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Jeanne Newhall is rooted in change. As a vocalist, a composer of words and music, and a classically trained pianist, Newhall has always had a passion for new experiences and the fresh directions they can bring. Her explorations have led her to the realms of jazz and R&B—and even hip hop—and rock and pop , expanding her musical universe and revealing themselves in her warm, rich vocals, lyrical vocabulary and the immaculately nuanced notes of her piano. Common through the warp and weft of all her changes and adventures and endeavors is an enduring sense of spirit and the spiritual. “I have often been told that music brings peace, happiness and goodness,” says Newhall, who has practiced Ashtanga Royal Yoga daily for more than 10 years. “My charge is to always keep that in mind; it is. I go to it when I go to the instrument. It is there, waiting. It did not come from practicing hard or being a child prodigy. It came later and it came with long struggle and slow surrender. The only way I can gracefully take a bow to this sublime influence in my life is to sing and play to it and for it.” Jeanne Newhall’s life has always been filled with words and music. Raised on a farm in Arizona, she grew up in the starkly beautiful shadows of the Sierra Estrella Mountains west of Phoenix. When her music-loving parents bought the six-year old Jeanne a piano, she could barely reach the keys. She made her professional debut at 14, and before she was 16, had graduated high school, mastered six Mozart concertos and moved to New York City to study piano with Nadia Reisenberg. Subsequently, she turned down offers from the Juilliard, Eastman and Curtis Institutes, opting to study piano with the acclaimed Abbey Simon at Indiana University, ultimately earning a degree in performance from Arizona State University. In college, friends introduced her to jazz and the connection was immediate. “A whole new world of possibilities not limited by the boundaries of classical music suddenly opened up for me—melodies, voicings, improvisation,” she recalls. “I almost left school then and there.” She didn’t leave school, but she did alter her course. She listened to all the jazz she could find and she listened to R&B, which she had loved since grade school. With college behind her and now living in Phoenix, the classically trained pianist was determined to make a career creating her own musical universe. The possibility of adding her own voice to her repertoire of instruments intrigued her, so she found a voice teacher. “It took me seven lessons before I could open my mouth in the company of friends,” she remembers. Today her voice and music have friends all over the world. And, by own her telling, Jeanne Newhall is still shy. Blossom of Transformation, her new CD released on August 16, 2011, is comprised of 11 original and traditional call-and-response Bhakti yoga chants. “Yoga,” says Newhall, “is a metaphor for living. It is transformative. I experienced that on the first day of my Ashtanga practice. This album is a gift of gratitude for the practice.” Spacious Peaceful Quiet, a compilation of eight tracks from seven previous albums, was released in CD format in August 2, 2011. Glide Deluxe Edition, released in 2010, a collection of 12 original songs plus her version of The Wallflowers’ “6th Avenue Heartache” (featured on the ABC-TV series “Happy Town”), was album number 15 in a catalogue that reflects brilliantly the kaleidoscope of her life and music. The five CDs that comprise “The Piano Street Series” include discs celebrating the rich musical heritage of France (Paris Nights), American ragtime (Cakewalk) and the works of Dvorak, Saint-Saens and Chopin (Esther A Classical PianoTribute). Bedouin’s Paradise featured “Race Thru The Clouds,” a collaboration with guitarist Peter White that received considerable airplay in England and led to Newhall appearing with the smooth-jazz legend at venues including the Pizza Express in London’s Soho. Other standouts on the list include Beautiful, For No One to See (Christmas and Wintersongs) and E’Sensual. In 2006, the Seattle-based independent Blix Street Records released Wild Blue, a well-received album showcasing Newhall’s talents on original material as well as on songs ranging from Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” and Marcus Hummon’s “Wild Blue” to the Marvell & Strachey jazz standard “These Foolish Things.” Newhall is now based in Los Angeles, and her club, concert and festival schedule ensure her standing as a frequent flyer. Her recordings have earned airplay on hundreds of radio stations throughout Europe, Canada and across the U.S. She’s been a Steinway & Sons Piano Artist since 1998. A few years ago, Hal Leonard published Jeanne Newhall Piano Folio Songbook, a 70-page book featuring her original songs, and she is currently working on Young Hands, Young Hearts, a book for early piano students. Another recent new direction was publication of Poemes Vol. I, a collaboration with friend and photographer Don Giannatti. And, as always, she is hard and happily at work on a new album. An artist ever in transition, Jeanne Newhall makes words and music that possess the magic to affect, enrich and transform.
Backgrounder by Marsha Sculatti