Liz Story has established herself as one of the most distinctive composers and solo pianists of new instrumental music that emerged in the 1980s.
A native of California, Liz began her classical musical training as a child. When her family moved to Germany during her teens, she added languages, philosophy, and poetry to her classical music studies.
Upon her return to the United States, Liz moved to New York City, where she intended to continue her formal classical piano studies at Hunter College. But an outing with friends one night to the infamous music club The Bottom Line would forever change the trajectory of Liz's musical studies and of her career. The headliner that night was the legendary jazz pianist Bill Evans, with whom Liz was unfamiliar at the time. Struck by Evans' musical improvisation, Liz recalls, "It was suddenly clear how I was to study music." After the show she approached Evans and asked if he taught jazz. He did not, he told her, but recommended Sanford Gold, one of the premier jazz piano teachers of his time, who shortly thereafter took Liz on as a student. Later moving back to Southern California, Liz studied at the Dick Grove Music Workshops in Studio City.
During her studies in Southern California, Liz decided that she might be able to improve her sight-reading skills by finding a job playing piano in a restaurant. "I stopped at all these different restaurants, but most of them wanted me to be able to do requests, which I couldn't do." Finally, Adagio restaurant in Los Angeles hired Liz. "The first night I brought a stack of sheet music with me to play. But when I arrived at the restaurant, the old upright piano they had was missing its entire front casing. You could see the piano strings and hammers, and there was nowhere to put the sheet music. The manager of the restaurant came up and said, 'Start playing.' I was actually too panic-stricken to say I couldn't do it. So I sat down and started to pretend to play the piano."
After work, Liz would return home and develop the ideas she had improvised earlier at the restaurant. These ideas later developed into compositions, which found their way onto tape and into the hands of Will Ackerman, the founder of the record label Windham Hill. After hearing Liz's work he signed her to record what would become her debut album, Solid Colors, released in 1983. Between 1983 and 2005, Liz released ten full-length albums: seven albums of primarily original solo piano compositions (Solid Colors, Unaccountable Effect, Part of Fortune, Speechless, Escape of the Circus Ponies, 17 Seconds to Anywhere, and Night Sky Essays); two albums of jazz standards (My Foolish Heart and Liz
Story with Joel DiBartolo); and a beloved holiday album, The Gift. Liz also wrote or arranged many songs that were released in Windham Hill collections over the years. She received a GRAMMY nomination in 1988 for her song "Reconciliation."
In 2011, Liz moved in with her parents in their Los Angeles home to be their full-time caregiver. She put a keyboard in their bedroom so that she could play for them bedside, and she was with them both when they passed away in 2016 and 2017. She described this time with them as the most rewarding of her life. During this period, she performed single concerts occasionally around the U.S. as a solo artist and in ensembles with other Windham Hill musicians.
In 2019, Liz suffered a brain hemorrhage while on stage for a performance in Phoenix. With the help of a fundraising campaign and the love and support of devoted friends and fans, Liz went through a lengthy rehabilitation (see the YouTube video she recorded in 2022 to thank her supporters). On August 9th, 2022, Liz gave a 90-minute concert at the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center in Prescott, Arizona, where her music was enthusiastically received by an audience of friends and fans (highlights from that concert can be seen here). Liz marked her official return to touring with a powerful performance at The Old Church in Portland, Oregon in May of 2023.
The year 2023 marks the fortieth anniversary of the release of Liz’s first album, and represents a remarkable year in her career. In January, Liz’s entire sheet music catalog was made available digitally to pianists worldwide, eighty-six titles in all. In August, Sony Music honored Liz with the release of The Essential Liz Story, a thirty-song collection curated by the artist to represent her most important original compositions, and in October Sony will release Liz Story Songs of Christmas, which presents all of her holiday music in a single collection. On November 11th, Liz will give a 40th Anniversary Concert at Carnegie Weill Hall in New York City.
Liz currently resides in her adopted home state of Arizona, where she has lived off and on for the past two decades.