Born: May 16, 1971 Primary Instrument: Piano
Award winning pianist and composer Vana Gierig has toured the world as a leader, as well as shared the stage with such diverse artists as Paquito D’Rivera, Regina Carter, Rachelle Ferrell, Lena Horne, Ute Lemper, Carmen Lundy, Eddie Gomez, Miroslav Vitous, Special EFX, Will Downing and many others.
Most recently Paquito D’Rivera joined Vana's group as a special guest soloist in concerts in Europe & Mexico. In 2010 they will travel to Brazil as well.
3 years ago, Vana was presented by legendary bassist Eddie Gomez as an outstanding next generation pianist in a special 3-day presentation at the Iridium Jazz Club in Manhattan. He consequently sold out 2 shows at the New York Blue Note and opened up for Dionne Warwick with his critically acclaimed quartet called Vana Trio plus Brazilian Percussion, a unique mix of musical cultures, mixing classic jazz piano trio with New York funk, Brazilian, as well as European influences. He has since been touring special projects evolving around this core Vana Trio, such as the Vana Trio plus Brazilian Percussion, as well as his new project of the Vana Trio plus Strings. He has been presenting both, most recently in concerts in Istanbul, Lisbon, Espinho (Portugal) and New York.
Vana's CD A New Day (his 2nd of 3 CD's as a leader), which charted for weeks in the top of the Jazz Radio Charts, will be re-released in 2008 (Feb. in Europe, May in the US) by Challenge Records. Vana is working on several other recordings and projects this year, including his groups Mo'Vana (with 9-year Earth Wind & Fire member Mo' Pleasure on bass), the Vana/Gino Sitson Project (with the Cameroonian vocalist), and his Vana Trio plus Strings.
Vana was also a featured pianist and composer on the 2006 NPR Jazz Christmas CD, Marianne McPartland & Friends, for which he co-wrote The Moon on Christmas Eve with Kathryn Williams.
In 2004, he won the SESAC Performance Activity Award for his composition Healing In Foreign Lands on a #1 Album, which Downbeat Magazine called divine and a luminous testimony to Vana's sizable talent.
HBO’s Sex and the City solicited Vana in 2003 to compose and record a special piece for the season finale with Sarah Jessica Parker & Mikhail Baryshnikov. In 2007, his composition and recording of An Awakening Thought, was chosen for Showtime’s TV series The L Word.
Vana was executive producer, artistic musical director, composer and pianist on Regina Carter's #1 album Paganini: After a Dream (Verve/Universal). He was deeply involved in the vision and realization of the historic idea for Regina to become the first non-classical musician allowed to perform on Paganini's priceless violin, and it was to become the only instrumental #1 album on the Billboard charts in years. The recording, as well as the historic concerts at Lincoln Center in New York and in Genoa were extensively covered by CBS' 60 Minutes II (Charlie Rose), NPR's All Things Considered, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Oprah Winfry's O Magazine, Downbeat, JazzTimes, and countless other media.
Vana has also been commissioned twice by the prestigious Wharton Center for the Performing Arts at Michigan State University. He premiered both pieces at The Wharton Center, “Morning Cadence” in April '04 with the Regina Carter Quintet, and “Açai-” in October '02, with his Vana Trio Plus Brazilian Percussion.
For 9 years, Vana had been an integral part of the Regina Carter Quintet, and is featured on most of her CD's, including Paganini: After a Dream, Motor City Moments (feat. James Carter, Russell Malone, Lewis Nash a.o.) and Rhythms of the Heart (feat. Cassandra Wilson, Peter Washington, Lewis Nash a.o.).
In 2002, Vana performed with the Boston Pops in a concert called The Fiddler's Three. He also appeared with other symphony orchestras throughout the US and Europe.
He has also musical directed a special gala event for King Hassan II of Morocco at his palace in Marrakech that included royalty from all over the world.
Vana has given many master-classes in the United States and Europe with his group, as well as with Melissa Walker, Regina Carter and Ute Lemper. Together with Regina he worked with underprivileged public school students in an inspiring jazz education tour called Harman: How to Listen. Through this program, sponsored by Harman International Industries and created by Wynton Marsalis, Vana visited 12 states to bring the art of jazz to American children for whom arts education is underfunded.
Vana's compositions have also been solicited by the Emmy award-winning PBS program City Arts and BET's Bet on Jazz, among others. Three of his compositions from his CD Small Regrets are featured on the soundtrack of the independent motion picture Sins of Fate. The highly acclaimed European TV channel Arte featured Vana and his group in a profile, Werner Vana Gierig - Jazz pianist in New York City, on Europe's most-watched cultural program Metropolis. His countless live TV performances include a 2002 PBS appearance on An Evening with the Boston Pops. BET's Jazz Central, Treffpunkt Kultur on ORF 2 in Austria, CBS' 60 Minutes II, CNN and PBS and A&E live appearances, NBC's Today Show, FOX and Telemundo Live from the Blue Note in New York, Nancy Wilson's show and numerous international TV appearances incl. Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Curaçao, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Holland, England, etc.
The beauty of the bunch was Vana’s sublime melody “Healing In Foreign Lands”, recorded on his first CD, Small Regrets, and rendered as a divine piano-violin encounter on Carter’s recent album Paganini: After A Dream. The song with its melodic line stated simply, proved to be the highlight of the set and a luminous testimony to Gierig’s sizable [...] talent. Downbeat Magazine
“Werner “Vana” Gierig, on the other hand, feels sure enough of his abilities to compose songful, optimistic melodies and subject them to subtle yet ingenious transformations. [...] His attitude and skill make Vana’s new album, A New Day (Twinz), his second effort as a leader, a rare and happy thing indeed. [...] The [Brazilian] influence (and the percussion) shows up in songs like “Gatinha Sabidinha (Wise Little Cat),” which bumps with witty squeaks, and “Mating Call,” based on a slowed-down samba fragment played with impressive swagger. [...] when the themes return, they carry new and different weights: a tweaked harmony here and a slightly altered timbre there on “Choice of Words”, for example, make for some unexpected evolutions. And bright improvisations by Gierig and company always show up somewhere to enliven the texture. [...] “If something tragic happens,” Gierig explains, tentatively, “hopefully something new will be able to grow out of it, something positive.” As admirable as that attitude is, it’s difficult to make it convincing, but Gierig does it here just as he does on the rest of A New Day. JazzTimes Magazine
The Vana Trio is a tight knit group that has been together for some time, which showed in their musical communication on stage. Vana - alternating melodic lyricism with more aggressive rhythmic and harmonic tension building - was a musical sorcerer brewing potions with the trio that lead to many exciting high points throughout the performance. His colorful register- spanning right-hand runs seemed effortless which only added to their hypnotic effect. His original compositions are moving and full of beautiful transformations. And while he got himself into daring improvisations with the trio, he never lost sight of the composition itself, bringing melodies back with new and different weight. Drummer Gene Jackson added unique rhythmic grooves to Vana's music and played with beautiful intensity and sensitivity, and bassist Sean Conly whose interpretation of Brazilian music is as flawless as that of more traditional jazz, provided the perfect grounding between piano and drums. The intense, moving and elegant presence of Vana and his trio is unique, and I strongly recommend going to see and hear them wherever you can catch them next.... Roberta on the Arts
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New York, NY
Willing to teach:
Intermediate to advanced students
taught privately for many years piano, harmony, improvisation re-harmonization techniques in improvisation $75/hour
different formats depending on circumstances (age group of kids or students, type of school or college, etc.)