Short Stories-Piano Music for Healing Meditation &
Plaintive, soothing, soulful, heartfelt, evocative and calming, all adjectives that deftly describe the exquisite music on "Short Stories: Piano Music for Healing, Meditation and Relaxation," the 2006 CD by gifted composer, producer, arranger and pianist Giovanna Joyce Imbesi. Given her extensive history as a premier musician, it's indeed remarkable that this is the debut solo album by this multi-talented artist, whose long list of credits include such stellar names as Anita Baker, Dave Koz, Patti Labelle, Jeffrey Osborne, Narada Michael Walden, Sheila E., Yanni, Toni Childs, and ex-Police guitar great Andy Summers as well as performances with the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, the Dallas Symphony, and the Minneapolis Symphony. As the New York-born, Los Angeles-based artist explains in the liner notes for the album, "The idea for "Short Stories" had been in gestation for many years. In September 2005, I was diagnosed with a rare, yet manageable cancer called carcinoid...and I found myself post -surgery, iPod in hand for comfort, realizing some of the soothing music I was listening to was my own. These meditative pieces were mostly improvisations caught on tape. Over the years, some of these had been recorded as gifts - for an ailing child, or a terminally ill patient. Because of my own experience, it occurred to me that others might find healing in these pieces as well." So began the journey of "Short Stories," my first CD." The 'journey' continued with recording sessions at Giovanna's full-service TuttoMedia studios in Venice, California conducted in a period of just weeks in the late summer of 2006. The goal - having the CD available for the annual Carcinoid Cancer Conference at the end of September. I found that I had some musical sketches that would fit in the mode of music that was very healing and very calming. Writing the stories that went along with the music (in the accompanying CD booklet) was so motivating. Once it was finished, I felt absolutely wonderful. Making my own record was something I wanted to do for twenty years: we assume we have all the time in the world. I can say that that if I hadn't undergone this health challenge, recording my first album might never have happened." Those seeking comfort, healing, meditation and relaxation will indeed be truly grateful that Giovanna used such seemingly adverse circumstances to create music that touches the soul. Using her years of classical and jazz training, Giovanna has crafted a record that calls on a myriad of influences from French composer Ravel to contemporary musical greats Chick Corea and McCoy Tyner. The titles on the CD - from "Waltz For Peace" to "Bridge To Isfahan," from "Lullaby for Anouk" to "Ascension" - are evocative of distinct moods from contemplation and reflection to hope, empowerment and joy. As with other cuts on the CD, the final track on the album, "Hush" featuring the vocals of Toni Peete, flows with simplicity and ease. The piece (engineered by Grammy winner Bob Power, known for his work with D'Angelo, The Roots and Me'shell NdgeOcello among others) was written, as Giovanna notes, "for all of us who wish to find our own inner peace..." Fitting indeed that Giovanna will be using the entire album in tandem with the non-profit organization she has created, "GeneratePossibility.Org" whose mission "is to assist people in healing through the healing arts." Giovanna's life-long mission has always been to contribute her gifts through music: she started out playing piano at the age of seven, developing a love and passion for it by her early teens: "I saw music as a way to connect with others, whether it was those listening or other musicians with whom I was playing," she notes. While classical music was an obvious field of study, Giovanna recalls, "My very first teacher used stride piano (in the style of musicians like Erroll Garner and Scott Joplin) and the first record I was given was "Song For A New World" by McCoy Tyner. Such dexterity and aptitude prepared Giovanna for studying in San Francisco, where she graduated summa cum laude after which she began playing at a venue in the city that would become the now-famous Kimball's. In fact, Giovanna was responsible for the club's creation: "The venue was opposite the San Francisco Opera House so people would come in before going to the opera and then afterwards. We had a few hours when nothing was happening so I went to the owner and suggested we present some jazz," Giovanna recalls, "and that's how Kimball's got started!" In between booking such prestigious acts as Joe Henderson, Stan Getz, McCoy Tyner, Earl Fatha Hines, Charlie Haden and Pete Escovedo, Giovanna acted as the publicist and promoter for the venue which became a haven for local jazz musicians. Performing at the club once a month, Giovanna had the opportunity to showcase her own musical talents and inevitably, word of mouth led to her mid-'80s association with Grammy-winning producer Narada Michael Walden, who was working at the time with such luminaries as Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Sheena Easton and others. She notes, "Over the four years, we worked together, Narada was a big influence on me as a songwriter and producer. While I was originally recruited for an all-female band who were playing pop and funk, that project never transpired but Narada became a real mentor for me during that time thanks to having my studio within his." Giovanna embarked on her first national tour in 1989 with Yanni, playing alongside such notable musicians as John Tesh and with various symphony orchestras. During the ensuing years, she worked with a variety of name performers including Patti Labelle, Jeffrey Osborne, Sheila E., Yanni, Toni Childs, the group Starship and ex-Police guitar great Andy Summers with whom she toured internationally. Following another national road tour with saxophonist Dave Koz, Giovanna relocated to Los Angeles working with TuttoMedia, the company specializing in music and sound production for film, television, and new media that she started in 1985. Initially working out of a music production company in Studio City, Giovanna found herself working consistently with major companies such as NBC and Apple as a composer, writing music for ad campaigns, television and commercials. "Because of the location, people literally knocked on my door!" she smiles. "I got a lot of work as a composer during that time." Moving to Venice where she opened her own studio, Giovanna's increased workload included "The Cutting Edge" motion picture soundtrack, work on blockbuster cues for True Lies, Johnny Mnemonic and Striking Distance as well as appearances The Tonight Show, Arsenio Hall, Joan Rivers, and the Rick Dees Show. In 1996, she traveled to India for a series of feature performances that spotlighted her original jazz compositions. The response, both from the public and press, was overwhelmingly positive. Giovanna also traveled to Cuba for a series of performances with the well-known group Sintesis - Cuba's answer to Weather Report. Her extensive producing credits run the range from blues artist Chic Streetman to world music diva Vida Vierra and song stylist David Nathan and she was a featured artist on two Windham Hill holiday albums released in 2004 and 2005. In 2002, Giovanna began hosting musical Salons at her Venice studio, bringing together musicians, singers and sometimes performing herself, presenting music in an intimate setting. Her new Salon series "Up Close & Musical" will make it's debut in late 2006. With all this activity, Giovanna says making a CD was "a life-long ambition but with so much work and so many projects to do for and with others, I never got around to it. I've always thought of music as my way of giving and contributing. As she states in the liner notes for "Short Stories," her auspicious solo debut, "Life can change in a moment," referring to her diagnosis with carcinoid cancer. "Forced to reckon with the healing of my body, I became intimately aware of the smallest details and gestures, found gratitude in little miracles and explored this awakening. I discovered that the physical healing, while extensive, pales in comparison to the blossoming of the heart. Previously unchallenged assumptions about life came tumbling down and I gave myself permission to trust in myself again..." Using music as a soundtrack while she underwent surgery herself, Giovanna says, "I learned so much about how music could be used in a healing way, how one's well being is affected by the mind and that a peaceful mind creates a peaceful body. I developed a whole new awareness of the impact music could have as I went through my own health challenges. It opened my eyes, being in the hospital and around other patients - I saw the need for the kind of material that is on "Short Stories" which led to the creation of "GeneratePossibility.Org" my non-profit foundation." An album that touches the heart, calms the mind and soothes the soul, "Short Stories: Piano Music for Healing, Meditation & Relaxation" is a testament not only to the artistry of Giovanna Joyce Imbesi but to her courage, fortitude and inner strength. ****** ...and so they were wounded...one of the arm, one of the heart and one of the soul. We all have our woundedness, whether physical, emotional or spiritual. We move from loss, fear, struggle and suffering to wisdom, grace, comfort and peacefulness through healing and being of service to others. Healing, to be made whole once again, occurs on all levels and is not exclusive to the physical being. The body responds to the mind, the mind to the heart - all in concert. We seek to relieve stress, calm the mind and soothe the soul through meditation, yoga and music.'Short Stories' is a sanctuary of piano music for reflection, healing and relaxation - an invitation to welcome your inner peace and healing. My Story This past year has been a journey of unexplored territory - an opportunity to confront fear and death. It has been a chance to witness an unforeseen inner strength, one which still remains a Mystery to me. Life can change in a moment. For me this was September 26, 2005 - when I was diagnosed with a rare, yet manageable, cancer called carcinoid. The idea for this CD had been in gestation for many years, yet it was my illness itself which showed me what to do. Sometimes the thing we're seeking most is already within us, but just hasn't been deemed worthy enough to be manifested. I found myself post-surgery, iPod in hand for comfort, realizing some of the soothing music I was listening to was my own. These meditative pieces were mostly improvisations caught on tape. Over the years, some of these had been written or recorded as gifts - for an ailing child, or a terminally ill parent. Because of my own experience, it occurred to me that others might find healing in these pieces as well. So began the journey of 'Short Stories'. It was at a workshop with Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen in which I got a glimpse of the blessing I had been given, hidden in the form of my illness. Forced to reckon with the healing of my body, I became intimately aware of the smallest details and gestures, found gratitude in little miracles and explored this awakening. I discovered that the physical healing, while extensive, pales in comparison to the blossoming of the heart. Previously unchallenged assumptions about life came tumbling down and I gave myself permission to trust in myself again. I chose to live each moment as a privilege, and embrace the unknown. Our story is the bridge we have to each other. My story and my music are my gift to you. Peace & blessings, Giovanna September 1, 2006 about the cover art: When I was 18 my father gave me a necklace - a beautiful gold piece in the shape of a treble clef with a small diamond at it's center. For years now I've rarely taken it off. It has become a symbol of my connection to everything spiritual & protection - serving much the same purpose that a cross, Star of David or other symbol of faith does for others. Waltz For Peace I've had the opportunity twice to be on a retreat in Assisi, Italy with Zen teacher Cheri Huber. One day we traveled more than 2 hours to the place where, in the 13th century, St. Francis went for his own meditation - that place is now the beautiful sanctuary of La Verna. Surrounded by lush forestry, his silent meditations took place deep in a cave in the mountains, often lasting as long as 30 days at a time. To this day, St. Francis' universal message of peace has inspired millions. And in these uncertain times, we begin with our own personal peacekeeping. We seek first our inner peace, even at a cellular level, to quell our internal wars. And from there everything with which we come in contact is altered. Danse for d I imagine a young, goddess-like girl bathed in light, in flowing robes and chiffon being unfurled. She slowly removes her veil, layer by layer, revealing a beautiful face with long, flowing auburn hair. Freed from all her earthly traumas, hardships and emotional baggage, she dances. I watch in awe, witnessing her joy for the first time. She is released, at last. Joy is one of our innate states as a child. Less ephemeral than happiness, joy comes from within and radiates. I'm rediscovering, as an adult, what joy is for me - in the moment, in gratitude, in the breath. Bridge To Isfahan for d Most of us have been taught, by our family or society, about some fixed idea of who we ought to love - with boundaries of religious differences, age disparities, financial resources, race. Many of us have been on the receiving or giving end of this conversation at one point or another - 'disqualifying' someone or being 'disqualified'. I've thought I was in love with someone, only to watch myself suffer because I knew I was attempting to love outside of my learned box and that the relationship would not last. I've also known someone to be in love with me, and watched as he struggled to love outside the rules of his inherited box. In both situations, people in these relationships are left with the experience of being unfulfilled, of not being enough. Brokenness can often teach us to be free of the boxes of beliefs we've been given that constrain love. Brokenness can teach compassion towards another heart still confined. One of the blessings of this life experience is in recognizing that the soul of another is quite enough.... and is often quite extraordinary. Lullaby for Anouk In 2004, I was in a relationship with someone living 300 miles away in Northern California's wine country. One evening he called and told me that his 10 year old daughter Anouk wasn't feeling well, and that he had told her I would write a piece for her to make her feel better....that night! Several revisions later, I recorded this lullaby and sent it to Anouk via email, who found it very soothing. This was one of my favorite pieces during my recovery. Bathing In Light (Bagno di luce) with Dan Morris, percussion One afternoon I sat at the piano just as the sun was beginning to set over the Pacific Ocean. The light was stunning and brilliant as I began to play and this piece emerged. I often watch the waves at sunset and never tire of the beauty of the ocean and the light at this time of day, my feet grounded in the warm sand, bathing in the golden sienna hue. I'm awed by the sense of belonging I often experience at this time, knowing that as the sun slips over the horizon, it simultaneously rises on another community and continent - all sharing this connectedness to the sun and water. Blessing Of The Angel & The Enemy for Neshume-Le and her grandfather Everything contains a blessing, even when it seems masked beyond recognition. This piece is for Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, author of 'My Grandfather's Blessings,' who carries on the legacy and stories of her grandfather, a wise Orthodox Rabbi, that he shared with her as a young girl. She has taught me much this past year - as she knows of healing both as a physician and patient (she has suffered from Crohn's disease for decades) - as one who 'knows'. I am one of the many fortunate recipients of her mentoring, just as she was as a child from her grandfather. Ascension for k The will to live and the resolve it takes to continue under daunting circumstances often defy science and all logic. Together they can expand the depths of one's compassion. We have the option of choosing life every day. This choice becomes especially critical when the obstacles are stacked up against us. While recovering from my own surgery, I received some devastating news about a very dear friend and musician who had unexpectedly suffered a hemorrhage and was in a deep coma with a very uncertain future. Eight months later, I received word he is walking and is well on his way to an amazing recovery. 'Ascension' was recorded moments after receiving this news. While I was recording this piece, a persistent image surrounded me of him dancing joyfully, free from all physical restrictions - an image I hold ever so strongly for his future. I can only imagine what it might be like to climb a mountain inch by inch, where the daily progress seems microscopic and is measured over months and years.The question of why such things occur in the first place may never be answered, yet the story of the will to live is indisputable. The Will Of Love dedicated to m & p There is a remarkable woman I've never met, yet she has inspired me enormously with her fortitude. A friend of a friend, I've filled in the blanks of her story from the little I know - her travails traveling through snowstorms to chemotherapy appointments, all the while managing to continue her career. She represents to me the brave and victorious in all of us. She embodies the quiet power mostly unbeknownst to us until challenged. This piece is also for our mutual friend, who has so generously given her time, her ear and her wisdom. Meditation & Variations for e The emotional pain of loss, the pain that time seeks to soften, can often be greater than any physical recovery. The body has astounding healing powers, yet the heart can be slow to mend and even slower to trust once again. Loss, whether the end of a loving relationship, death of a loved one, or diagnosis of a serious disease, often brings dramatic change and may be soothed by time, reflection and finally, acceptance. This piece was composed many years ago, however this version was recorded for a friend, and for his father who, in 2002, was gravely ill and near death. I'm told it was the last music he heard. Music is a powerful connection to our emotions, frequently evoking a particular person or distinct time in life. These melodies are my words of love, kindness and compassion. Hush for Adriana featuring Toni Peete, vocals Sometimes there is no other explanation for some amazing occurrence other than that an angel appeared in your life. This song is for my dear friend Nurse Adriana, who showed me what it means to be present for someone unconditionally, unhesitatingly and lovingly. When I first heard her Italian accent and easy laugh, I smiled. She is a blessing to all who are fortunate enough to be in her presence. For all of us who wish to find our inner peace and quiet the voices.... HUSH Listen now, time to stop your worry now just hush Voices still, let the quiet still you now just hush Believe and hope will find the way Never doubt I'm standing near to you with every breath I'm sending love for you Trust your heart to know you're home at last know that love is all just hush just hush just hush Open now, let your mind let go now just hush So peaceful now, let the stillness soothe you now just hush Chorus.