Born on October 28, 1956, in San Diego, CA; married Mark Duke (divorced); married Joel DiBartolo (a jazz bassist). Education: Studied music at Hunter College and at Juilliard, New York, NY; later studied music with Stanford Gold; and at the Dick Grove Music Workshops, Los Angeles, CA. Addresses: Agent--Jeff Laramie, SRO Artists Inc., P.O. Box 9532, Madison, WI 53715. Management--Alan Oken, Klugman & Oken, 11500 W. Olympic Blvd., Ste. 400, West Los Angeles, CA 90064.
Although she was an accomplished pianist and had studied at Juilliard, Liz Story lost interest in a music career until she saw Bill Evans play one night at the Bottom Line in New York. That concert opened up performance possibilities that she had never considered. "What hit me was the improvisation. I had the impression that improvising music had died in the 18th century, that it was a musical feat people knew about in some other time," she told Down Beat. "All these lights went on. I had, for the first time, a clear idea of what I would do in music." She met Evans after the show and, at his suggestion, she began to study with Stanford Gold.
Story was born on October 28, 1956, in San Diego, California. She studied music at Hunter College and Julliard in New York City. The timing of Story's entrance onto the music scene was fortuitous. She arrived when a new form of music, popularly dubbed New Age, was gaining wide acceptance. William Ackerman helped pioneer New Age music through his Windham Hill label, which he formed in 1976 to release his first album of guitar music. He began signing new artist and in less than ten years the label was grossing more than $20 million per year. A good introduction to the label is the album An Evening With Windham Hill, which features several artists including Story, who plays on the cut "Spare Change."
Story recorded her first solo album, Solid Colors, for Windham Hill in 1983. High Fidelity reviewed the album: "At this early stage in her career she is balancing between her limitations and her special skills. The pluses are self-evident--a virtually flawless technical capacity, a fine gift for melody, a great sense of creative passion ... we are presented with a performer-composer with the melodic power to move an audience."
But Down Beat said her career was hurt when Billboard listed her Windham Hill LPs in their jazz charts and "critics, expecting her to tackle Ellington and Monk, panned her performances." Although Story's music may sound like jazz to some, her style departs from the standard organization of modern jazz. High Fidelity saw this: "Unlike such commercially prominent piano soloists as Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett, she makes little or no use of the traditional jazz resources of gospel and blues music." Instead, her music is a unique, personal, improvisational style which incorporates modern jazz, classical, and pop music elements.
A review in People discussing "Forgiveness," from her album Speechless, gives a visual description of her playing style: "At first the piece carries a solid, brown-hued dignity that would make it an excellent sound track for a painting by one of the Flemish masters. While making only minor changes in the musical theme, Story gradually lightens the tone by degrees until, by the end, she is playing in almost a watercolor effect. Every listener could paint a different word picture of each of the seven pieces contained here, since Story's music is likely to evoke different mental images and feelings in different people."
Story released two albums of standards in the 1990s, My Foolish Heart and the self-titled Liz Story. Her husband, world-renowned bassist Joel DiBartolo, played on both albums. Her first album of all-original material in nearly a decade, 17 Seconds to Anywhere, was released in 1998. Recorded in a rehearsal room at Northern Arizona University (where her husband is on staff) under the watchful eyes of portraits of Beethoven, Schumann, and Schubert, the resulting album was a critical success.
A reviewer for the Artist Direct website praised the album's "clarity and simplicity" calling out "Captain April," "Rumors of Discipline," and "Beginner's Mind" for special praise. The album on a whole, though, was also praised as "a collection of eleven elegant short works, each in its way a most eloquent utterance."
Story claims that she desires simplicity in her compositions. "When I sit at the piano, complexity dissolves. I want 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."
by Tim LaBorie
Liz Story's Career
Began playing piano at age 11; gave improvisational performances for the lunch crowd at a restaurant while attending the Dick Groves Music Workshops; signed with Windham Hill Records, 1982; released first album, Solid Colors, 1982; released greatest hits collection Welcome Home, 2001.
- Selected discography
- (With others) An Evening With Windham Hill (on "Spare Change"), Windham Hill, 1983.
- Solid Colors Windham Hill, 1983.
- Unaccountable Effect Windham Hill, 1985.
- Part of Fortune Novus, 1986.
- Speechless Novus, 1988.
- Escape of the Circus Ponies Windham Hill, 1991.
- My Foolish Heart Windham Hill, 1992.
- Gift Windham Hill, 1994.
- Liz Story Windham Hill, 1996.
- 17 Seconds to Anywhere Windham Hill, 1998.
- Welcome Home: The Very Best of Liz Story Windham Hill, 2001.
- Audio, December, 1985.
- Billboard, October 5, 1996.
- Down Beat, September, 1985; October, 1988.
- Entertainment Weekly, December 6, 1996.
- High Fidelity, July, 1983; January, 1984.
- Ms., May, 1986.
- People, October 10, 1988.
- "Liz Story," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (December 12, 2003).
- "Liz Story," Artist Direct, http://imusic.artistdirect.com/showcase/contemporary/lizstory.html (December 12, 2003).
- "Liz Story," Windham Hill Records, http://www.windham.com/artists/artist.jsp?id=109809 (December 12, 2003).