording, I have given myself the gift of retracing the youthful roots of my musical past and passion."
"The mid to late 1960s was a very exciting and revolutionary time in the history of pop music. It was heralded as 'The British Invasion', and its impact on me and countless other music lovers and music makers alike, was immeasurable."
"My wish for this recording is that in the time I've spent looking back, I will have honored those who came before by creating a musical thread that offers to connect yesterday with today."