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Urban/R&B: Funk Moods: Solo Female Artist Avant Garde: Structured Improvisation

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Christiane D

Christiane Leach, aka Christiane D, is an award-winning, multi-talented Pittsburgh artistic force who for 20 years has fused the visual, spoken, performance and visual arts in an unending compendium of sounds, forms, shapes and words that represent her unique worldview and experience of living in it.

As a distinctive voice of the Pittsburgh arts scene, she is the winner of a 2010 August Wilson Center Fellowship, a 2007 honoree at the New Hazlett Theatre “Celebrating Women in the Arts, a 2003 winner of the Pennsylvania Council for the Arts Fellowship for World/Jazz/Blues musical composition, and a 2002 Pittsburgh Magazine “40 under 40” award winner. She has also received funding from Sprout for two MiniM Music Festivals for the Blues and Jazz genres and Listen to This, featuring poetess, Ursula Rucker; a commission from Pittsburgh Foundation to write her first play, Saffronia; funding from Multi-Cultural Arts Initiative to produce Saffronia and a grant from Advancing the Black Arts to market her second solo release, ANIMUS.

In her own words, Christiane D is “an artist making music . . . a poet singing songs . . . .a musician doing films . … a songwriter spinning text . … a visionary on an art journey.” “As a poet, artist, writer and musician, she has made building bridges between disciplines a major focus in her art. She is described by many as a passionately intense, husky-voiced sensual presence (Pittsburgh Tribune Review), which will turn your head and more than likely inspire you to shout, shake, rattle and heal.

In her music, Christiane D is an enigmatic musical raconteur “whose lyrics tell unconventional stories in traditional prose or poetic ways; more extreme than the folk ballads of Johnny Cash or Bob Dylan. Leach’s stories are like movies, with scenes set and emotions conveyed through they eyes of the characters,” said Justin Hopper, Pittsburgh City Paper.

Christiane D has sung with Liz Berlin of Rusted Root, Jack Erdie, 3 Generations Walking, Indigenous Resistance and her long standing band, Soma Mestizo.

Drawing on the traditions of African-American styles of jazz, blues, funk and hip-hop, she fuses these influences with rock, punk, classical/opera, world/ethnic and early electronica into a genre-bending blend. With an improvisational jazz technique, she folds in the beats of these diverse styles, creating a layered, storytelling tapestry. Early musical influences are as diverse as John Coltrane, Weather Report, Willie Colon, Beethoven, Sarah Vaughn and Flora Purim.

After a three year hiatus from music during which, she describes “her muse left her,” she “peered over the edge, stopped and waited for a signal.” That signal came in a dream, and resulted in an explosive return to her music with “Obliquity of the Ecliptic,” (OOTE) her first solo album. This album is a journey through natural, physical and emotional disasters, observed and felt as recent earthquakes and tsunamis changed the tilt of the planet. In this astral shift she found an allegory for the human condition that wobbles, shakes, and sometimes results in a full-circle reinvention.

Obliquity of the Ecliptic is an intimate collection of songs spanning a decade by marking milestones of balance, imbalance, break – ups and break- downs. A collection of 20 prominent Pittsburgh-based musicians, whose genres span from jazz to heavy-metal, contribute to the sound, which is intentionally loose and free-flowing, “listening to the song calling out and making it whatever it would be, like listening to a map in the rain.”

“OOTE speaks timelessly, with a spiritual backbone and genre-bending sound (Leach neologically deems her genre “esque”), but also alludes to our current world with hints of gender politics and class struggle. Sonically, the album warps through punk-rock aesthetics, hip-hop montage, rock ‘n’ roll power and inflections of jazz free-spiritedness,” opines Kate Magoc, [Pittsburgh City Paper].

In this album, Christiane D truly reinvented and transformed herself. She discovered that “part of moving forward involves moving backward to what you loved, what inspired you in the first place to begin making music. That would be the power of creating something new, all together, in one room, improvising and letting structure emerge. To me, this has always been the real power of music that attracted me and kept me engaged.”

Christiane D’s muse is back. OOTE tells the story. She has been reinvented and transformed. It is “esque.” Let “esque” live on, as art transforms, and she is in the creative business of transformation.

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