Do you call it Jazz, Art-rock, Fusion, Cabaret....Opera?
American singer, keyboardist and composer Emily Bezar has been inventing and recording her uncategorizable music for over 25 years. Her intricate songs are rich with jazz harmony and classical vocal precision but they flirt with pop structures and burn with the intensity of rock. They are honest and true, full of passion, elegance, conflict and order. She has sung Mozart and Debussy, Kurt Weill and Joni Mitchell, Gershwin and Sondheim, but she’s most at home in the sound world she creates around her own voice....some alchemic and magical combination of these influences.
Raised in southern California, Emily played classical piano as a child, but spent her beachy summers soaked in sounds from Streisand to Steely Dan, Earth Wind and Fire, Weather Report and the Clash. As a teenager she discovered the electric organ in a friend’s basement and, armed with a Beatles book, began to develop her improvisational ear. She went on to the Oberlin Conservatory to study opera but was soon lost to the lure of the subterranean electronic music studios. Returning to California after Oberlin, she continued to experiment at Stanford University’s computer music center, CCRMA, where she composed an early vocal and electronics piece that won an award at the Bourges Electronic music competition in France. But it was during a two year stay in Zurich, Switzerland in her mid 20’s that she began to put together her own small studio and forge the songs that would finally fuse the diverse strands of her musical upbringing.
Soon after arriving back in San Francisco in the early 90’s, she joined the acclaimed art-rock band The Potato Eaters and found herself performing on the city’s biggest stages. The Potato Eaters would release an EP, "I Thought I Heard You" and a live album, "Wreckless", but it wasn’t until 1993 that Emily stepped forward with her own fully-formed musical vision: her debut solo album "Grandmother’s Tea Leaves." GTL was her unrestrained response to years of academic music study and the astringent esthetic of much post-WWII classical composition. More like a collection of lyrical arias and tone-poems than a song album, it earned her comparisons to Kate Bush and Keith Jarrett.
But Emily needed to amplify the insistent rhythms in her new songs and in 1996 she formed a band to record her second album, "Moon in Grenadine". A song cycle about marriage and permanence, MiG was part chamber-jazz, part rock-opera interspersed with some of her most delicate solo piano-vocal songs. It would be called one of Stereophile Magazine’s 1997 "Records to Die For" and inspired one critic to call it "an album that puts the listener into a luxurious world of pure sonic beauty."
In 1999, after the birth of her son, she reassembled her band to record what would become her most rock-infused album, "Four Walls Bending". Melding jazz fusion, progressive rock and electronic soundscapes, she spun soaring melodies against a backdrop of churning guitars and intricate analog keyboard parts. Lyrically, FWB explored her identity as a new mother and the powerful urge to protect a precious creation. A Downbeat Magazine review awarded it four stars and called it "textured, haunting art-rock" that "beautifully synthesizes elements of new music, jazz and pop."
With her 4th album, "Angels’ Abacus," written while Emily was living in France from 2001-2003, she produced her most electronic and ambitious work to date. Her voice, emotionally vivid but with a sheen of elegant reserve, glides and leaps over a dense landscape rich with electronic percussion, ornate synth textures and jazz-tinged piano.
With 2008's "Exchange" she moved even closer towards jazz, but her musical references are an elusive, moving target, evoking early 70’s electric fusion and free-jazz as much as swing and tin-pan alley. Her sparkling horn charts for “Heavy Air” and “Climb” recall the perky jazziness of 1996’s Moon in Grenadine, now expanded to sophisticated arrangements of more depth and color. “Saturn’s Return” and “That Dynamite” are dynamic prog-fusion arias, with all the weight and operatic drama of the critically acclaimed Four Walls Bending, the album that established her as an unlikely but undeniable presence in modern progressive rock.
In November 2011 Emily released "Fooled By Yesterday," her first album to feature her interpretations of some of the iconic jazz and classical music that influenced her as she forged her own personal style. Also, for the first time, Emily presented piano and electronic improvisations, a dimension of her musical personality that she hadn't yet revealed. This release was accompanied by an extended essay about her creative process, "Musings of a Mesolimbiac."
After 23 years in the San Francisco Bay Area, Emily left California in 2017 and migrated east to the mountains of Southwest Virginia to be closer to family and to find time and space again to complete and record the songs that had been gestating for more than half a decade. Traveling between Virginia and Tennessee, she assembled a cast of some of the Southeast's best musicians to record 2019's "Out of the Moment", which further distills her inimitable operatic jazz-rock fusion into what may be her most accessible work yet. As producer and arranger for Out of the Moment, Emily draws from a sonic palette of intricate progressive rock, Latin-tinged jazz and 70’s electric fusion as much as she does from the singer-pianist tradition and modern classical music.
Lyrically, this 15-song, 76-minute song cycle is Emily’s contemplative and bracingly intimate summary of her mid-life transition, from seaside to mountain ridge, from the first to the second half of her life. Her often abstract poetry is grounded by vivid images and an evocative sense of place. Frontiers and horizons, beaches and bays, wise birds, wind-torn trees, mountains and gentle valleys coalesce to frame a portrait of an intensely private artist looking out in wonder beyond her stoic reclusion as she reflects on love, loss and the passage of time.