New York, NY (February 8, 2007)–Pianist, composer, arranger and recording artist Philippe Saisse was made a Chevalier (Knight) dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in a ceremony at the French Embassy in New York City on January 11. Saisse is represented by Thwak! Music for original music for commercials.
The Ordre des Arts et des Lettres was established in 1957 by the French government to recognize eminent artists, writers and other individuals who contribute significantly to furthering the arts in France and worldwide. Saisse joins notables such as Ornette Coleman, Marilyn Horne, Robert Redford and Meryl Streep in receiving the accolade. Jazz guitar great Jim Hall was honored at the same January ceremony.
“I haven’t been part of the whole French establishment for the last 30 years, so it was a nice surprise to be acknowledged for my career,” said Saisse who was born in France and raised in Marseilles and Paris. “My solo work was always considered ‘too American’–whatever that means–to get much exposure in France. Apart from a few projects, like a major hit I had with French singer Claude Nougaro, my credentials have really consisted of work with American artists.”
Saisse attended the Paris National Conservatory as a teenager studying piano, percussion, music theory and composition. He took First Prize in percussion and mallet keyboards then accepted the prestigious Paul Winter Scholarship to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston. There he furthered his skills by studying advanced composition under Michael Gibbs and performing with his idol, vibraphonist Gary Burton, while soaking up the music of the era–Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett and the Mahavishnu Orchestra.
He jumped straight out of Berklee into a successful session career, performing with many artists he worshipped as a teenager. Saisse played keyboards for Chaka Khan (I Feel For You) the Rolling Stones (Harlem Shuffle), David Bowie (Scary Monsters) and others. He composed for David Sanborn, Al Jarreau and Al Di Meola. He became co-music director/keyboardist for Sanborn’s “Night Music Show” on NBC, toured with the American Ballet Theater, and produced Chaka Khan’s album, Destiny.
Saisse released his first solo album, Valerian, on Windham Hill in 1988. He signed with Verve Forecast in the mid-90s, and his Verve debut album, Masques, firmly established him in the adult contemporary field. It was followed by NeXT Voyage and Halfway Till Dawn, the latter featuring cross-generational collaborations with an array of artists, including two tracks with drumming ace Tony Verderosa who now heads Thwak! Music. Saisse and Verderosa have toured together, and Saisse has recently composed music via Thwak! for Office Depot, V8, Bacardi and Trojan spots.
Saisse was an arranger and keyboard player on the first, second and fourth of Rod Stewart’s hit The Great American Song Book albums. He just completed string arrangements for Donnie Osmond’s upcoming Universal album featuring tunes of the ’60s and ’70s. Last year The Philippe Saisse Trio’s The Body & Soul Sessions, on Rendezvous Records, climbed to #1 on the smooth jazz charts.