KAZZRIE JAXEN (formerly known as Liz Gorrill) grew up in Manhasset, NY, improvising songs into her father's tape recorder from the age of four and studying classical piano from the age of six. She sang in choirs, danced to rock-'n'-roll, acted in high school musicals, and wrote and performed folk songs with friends. She majored in Music and Drama at Denison University, worked as a cast member in "The Mod Donna" at The New York Public Theater, and apprenticed at Williamstown Summer Theater. She studied jazz improvisation briefly at Berklee School of Music in Boston, and then left to study privately with pianist Harvey Diamond. During this time she read "The Autobiography of a Yogi" by Paramahansa Yogananda, began to meditate, and made a youthful declaration: music would be her spiritual path.
In 1973 Kazzrie returned to New York to study with pianist Lennie Tristano. His approach to improvising (which had been introduced to her by Harvey) inspired her to dive deeply into the feeling of every note. Meditating at the piano, Kazzrie realized that her spiritual declaration had led her here. She dropped her spiritual practices and plunged into jazz. A few years later Lennie began presenting her in concerts in his home, and then he produced two solo concerts for her at Carnegie Recital Hall ("she is onto something very original . . . she is a striking talent" Robert Palmer, New York Times; "There was energy, dynamic force, fire and light . . . a sure, authoritative pianist," Richard M. Sudhalter, New York Post).
After Lennie's death in 1978, she continued to perform and record in New York City and in Europe, studying with a third great pianist and friend, Connie Crothers. During this time she made two recordings for the Jazz Records label (www.jazzrecordsinc.com): "I Feel Like I'm Home," JR2LP, a solo concert ("If you are interested in hearing some fresh, new and exciting jazz, then get hold of this album and become familiar with a new name!" Victor Yee, Tarakan Music Letter; "a pianist of astounding complexity and accomplishment," Mark Gardner, Jazz Journal; "some of the most exciting music I've heard in a long time . . . her musical integrity uncompromising," Tom Rohan, Victory Review; "excellent examples of musical invention and a sterling technique," Art Lange, Downbeat;) and "True Fun," JR7LP, a trio with saxophonist Lenny Popkin and bassist Eddie Gomez, which was voted "Best Record of the Year, Critics Choice Top Ten" by Victor Schonfield, Jazz Journal, England, and Lois Moody, Ottawa Citizen, Canada. This record included a freely improvised suite based on Vincent Van Gogh's paintings ("an outstanding achievement . . . it is surely one of the few of today's performances which will be studied twenty years from now," Victor Schonfield, Jazz Journal; "I can only conceive of Vincent approving and immediately, instinctively, understanding . . . Everyone in full flight . . . Strength honoring strength . . . An exceptional trio makes for exceptional music. Is it recommended? You bet." Alan Bargebuhr, Cadence).
Kazzrie, who had begun teaching jazz improvisation in association with Lennie, continued teaching privately at her studios in Queens and Manhattan, working part-time jobs when necessary. She sessioned with musicians and friends several nights a week for many years and produced CDs with guitarist Andy Fite (NA1004CD "Phantasmagoria," NA1012CD "Cosmic Comedy") and tenor saxophonist Charley Krachy (NA1007CD "A Jazz Duet.")
Kazzrie left New York City in 1994 when, after an unexpected and powerful kundalini experience, she was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. She moved to upstate New York, unable to function, not yet understanding what had happened to her, wondering if her life as a musician was over. But the next phase of her spiritual journey was about to unfold. She spent several years in solitude and silence. Stripped of her musical identity and her health, she explored her relationship to the world in a new way. No longer capable of "doing," she entered the realm of "being."
She began to heal as she walked by the Delaware River everyday and practiced the gentle movements of Qigong (which she had learned from teachers Franklin Kwong, Ronger Shen, Yi Wu, and later Michael Winn, Tina Zhang, and Robert Peng). Mother Nature became her primary physician and master teacher, inspiring her to listen more deeply to the silence all around her, to become the silence. As a result of this experience, Kazzrie began to explore Intuitive Diagnosis and Energy Medicine with teachers Meredith Young-Sowers and Carolyn Myss, among others. Over time she evolved and refined a vibrational modality, based on Nature's teaching, which she now calls "Dreaming In Music." Private sessions begin and end at the river, connecting to their source, and clients (Dreamers) lie underneath Kazzrie's piano as she tunes into their energy and plays into their bodies. These sessions, like shamanic journeys, are intended to release bound up energy, generate high levels of creativity, and deepen intuitive communication. ("Kazzrie has the Touch of Life. She doesn't touch one with her fingers, but with her music and her radiant energy . . . Since then I have been inside a legend. I have become a legend. I am whole. I love this life. I am strong, and I can do my work." Howard Kaiser, Artist/Poet; "Working with Kazzrie has facilitated some of the most profound shifts of my spiritual growth and transformational process . . . These sessions came at a pivotal point in my professional life and were very instrumental in helping me make the inner shifts necessary to bring tremendous outer manifestation." Alan Seale, author "Soul Mission-Life Vision; "Kazzrie's work is exquisite and unparalleled," Julie Motz, author "Hands of Life.")
Kazzrie also began to develop a new Qigong form called "Earth Beauty Qigong" which, along with other movement forms and meditations, she now teaches at The Lodge at Woodloch in Hawley, Pennsylvania. She considers "Dreaming In Music" and "Earth Beauty Qigong" to be co-creative technologies, transmitted to her by Nature. She is the author of a forthcoming book, "Changing Keys," about their evolution and her experiences during this time. Two of her CDs are also reflections of her story: "For the Beauty of the Earth" (NA1030CD) is a solo expression of her spiritual/healing journey; and "Prayers and Mad Laughter" is a multi-dimensional exploration of humanity's present evolutionary leap. ("A blazing comeback full of wild solo piano, doubled or even multiplied by six . . . a maelstrom of overwhelming stereo sounds . . . close to genius." Remco Takken, www.kindmuzik.net; "Startling, innovative, filled with virtuosity, always exploring . . . The music on this CD is immense, but intimate at the same time. Organized and chaotic, bizarre and familiar, silly and sublime, structured and free . . . it is one great big emphatic YES! A thank-you to the universe, in song and verse and laughter." John Grabowski. This CD is available on CD Baby, or directly from firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Kazzrie's name change arose out of this experience. She discovered that a name is similar to a musical chord, and that being "in tune" with one's name can have a powerful effect on one's life and one's health. She utilized a system based on numerology to choose a new name (www.kabalarians.com) but needed to do something else to summon the courage to actually change her name. In 2002, in collaboration with director Johnathon Pape, she created a one-woman show entitled "Kazzrie in Boogie and Blue" as a rite of passage. She combined original music, art, poetry and stories that celebrated the challenges and humor of her "old" life as Liz Gorrill and brought in the energy for her "new" life as Kazzrie. She performed this unique jazz musical in 2002 and 2003 in New York and North Carolina ("true and rare artistry," "a dazzling explosion of talent!") and continues to evolve this art form.
In 2006 Kazzrie received the Best Music Award at the DVAA Digit Festival for "Roebling Resonance," a musical trilogy of multi-tracked pianos and voices which was played at the Roebling Bridge on the Delaware River. In 2008 she was honored to work with director Ragnar Friedank, improvising a solo piano soundtrack for his award-winning movie "Beautiful Hills of Brooklyn," starring Joanna Merlin (www.beautifulhillsofbrooklyn.com). Also a visual artist, Kazzrie has recently collaborated with fellow pianist Mark Gabriele on a different kind of creative venture: a book entitled "Love's Ways: A Meditation on Love" which combines Mark's words with Kazzrie's pastels. ("this little gem . . . a small book that packs a big punch . . . a gift to oneself -- to meditate on over time," Sheila M. Trask, ForWord Reviews, 5 Stars; www.mirambelpublishing.com, available on Amazon.com).
Kazzrie currently performs in a quartet with Charley Krachy on tenor sax, Don Messina on bass, and Bill Chattin on drums. Cadence Records is producing their first CD, "Callicoon Sessions," (www.kazzriejaxenquartet.com) and the band will release a second CD from live performances in 2014. Other ongoing projects include a trio with Lorenzo Sangueldoce on tenor sax and Michael Bisio on bass; a trio with Chris Aiello on alto sax and Don Messina on bass; duets with poet Mark Weber (NA1057CD "A Million Shimmering Fish"), vocalist Dori Levine, alto saxophonist Gary Levy, and guitarist Bud Tristano; and a collaboration with a six-person drum ensemble called The Drummers.
Kazzrie's performances and recordings merge the multiple streams of her experience. Her music is spontaneously improvised, but not stylistically restricted to a particular genre. She loves to play the piano and sing, loves the fun of being surprised by the spontaneity of the moment, and loves the deep dive into the cosmic womb of creation. She is especially thankful for the musical friendships that have evolved over the years and to the jazz listeners who, with their energy and enthusiasm, co-create the music.