Lao Tizer: Rising Among the Ranks
It isn’t often that a street musician progresses quickly among the jazz ranks. At the age of 24, Lao Tizer has already caught the attention of such artistic talents as Chieli Minucci, The Rippingtons, Dave Koz and even Jethro Tull. (More about Tull later.)
After begging his parents for equipment money, Tizer hit the streets of Boulder, Colorado at the tender age of 14. By the age of 16, Tizer had two self-produced albums under his belt, As the Eagle Soars and Arabian Dusk. Continuing at warp speed, he recorded his third album, Praeludium, a mere three years later. After being discovered in Colorado by Pinnacle Artist Management in 1996, Tizer moved to Los Angeles, California in 1997. Having never played in a group setting, Tizer decided to make a bold move and formed his own band.
Although Tizer himself was strongly rooted in the classical tradition, he had found jazz to be an exciting format. He loved the improvisation and thrived on the connectivity with the audience – key lessons learned by playing the street gigs. The new band members added fresh fuel to the mix with heavier jazz, rock and pop influences. Together, they found an original sound that is hard to peg.
Recorded in 2001 and produced by guitarist Chieli Minucci, Golden Soul is a mixture of smooth jazz and new age. This album would be the launching pad that would allow The Lao Tizer Band to open for The Rippingtons and Dave Koz. The featured single, “Her Poetry,” was well received by over 30 jazz stations nationwide. The album itself would reach the Billboard Top 50 Contemporary Jazz Album chart three times.
Tizer was nominated at the 2002 National Smooth Jazz Awards for Best New Artist. He admittedly owes much of his success to his fellow musicians. “I write the songs, but they are arranged collaboratively as a band. We have a vibe as a group on stage and depend on each other.” Tizer describes himself as a “very loyal person,” who is “humble about the band’s contributions.” This attitude shows throughout the Golden Soul album, which is the only collaborative CD to date. Current band members include Jeff Kollman (guitar), Christopher Maloney (bass), Andy Megna (drums) and Steve Nieves (sax/percussion).
Tizer describes his live performances as being higher in energy than his recordings. A new album is planned for release in 2004 and will be a bit edgier than the sounds of the past, according to Tizer. Reaching across the demographics of age and social class are important to him. “I want to be contemporary jazz for a new generation. [I want] to bring something refreshing and unique to bring in new people who aren’t normally listeners and give them something in this genre they can relate to,” stated Tizer.
Keeping it real appears to be the Tizer mantra. He adamantly refers to his growing circle of admirers as “friends.” You will find him frequently posting personal notes on his forum at www.laotizer.com and he answers most of his own fan mail. Bringing the music to the people appears to be his earnest desire, as he “never wants to be famous enough to be recognizable on the street.” Boldly stating, “the jazz world is full of real people.”
While Tizer is confident in his own sound, he has difficulty describing where he gets his inspiration. He admits that he “has a hard time naming songs,” as his songs “don’t necessarily tell stories.” “When I get inspired, it just happens. It flows through you . . . most of us spend our time caught in the future and the past. We are rarely purely in the moment. The songs are whatever I’m feeling in the moment. I am grateful for the presence music brings to my life.”
While Tizer chooses not to use a publicist, this young talent possesses a lot of business savvy. His clear business plan includes writing and producing some songs that fit the radio airplay format in an effort to reach the existing fan base. Secondly, he loves to tour heavily to help build a loyal following. Tizer believes the live setting is crucial for his success. Lastly, Tizer isn’t afraid to put himself in situations that aren’t common for a contemporary jazz band. This brings me back to Jethro Tull.
Tizer opened for Tull at a recent Cedar Rapids, Iowa show. “I want to try and do my own thing, which means exposing us to different audiences. [We] have to push our limits and be able to adapt.” Performing for Tull was a bold move, but Tizer appears to enjoy the rush. He believes that you have to “be willing to fly by the seat of your pants, test your limits and crash and burn occasionally.”