Born in Cologne, Germany. Addresses: Record company--Higher Octave Music, 23852 Pacific Coast Highway, Suite 2C, Malibu, CA 90265, (310) 589-1515. Website--Ottmar Liebert at Sony Classical: http://www.sonyclassical.com/artists/liebert.
As a newcomer on the international music scene during the early 1990s, Ottmar Liebert traveled through much of Eurasia in search of his muse, bringing a fresh new sophistication to the art of flamenco guitar as a result. During this expansive quest for a musical style to reflect his true emotion, Liebert's music rarely fell on deaf ears; his sounds and melodies immediately captured the attention of listeners. From his first self-produced recording to later albums and compilations by major record labels in the United States, Liebert attracted new fans wherever his music was featured. Along with his perennial backup orchestra, Luna Negra, Liebert spent much of the 1990s touring worldwide.
Liebert was born in Cologne, Germany, to a Hungarian mother and Chinese-German father. Except for early guitar lessons beginning at age eleven and some classical guitar training during his adolescence, Liebert's style evolved from his travels and experiences in his late teens. After spending some time in art school investigating his potential for a career in design or photography, he ultimately found inspiration in the indigenous music that he encountered during an extended excursion through Russia and Asia. After returning to Germany where he worked with various blues and funk bands, Liebert moved to the United States where he molded his musical niche in the late 1980s, following a decade of experimentation with pop, funk, jazz, and blues.
In America, Liebert settled initially on the East Coast in Boston, Massachusetts, and again became involved with assorted bands. After moving to Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1985, his style evolved rapidly into a form of New Age fusion based largely in flamenco rhythms. According to critics, Liebert expresses an inherent international flavor in his music. Some have suggested that Liebert unwittingly inherited an exotic attitude and appearance to match his parents' mixed ethnicity. Well in keeping with his newfound mood, Liebert established a contingency of sidemen in 1988. His band, Luna Negra (Black Moon), is comprised of an impressive group of avant-garde musicians, including his brother, percussionist Stefan Liebert. Ottmar Liebert led Luna Negra to embrace the inspirational atmosphere of magic associated with the nighttime, infused a decidedly happy spin on those nocturnal emotions, and defined his own musical persona in the process.
Liebert's debut album, which he recorded and self-produced under the title Marita: Shadows and Storms, an artistic rather than a commercial endeavor, was completed c. 1990. He recorded the album in response to his contingency of fans and colleagues who were eager for a recorded session of his music. Liebert at that time worked largely in local venues, especially in Santa Fe near his home. His album, which was distributed through an art gallery, came to the attention of executives at Higher Octave Music in California. Higher Octave, acutely aware of the commercial potential of the music, signed Liebert to a contract within a year of the initial self-published released. The commercial label reissued the Marita album in quantity. Liebert, along with label executives, was gratified at the result of the remastered album, which was released under the title of Nouveau Flamenco and remained on the Billboard New Age chart for over three years,achieving platinum status. The album was described by Mike Alexander in New Zealand's Dominion as "a gypsy-tinged affair that mixed Spanish, Indian and Anglo cultures." Liebert's debut album resurfaced a third time in 2000 in special edition from Higher Octave entitled Nouveau Flamenco 1990-2000 Special Edition. Additionally, 13 flamenco works composed by Liebert that appeared on that album were published in a musical score (folio) by Creative Concepts Publishing Corporation of California in 1997.
After the original issue and reissue of his debut album, Liebert recorded two follow-up titles, Poets & Angelsand Borrasca, which appeared in 1990 and 1991 respectively on Higher Octave. Soon after the release of the Grammy Award-nominated Borrasca, Liebert signed with Epic Records. His debut album on the new label, Solo Para Ti in 1992, topped 500,000 in worldwide sales by early 1994. It soared to number one on the Billboard New Age chart and made further impact as a crossover hit among the top 100 albums on the pop music chart.
Liebert introduced electric guitar styles into his next album, The Hours Between Night and Day,which he recorded in 1992 and released in 1993. The Hours Between Night and Daywas shipped by the hundreds of thousands of units and topped the Billboard adult alternative/New Age chart for more than three months. Also in the early 1990s, with a bent toward innovation, Liebert gave license for remix of his work to British electronica colleagues Steve Hillage, DJ Slip, and Aki Nawaz in a project that spawned Liebert's 1995 release, Euphoria. Liebert's Viva album--a live recording of a 1994 concert--also appeared in 1995. Additionally, much of Liebert's time from 1990 to 1994 was spent on tour with Luna Negra. By the end of the 1990s, Liebert's travels had taken him to New Zealand, among other venues, on three occasions--in 1994, 1996, and again in 1999. Liebert, in fact, amassed an admiring contingency in New Zealand, and took praise from Irene Chapple in Dominion during his 1999 New Zealand tour when she commented on Liebert's ability to play with a "fluidity that disguised the technical difficulty of what he was playing," calling him a "consummate, modest and laid-back musician."
In 1996, Liebert released a double-CD set called Opium. The two CDs, entitled Wide-Eyed and Dreaming respectively, were recorded at his Spiral Subwave studio in Santa Fe. There followed a video, Wide-Eyed and Dreaming, recorded live in Calgary, Canada. According to the multi-ethnic Liebert, Opium was inspired by a postcard from his paternal grandfather, who had worked on the Manchurian railway. The release of Opium spawned a 1996 tour featuring bassist Jon Gagan, drummer Carl Coletti, and New Age percussionist Ron Wagner on Indian tabla drums and the Arabian dumbek. This exotic album also features Liebert on fretless lute, electric guitar, and his prized flamenco instruments, which include a cedar-topped guitar, fashioned at the back and on the sides from Brazilian rosewood and an Eric Sahlin Flamenco Bianca instrument with cypress back and sides.
Liebert recorded his 1997 album Leaning into the Night with an orchestra in a separate sound studio. He maintained contact through a closed-microphone connection, thus achieving an extraordinary purity of sound. On this album, Liebert turned to arrangements by Oscar Castro-Neves to create a top-selling collection featuring works by Ravel, Puccini, and Satie, along with selected tracks of his own. Despite the sultry sophistication conjured by Liebert's typically serene and nocturnal imagery, he in fact lacked the intensive tutorial training that is deemed a prerequisite for the true Flamenco classicist. Although critics have downplayed Liebert's classical guitar skills, Leaning into the Night resulted in a classical crossover hit. The album, released on Sony Classical, lasted eight weeks at the top of the classical crossover chart, thus fueling critical theories that Liebert's music, regardless of genre, attracts fans spontaneously. It is this quality that prompted the comment from an agent of a major retail record outlet, who noted, "[I]t is Liebert's irresistible music--not the marketing weight behind it--that has seduced hundreds of thousands of fans," as quoted by Billboard's Paul Verna. Perhaps to prove that point, Liebert released the unique Rumba Collection in 1998.
In the late 1990s, Liebert found a wealth of inspiration while on a family excursion in the scenic environs of Italy's Tuscan countryside. There he experienced the emotion for Innamorare, which he recorded with Luna Negra and released through Epic (U.S.) in 1999. The album, his eleventh major release, was his first compilation to make significant use of brass instrumentation. Innamorare featured what some came to regard as Liebert's signature song, "Summer Flamenco." Even before the album's appearance in the United States, Liebert's "2 the Night" became a favorite in Italy when it was incorporated into the film Il Ciclone. The composition later topped music charts in Italy when recorded by Italian group La Fuertezza.
After an extended residency of more than a decade in the United States, Liebert continued to retain his German citizenship as of 2001. He professed to discount national boundaries with the philosophical purity of an artist, deeming citizenship to be a broader, planetary concept. Early in the summer of 2000, Liebert appeared among the headline acts at the Calgary Jazz Festival. A barefooted, reverie-like performance at Edmonton's Jubilee Auditorium during the festival prompted Edmonton Sun writer Fish Griwkowsky to comment that "Liebert plays with intensity and humour. Each of his songs, like Santa Fe, bringing visions of distant roads and travels. His music is ambient, escapist...."
Managed by Luna Negra Music, Liebert has performed as an accompanist to many of his popular musical colleagues including Diana Ross, Celine Dion, Kenny Loggins, and members of the hip-hop generation, among others. Liebert has published with both Sony/ATV Songs LLC and Luna Negra Music Incorporated. When he is not touring, Liebert typically works at his personal recording studio at his home in Santa Fe.
by Gloria Cooksey
Ottmar Liebert's Career
Worked with East Coast bands, late 1970s-early 1980s; established recording studio Spiral Subwave in Santa Fe, NM, and self-published during the late 1980s; formed Luna Negra band, 1988; signed with Higher Octave Music and played local New Mexico venues, c. 1990; signed with Epic Records, early 1990s; toured extensively, 1990-94.
Ottmar Liebert's Awards
New Age Artist of the Year, Billboardmagazine, 1991-92.
- Selected discography
- Marita: Shadows and Storms , self-produced; reissued as Nouveaux Flamenco , Higher Octave, 1990; reissued in special edition, 2000.
- Poets & Angels: Music 4 the Holidays , Higher Octave, 1991.
- Borrasca , Higher Octave, 1991.
- Solo Para Ti , Epic, 1992.
- The Hours Between Night and Day , Epic, 1993.
- Viva! Epic, 1995.
- Euphoria (EP), Epic, 1995.
- Opium , Epic, 1996.
- Leaning into the Night (Inclinado en la Noche) , Epic, 1997.
- Rumba Collection 1992-1997 , Epic, 1998.
- Innamorare: Summer Flamenco , Epic, 1999.
- Christmas and Santa Fe , Epic, 2000.
- Barcelona Nights: The Best of Ottmar Liebert , Higher Octave, 2001.
- Billboard, January 29, 1994, p. 1; April 17, 1999, p. 10.
- Dominion (Wellington, New Zealand), April 8, 1995, p. 22; April 10, 1999, p. 24; April 19, 1999, p. 8.
- Edmonton Sun, July 2, 2000, p. 41.
- Evening Post (Wellington, New Zealand), April 17, 1999, p. 19.
- Guitar Player, September 1995, p. 119; May 1998, p. 50.
- Press (Canterbury, New Zealand), April 16, 1999, p. 23.
- Sunday Star Times (New Zealand), January 21, 1996, p. 8.
- "iMusic Contemporary Showcase-Ottmar Liebert," Artist Direct Network, http://imusic.artistdirect.com/showcase/contemporary/ottmarliebert.html (April 2, 2001).
- "Ottmar Liebert," All Music Guide, http://allmusic.com (April 2, 2001).
- "Ottmar Liebert," Sessions at West 54th, http://sessionsatwest54th.com/artists/liebert03/index.html (April 2, 2001).