Classical collaboration

Jazz pianist still loves a Bach fugue

Alicia Pyle, photography by Ellie Bogue

Alicia Pyle, photography by Ellie Bogue

When Alicia Pyle began playing piano at age 8, classical music was her focus, and that continued to be the case until she was 20 and studying music at IPFW. Other musical styles, particularly jazz, began influencing her composing approach. Her performances since have seen her fuse many passions into her own unique sound.

That transition is somewhat ironic, and highly appropriate, when she mentions that it was her mother, a Liberace fan, who first suggested she take piano. Liberace himself made a seismic shift from classical to a more accessible style, which made him a fixture on stages around the world and televisions around the country. Pyle’s approach is decidedly less flashy but every bit as engaging. Her collaborations, including with her own quartet, have provided new avenues for musical exploration.

“I’m in a really great place, especially in the last year,” Pyle said. “I teach at home and now teach at Sweetwater Sound in addition to performing. We have a lot of shows already booked for 2015.”

Music was not originally her intended vocation, but Pyle has found such success that she has happily settled into her career.

“I was going to be a doctor. I started college early and was focusing on the sciences, but after three or four years of college, I started making money with my music. A lot of things were going well, and I was teaching a lot. Music was never the plan – it just happened. But I think it’s the right direction for me.”

Her introduction to jazz came through one of her musical mentors, Eric Clancy, who composed jazz and encouraged her to do the same.

“He was showing me how to use my classical tools in the jazz world and started throwing me out on gigs playing jazz.”

Through those experiences and her work with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, Pyle met the three men who now join her on stage as the Alicia Pyle Quartet –Derek Reeves, Brad Kuhns and Jose Morales. Their collaboration has inspired some remarkable fusion between classical and jazz, providing her new avenues for composition. She is also working with a friend and mentor in California to expand her work into film scoring.

More immediately, Pyle is anxious to share her quartet through a new CD, one which will be heralded at a Jan. 10 release party at Wooden Nickel on North Anthony and at the Phoenix Jan. 15. The group will also be among the lineup for the Embassy’s signature event, “Down the Line,” in February. That appearance and the new album should help introduce Pyle’s unique style to audiences in and beyond Fort Wayne, a perfect opportunity for her to share the music that she loves.

“I got a degree in classical piano performance, and that love of classical music doesn’t go away. I still love a Bach fugue more than anything. But I love to make the music more approachable, to share those classical traditions in a new way and in collaboration with the guys. I love people’s reaction to the music.”

First appeared in the January 2015 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine.

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