The life of a working musician and recording artist requires one to wear many hats to measure even a modicum of success. Essential elements that have played deftly into the hands of solo pianist, Louis Landon include diplomat, humorist, entrepreneur, technician, visionary, politician, philosopher, activist, and artisan. A well-rounded, magnetic personality combined with an obvious gift for performing a variety of musical styles opened the door for Landon to tour extensively for three decades alongside some of the most recognized names in the entertainment industry.
Landon's musical range as a pianist has been highlighted over the years performing and touring with such mainstream names and international icons as Mikhail Baryshnikov, John Payne, Rupert Holmes, and John Hall. From classical repertoire to jazz, pop and rock, Landon has used his expressive gifts and talent to his full advantage for others. Now on a mission as a solo pianist, Landon's intrinsic gifts fulfill a new purpose in a different genre, while integrating many ideals from the past.
Peacekeeper is the muse most recently peering over Landon's shoulder as he upholds a passionate belief that music is the most significant and likely medium to bring peace and harmony to a weary, and war-torn world. He realized a few years ago, stylistically it's his own music - the solo compositions that bring him so much joy and peace - that resonates deeply with his audience. This awareness combined with his philosophical ideals motivates him down a path actively seeking truths believed to be held self-evident: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Growing up in a creative household where entertainment was center stage, Landon was born in Yonkers, New York, and his family relocated to Studio City, California in 1960. Landon's dad is Leo De Lyon, the voice actor best known as Brain and Spook in the popular television cartoon, Top Cat. In the 1970s Leo was the musical director for several popular music attractions of the day including the popular singing duo, Sandler and Young. Through his dad's friendships and professional associations, Louis grew up having Sunday dinners with Phil Silvers, or going backstage to meet stars such as Nat King Cole and Dion.
Louis began his musical career at age five playing piano in the classical tradition. His parents decided to give him lessons after Louis came home from seeing the movie, "Around The World in 80 Days" then sat down at his dad's upright piano and played the movie's theme from memory!
Like so many others who studied music exactly the same way with traditional methods, after nine years, Landon, who lived in southern California by this time, ditched the piano and his teacher in favor of applying what he knew about music and taught himself a thing or two by listening to contemporary music of the mid-1960s. He picked up an electric guitar and played along with unwitting teachers like Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, and B. B. King.
By the early 1970s, the influence of Chick Corea's "Light as a Feather" swayed Landon's attention from studies at Stony Brook University in the direction of Berklee College of Music, the world's premier institution for the study of contemporary music. Landon switched back to the piano and studied jazz. Practicing eight hours a day, and jamming every night with a variety of musicians around Boston, resulted in Landon meeting the legendary saxophonist John Payne, most notable for performances with Bonnie Raitt and Van Morrison.
Landon, whose name at the time was Louis Levin, toured with Payne for three years, and recorded four albums. The John Payne band had a jazz fusion sound incorporating several eclectic styles. Ultimately, this group would come to be known as a pioneer in jazz fusion and smooth jazz preceding Spiro Gyra, the group best known for this style music.
The self-titled debut LP, John Payne's First Album was released in 1975 on Payne's indie label Bromfield Records. Landon contributed the only two original songs among a list of cover tunes. In a review, DownBeat magazine said, "…[Landon's] Behind Her Eyes, a gentle samba, overshadows anything else on the album."
Bedtime Stories followed in 1976 on Arista/Freedom with Landon contributing much of the original song writing and was "a prominent voice in the band," according to a subsequent review in DownBeat. "His writing - Snow, African Brother… [and the] tender ballad Song for Love is impressive."
In 1977, the band launched two releases. Landon is credited with most of the writing on The Razor's Edge (Arista/Freedom); then later in the year, John Payne/Louis Levin Band (Mercury Records).
Once again, DownBeat wrote a favorable review. "Arista Freedom has over the last year successfully established itself as one of the most adventurous avant garde recording projects in recent history. Largely overlooked are two fine young bands who tend toward a fusion of jazz and rock and have primarily been working the jazz end of the spectrum. These groups are New York Mary and the John Payne Band…The band has definitely improved since its maiden voyage….Lolita a [Landon] original is a tough lean line……[Landon's] Sounds From The Sea's Edge is a programmatic seascape." The title track, "[Landon's] The Razor's Edge, is a surging backdrop of synthesized and percussive accents, underscoring Payne's electronically processed arabesques".
Later that year, in support of a Mercury Records release titled The John Payne/Louis Levin Band, Gig magazine wrote, "[Landon] has always been a co-leader, but only recently has gotten billing for it. His compositions dominate the group and his piano playing is superb."
Landon left Boston for Manhattan, forming a jazz fusion band called Nightfire, while tangentially doing studio work and freelancing around Gotham City, until the late 1970s when he auditioned for and landed the gig as keyboard player for the John Hall Band.
Hall had played with a who's who of rock icons and co-founded Musicians United for Safe Energy. Landon's association playing with Hall included performances with Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, Crosby, Stills, and Nash to name just a few in the No Nukes concerts in Madison Square Garden in 1979 before hundreds of thousands of people. The same year Landon appeared on Hall's LP, titled Power (Columbia Records). Landon appeared on the benefit album No Nukes and a film by the same name, both of which were released in 1980. Soon thereafter, Landon began touring with Rupert Holmes, the composer of the ubiquitous pop hit, "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)."
Landon toured extensively during these years trotting out pop hits for audiences across the country that Hall and Holmes had created. Playing the same songs night after night, month after month, in town after town after town sounds glamorous and might appear to some that "you've made it in the music business." But what it comes down to is something like being a factory worker with a life on the road.
Back home in New York, Landon took a job with Ross Enterprises producing music for film, television, and video. He directed "Christmas at Rockefeller Center" and other TV specials that starred Maureen McGovern and Tony Bennett. During the summer months for the next four years, he was touring again, playing classical music for ballet legend, Mikhail Baryshnikov.
"We took limos to airports to board private planes bound for gigs across the country," Landon laughs remembering back to the time he not only worked for, but also double-dated with Misha. They also toured Japan; and then in France doing AIDS benefits. As a historical note, the music was performed on perhaps one of the first MIDI synthesizer setups, as it was impossibly expensive to tour extensively with an orchestra.
By the mid-1980s Louis was settled down with his wife, Laurie and a family that eventually included two daughters. His focus was on production and his freelancing was drawing in more business than Ross Enterprises. In the first three years he was affiliated with Paul Gilbert at the National Basketball Association producing music for the NBA's TV commercials. This included all their best plays and bloopers. In 1991, Landon officially opened his own production company and record label, Landon Music Company.
During this period, Landon made another amazing discovery and contribution to the music industry. Landon's personal journals from 1995 through 2006 document the working relationship and friendship he developed with Gavin DeGraw during the early days and the rise of DeGraw's career. Gavin DeGraw and Louis first met at Gavin's high school graduation party. Over the next few months Gavin's parents hired Landon to give their son piano lessons and through this association, the foundation for DeGraw's career began to develop. Landon knew the ropes of the business; and he also knew Gavin would become a success in the music business. The kid had talent, and Landon lent his experience and friendship as a mentor, knowing Gavin would eventually become very successful. Landon would attend DeGraw's gigs around the Catskills and Manhattan as often as possible and frequently sat in on a few sets. By 2003, DeGraw broke through and Landon is listed in the credits on DeGraw's debut release among a who's who of influences such as The Beatles, Van Morrison, Billy Joel, Elton John, Sam Cooke, and Stevie Wonder.
There was no accident in Landon's instincts about DeGraw's ability. Landon too is a gifted vocal talent. Throughout the later 1990s and into the early 2000s he developed a number of concert programs and recordings paying homage to the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, Frank Sinatra, songs of the 1940s, and Broadway show tunes.
In 2000 world jazz permeated Landon's career while touring with Pucho and His Latin Soul Brothers. Perhaps this was Landon's nod back to Chick Corea who had at one time been a part of Pucho Brown's Latin Soul Brothers. The Brothers' musical trademark mixes jazz, New York-style Latin music, R&B/soul, and the sort of funk that's hot and danceable. In fact it was this music that spawned the acid jazz craze that began in Britain moving west across the pond to the United States in the late 1990s and early 2000s. As an honorary soul brother, Landon toured with this group in Malaysia, Turkey, Columbia, Peru and Ecuador.
Landon's career looms toward the upper ranks of America's massive pop culture movement enveloping the last three decades of the 20th century. The musical styles he played a hand in moving to distinction include jazz, jazz fusion, pop, rock, classical and world. Each of these styles figure prominently into another musical movement that also spanned the last thirty years of the 20th century, and peacefully flourishes today.
Contemporary instrumental music, which resounded worldwide most notably through the efforts of Windham Hill Records and its founder, Will Ackerman, is characterized by strong melodies, a certain minimalism, and indelibly etched emotional innocence that emanates only from the heart of the composer. The evolution of this genre has been dramatic in that it's never been properly categorized. In fact, it's always been easier to say what the music isn't rather than define exactly what it is. Through the years, the music industry finally formalized the idea, it is an amalgamation of styles that defines contemporary instrumentalism. The structures and alchemy essential in this genre are from the roots of the very musical styles Louis was instrumental in moving to the fore of the American consciousness.
Solo piano is the dominant instrument featured in this category, and Landon is making a stake with his own unique compositions and improvisations guided by a philosophy that introspective peaceful music can light the path toward peace. In 2005 Landon took a collection of original instrumental pieces to Ackerman who provided sequencing and production advice, and Ackerman's chief engineer, Corin Nelsen edited and mastered unwind, Landon's first solo piano release.
Keyboard Magazine said in a 2006 review, "…unwind is melodic, optimistic, and peaceful. This solo piano album is indeed meditative and mellow, [and] it sacrifices no musical rigor to achieve those ends. With backgrounds in jazz, Latin music, rock, pop, film composing, and classical piano Louis brings his breadth and depth of experience to bear here. His playing and compositions are sensitive as they are complex and, a diverse range of influences is more than apparent."
Among the other titles is "Her Eyes" a remake of his original standout "Behind Her Eyes" on John Payne's debut LP. This CD rose to No. 3 on the Top 100 New Age charts and was nominated for Best Solo CD of 2006 in the New Age Reporter Lifestyle Awards. It also received a nod for Best Cover Art from New Age Reporter Lifestyle Awards.
Peace Revolution! is Landon's sophomore solo offering which debuted in the Top 10 slot on radio charts and stayed in the Top 10 for three consecutive months. This CD remained on the Top 100 ambient/world/new age charts for several months into 2008.
Anne Williams of New Age Retailer writes, "Landon's jazz sensibilities make this so much more than a typical solo piano album. Filled with strong melodies and great dynamics, this music lifts the listener up to where the body can relax and the spirit can soar. Peace Revolution! is an inspiring gem of an album."
Landon is among the hardest working of performing and recording artists in the United States. He tours nationally as a soloist developing his audience by posting free improvisations for peace on his website, facebook, and Myspace. So committed to the prospect of peace, Louis continues to post free peace improvs until the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are brought to an end. 136 Improvs for Peace have been recorded; over 11 hours of music. The popularity of this concept was the premise of his latest release, "Solo Piano for Peace" in April of 2009. Solo Piano for Peace has been nominated for the 2009 ZMR Music Awards in three categories: Album of the Year, Best Instrumental Album - Piano, and Best Cover Art. It was also voted #30 of Top 100 Albums for radio play for 2009. Kathy Parson's of MainlyPiano.com had this to say about "Solo Piano for Peace." I have thoroughly enjoyed Louis LandonÕs previous two solo piano recordings, but ÒSolo Piano For PeaceÓ is my favorite of the three. Very best wishes to Louis in his noble quest, and may his music touch enough hearts to help make peace a reality!
Landon is currently working on a new album project of vocal songs with Grammy award winning guitarist/producer Eric Tingstad.
For those who choose a creative life, being creative is something you must do. In fact, you cannot not do it. Creating his own music, on his own terms is something that emanates from Landon as effortlessly as breathing. He fervently believes music from the heart can persuade a world intimidated by injustice and abuse of power to join hands, and refuse to be dominated by archaic sentiment. Landon trusts that music will create a positive emotional environment whereby every man, woman, and child can find the power within themselves to resist darkness, and replace it instead with peacefulness that can change the world.