Helena Symphony presents Philip Aaberg concert

Montana-born pianist and composer introduces new album Nov. 11 in Helena

New & Notable
Philip Aaberg, piano
Pianist Philip Aaberg’s solo concert is followed by an album-release and dance party.

The Helena Symphony presents legendary pianist and composer Philip Aaberg in a solo concert, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 11, in the Helena Civic Center. As one of Montana’s most celebrated musicians, the classically trained Harvard University graduate incorporates classical, jazz, bluegrass, rock, and new music elements into his compositions and musical structures.

Although best known for his solo piano work, Aaberg is most at home in the chamber jazz genre. His compositions are noted for their “rigorous keyboard technique, diverse influences, and colorful compositional style.”

The concert coincides with the release of Aaberg’s new recording, Versatile. The new album “features Chicago blues to Southern rock to the flowing water of a big river,” explains Aaberg. The album may be purchased at the concert, which is immediately followed by an album-release and dance party in the Helena Civic Center.

Rolling Stone magazine hailed Aaberg as “a deft, ebullient rocker,” and Keyboard Magazine proclaimed “Phil is the genuine article … an innovator in a stylistic neighborhood bordered by great American composers Aaron Copland and Charles Ives, and performers Bruce Hornsby and Keith Jarrett. It’s a uniquely American sound …”

The Grammy-nominated and Emmy-nominated pianist has toured the globe, combining Americana with jazz, bluegrass, and rock.

Born in Havre and raised in Chester, Aaberg started performing with local bands at dances at 14 years old. He eventually toured and recorded as a member of Elvin Bishop’s Group at the time of its greatest popularity, and co-wrote the title song of the band’s 1976 Struttin’ My Stuff release, an album that also included Bishop’s biggest hit, “Fooled Around and Fell in Love,” featuring Aaberg on piano.

In 1985, he released the highly acclaimed solo album High Plains that showcased his eclectic musical background. He followed this up with seven more solo albums: Out of the Frame (1988), Upright (1989), Cinema (1992), Field Notes (2000), the Grammy Award-nominated Live from Montana (2000), Christmas (2002), and Blue West (2005).

Aaberg has performed with the Boston Pops Orchestra and at the Marlboro Chamber Music Festival. As a guest artist, he has been featured on more than 200 albums and on PBS’s All-American Jazz program, earning him an Emmy Award nomination.

A sought-after pianist, Aaberg has appeared with world-acclaimed artists, including Peter Gabriel and Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers. Currently he runs his own record label, Sweetgrass Music, designed to produce music that “connects a global audience to the sweeping landscape of the West.”

Throughout his career, Aaberg has produced music that consistently translated Montana’s farms, ranches, and native cultures into “musical concepts” and has “forged a unique keyboard style that paints an audible portrait of his home state.” He also produces a public radio program, “Of the West: Creativity and Sense of Place.”

He received a Montana Governor’s Award for the Arts, and in 2011 he received a Montana Arts Council Innovator Award. His score for “Class C: The Only Game in Town” was nominated for a regional Emmy Award.

Tickets to this special concert are $25 (plus a $5 transaction fee) with all seats reserved, and may be purchased online at www.helenasymphony.org, by calling the Symphony Box Office (406-442-1860), or visiting the box office located on the Walking Mall at the Livestock Building (2 N. Last Chance Gulch, Suite 1) between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.