Jeremy Siskind - latest album Jan, 2015
Jeremy Siskind, the chair of the Piano Department at Western Michigan University, is the winner of the 2012 Nottingham International Jazz Piano Competition and the second place winner of the 2011 Montreux Solo Piano Competition. As a pianist, he’s performed both jazz and classical music at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, in Japan, Switzerland, Thailand, England, India, France, and China. His 2012 CD, Finger-Songwriter, was placed in emusic.com’s Top 100 CDs of 2012 (in any genre) and hailed as “the most exciting musical project I’ve heard in a long time” by the weblog Jazz Police. His upcoming CD, Housewarming, features Grammy-winning vocalists Kurt Elling and Peter Eldridge.
As a pedagogue, Siskind has six publications with Hal Leonard, including a new instructional book, The Jazz Band Pianist. He’s a frequent contributor to Clavier Companion magazine and has presented workshops at the Music Teacher’s National Association conventions in New York, Anaheim, and Chicago.
Siskind was recently named the Artistic Director at the brand-new American Jazz Pianist Competition in Melbourne, Florida. A proud Yamaha Artist since 2013, he holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music (Jazz Performance and Music Theory) and Columbia University (English and Comparative Literature).
Featuring: Jeremy Siskind (piano), Nancy Harms (voice), Lucas Pino (tenor sax, clarinet, bass clarinet), with special guests Kurt Elling (tracks 2 & 11), Peter Eldridge (tracks 6 & 8), and Kendra Shank (track 7)
The Housewarming Project is a jazz trio that moves with the grace of a chamber ensemble and sings with the soul of the singer-songwriter movement. The trio is led by award-winning pianist Jeremy Siskind, who - armed with a Master's in English Literature from Columbia University - began writing music and lyrics inspired by poets like Jorge Luis Borges, Seamus Heaney, and Derek Walcott. The first collection of songs, which deal with love and loss, horror and heartbreak, are movingly delivered by vocalist Nancy Harms and colored by woodwind master Lucas Pino on the 2012 Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records release, Finger-Songwriter.
Finger-Songwriter was hailed in ecstatic terms as “one of the most remarkable recordings I’ve heard in a very long time” (MinnPost), “One of the best albums I’ve heard all year” (emusic.com), “the most exciting musical project I’ve heard in a long time” (Jazz Police), and “winsome . . . literate and spry” (The New York Times). Emusic.com placed it in its top 100 albums of the year (of any genre), and independent blog www.birdistheworm.com named the CD the fifth best jazz disc of 2012.
With Siskind in the lead, the band started touring in 2012, primarily performing in-home concerts. From the summer of 2012 to 2014, the band played nearly 70 in-home concerts in 18 states, making new friends and converting unsuspecting audiences into new jazz fans. The music is ideal for in-home concertizing - as Harms ushers listeners into our world with her innate story-telling abilities, Pino colors the music with whispering tenor work, mournful clarinet, and murmuring bass clarinet, and Siskind sonically rounds out the music with sparkling, Debussian harmony.
By 2013, Siskind’s songs caught the attention of some of the world's great jazz vocalists, such as Kendra Shank, Peter Eldridge, and Kurt Elling, who all joined the trio in the studio to record Housewarming, an album that features nine new Siskind compositions, as well as four covers, "Whispering Grass" by the Inkspots, the standards "Moonlight in Vermont" and "I Could Have Danced All Night", and a tune by singer-songwriter Adem called "Everything You Need". Themes of domesticity reverberate throughout the album, which reflects on what it means to have a place where you belong. Lastly, Housewarming serves as homage to Norma Winstone's album Somewhere Called Home, as Winstone's group is a major influence and kind of the "parent group" for Siskind and his trio.
Featuring: Jeremy Siskind (piano, compositions), Nancy Harms (vocals) and Lucas Pino (saxophones)
Finger Songwriter is designed to tell a story of dealing with loss. The opening line sung, “I’d like to learn how to lose,” serves as an indication of the emotional gamut, and variety of human conditions, that Siskind explores through words and music; from nostalgia, to denial, to madness, and eventually to resolve, optimism and hope.
Siskind chose a small ensemble to most effectively interpret this intimate, yet powerful music, featuring vocalistNancy Harms; "By a complete coincidence, I played on Nancy’s first gig in NYC when she moved here from Minnesota. She gave me an album that I listened to in my car and it stayed there for weeks and weeks and became one of my favorites. I wanted her on this project because she has an intense, focused, and captivating way of delivering a lyric. Plus, her voice has a beautiful, dark tone that’s perfect for the music", said Siskind; and saxophonistLucas Pino; "I knew I wanted Lucas on this project the second I heard his sound – a warm, deep, and heartfelt tone reminiscent of Stan Getz. I like to say that he has the sound of Getz and a phrasing similar to that of Joe Lovano. Plus, he was wonderfully willing to work on some doublings that aren’t his usual fare."
The concept behind this group came mostly from Siskind's love of Norma Winstone’s recordings, specifically, Like Song, Like Weather and Somewhere Called Home (with piano great John Taylor), her work with Azimuth, Songs and Lullabies, with Fred Hersch, and two recent albums – Distances and Stories Yet to Tell (with Europeans Glauco Venier and Klaus Gesing). Siskind was specifically inspired by, "the warmth of the sound, the intimacy of the setting, and the emotional power of a lyric delivered against a subtly morphing acoustic backdrop".
Another powerful inspiration for the project came from the Siskind's love of words and wanting to create with them. Armed with a Masters degree from Columbia University in English and Comparative Literature, and having written a thesis on the nexus of music and words in song settings, the majority of the lyrics on Finger Songwriter come from a specific literary text, which was then paraphrased, rephrased, reworked, spliced, and Frankensteined to become a new lyric.
The album’s genesis also stems from Siskind's love of, and identification with, the singer-songwriter genre and the desire to make something that was as personal, intimate, and confessional as Joni Mitchell’s Blue or Nick Drake’s Five Leaves Left. Siskind also has great admiration for Tom Waits, Iron & Wine, Fionn Regan, Damien Rice, Paul Simon, Ray LaMontagne, Sufjan Stevens, Will Stratton, Laura Marling, and Leonard Cohen, to name a few. Siskind explains the title, "I wanted to call the record 'FingerSongwriter' because I like the way that performer and composer/confessor are conflated into a single being, permitting emotional openness, in ways than don’t always permeate jazz. Although, sadly, I can’t be the singer and the songwriter, I’m still a composer-performer and I’ve shaped the whole process of each song’s interpretation."
Simple Songs (For When The World Seems Strange)
Featuring: Jeremy Siskind (piano, compositions), Jo Lawry (voice), Chris Lightcap (bass), Ted Poor (drums)
Pianist, composer, and educator Jeremy Siskind – originally from Irvine, CA, now living in NYC – is “a remarkable pianist” and “a rising star on the jazz scene,” according to legendary pianist Marian McPartland. After many years of studying (Siskind has earned his Bachelor’s Degree from Eastman and his Master’s in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia; he studies piano with Sophia Rosoff and Fred Hersch), performing around the world (since his early teens, originally as part of Yamaha’s Junior Original Concert Program, now as a leader and in-demand sideman), winning numerous awards and scholarships, and performing/recording with the likes of Chris Potter and Marcus Printup, Jeremy Siskind is primed for the release of his debut CD as a leader, Simple Songs (for When the World Seems Strange), available on Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records on September 28, 2010.
Siskind filled Simple Songs with music that he would want to listen to, rather than music that would simply show off his talents. The compositions are written melodically and clearly, in contrast to the contemporary trend towards more complex music (in terms of harmony and metrical machinations), and reflect Siskind’s affinity for folk, pop, and contrapuntal, pianistic, and Impressionistic music. However, the music is anything but oversimplified or dumbed-down; it is, in fact, laced with four-voice counterpart, modulations, Debussian harmonies, free improvisation, and more. He explains, “The marriage of powerfully melodic compositions with largely unrestrained improvising joins the two principle elements – (the seemingly opposite) accessibility for the audience and liberation for the performers – that I value most in my music.”
Siskind utilizes this junction of constraint and liberation with the specific intention to inspire and accompany moments in life when the normal world suddenly seems surreal. Simple Songs, writes Siskind, is intended for the times “when it’s suddenly marvelous that a body of people exists that can (and will!) deliver your letter or parcel to a precise location anywhere across the country or the world; or for when the lemonlight of morning seeps through your bedroom window so discretely that the coming day seems to genuflect in silent prayer; or for that instant when your mind momentarily flickers with the realization that every passerby must have a unique consciousness and private history and sea of memories whose depth rivals your own. The music is meant to be at once mysterious and revelatory, a chiaroscuro soundtrack for these frozen moments.”
On Simple Songs, Siskind shows himself to be the consummate modern day pianist, possessing fluidity and swiftness, melodic, harmonic and rhythmic sophistication, and a ruminative approach and touch. In light of his many gifts, the factor that truly gives his music its deep, resonating quality is Siskind’s great self-awareness coupled with his willingness – and finely-tuned ability – to share this consciousness with us through his art.