JEFF LISENBY, jazz accordionist extraordinaire. Think
accordion and jazz dont belong
in the same sentence? Just wait, it gets better.
Lisenby, who holds a masters degree from The Conservatory
of Music of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, is no
stranger to musical oxymorons. His experience runs the gamut
He has twice been the national accordion champion and a
bronze medalist in the Coupe Mondiale international classical
accordion competitions. That may not sound like a big deal
to us in the U.S., but in Europe, Russia, Scandinavia, China,
and New Zealand, where the accordion is as common as the
guitar, its huge. But classical music wasnt
the only style he practiced.
When I was a kid, Lisenby said, my goal
was to win the world accordion championship, which was for
serious music. So I was practicing 7-8 hours
a day when I was a teenager. I would get tired of practicing
the heavy music, and then I would start playing
pop or jazz standard tunes and improvising on them. It was
a good musical mix for me.
Lisenby used his genius on the accordion and keyboards to
carve a niche market for himself, and gained performances
with the Nashville, Kansas City, and Los Angeles Symphonies,
the Palm Beach Pops Orchestra, and a gig accompanying Luciano
Pavarotti during part of his U.S. tour.
Certainly not limited to classical music, Lisenby toured
extensively with the Mills Brothers, Boots Randolph, and
Brenda Lee, and has accompanied Lee Greenwood, Donna Summer,
Tricia Yearwood, Three-Dog Night, the Coasters, David Cassidy,
Marty Stuart, Jo Dee Messina, Pam Tillis, Loretta Lynn,
Roy Clark, and Dolly Parton, to name a few.
Most recently, Lisenby was honored to be the music director
on Broadway for RING OF FIRE: The Music of Johnny Cash,
for which he pulled from his extensive experience backing
country artists in Nashville.
Lisenby is also one of the first-call accordionists for
recording sessions in Nashville. Projects he has worked
on include the Grammy-winning album: Songs from the
Neighborhood; the Music of Mister Rogers, and jingles
for Budweiser and Sutherlands Lumber (which he also
wrote and produced).
When hes not on the road performing around the country,
Lisenby teaches for Belmont Universitys School of
Music and is active in the Nashville recording scene.