Jazz writer John Gilbert has called Lenore "Simply one of the best pianists in our art form...she always swings." Critics have used words like "swinging", "emotional" and "artistically subtle" when describing Lenore's playing.
Swinging has always been of major importance to Lenore since she listened to her idols Bud Powell and Oscar Peterson. So is "telling the story". She strives to be in touch with the intent of the tune when she plays.
Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, Lenore Raphael started at the age of 3 by playing everything she heard by ear. Lenore studied classical piano with concert artist Beulah Eisenstadt. By the age of seven she was featured in recitals and performed at Carnegie Hall. Even then, she heard different things in the classical music she was playing and started embellishing and improvising on Mozart, Chopin, etc.
She soon began listening to Clifford Brown recordings that her brother brought home. She began playing along with those recordings and into her teens listened to the music of Art Tatum and Bud Powell. While trying to emulate these masters, she graduated from the High School of Music & Art in New York City and then went on to major in music education at New York University.
Upon graduation with a BA in Music Ed, with plans to be a teacher in the New York City school system, once she heard Oscar Peterson her life direction changed. Playing along with Oscar's recordings sometimes five or six hours a day, after two years she felt she was ready to approach the professional world of jazz performance.
A move to New Jersey to raise two sons, she formed a local trio, which gave rise to her first job at Richard's Lounge, a little club in Lakewood, New Jersey. That first night she received a note from a fellow in the audience who happened to be famed pianist Joe Bushkin, who complimented her on her style. She continued to perform in all kinds of venues in the New Jersey area and finally got her first New York City break at a little club on 62nd Street called Gregory's.
Everybody played at Gregory's...pianists Ellis Larkins and Al Haig, guitarists Chuck Wayne and Joe Puma, Ellington alumni Russell Procope and Sonny Greer, bassist Jack Six and many more and Lenore's first gig there was with Russell and Sonny. She stayed there for a year playing the early show five nights a week.
Meeting Ellis Larkins was a great opportunity because he stressed to her how important it was to "tell the story" of the tune.
Lenore continued to perform in small clubs in New York and New Jersey and along the way met and studied with the great pianist and teacher Barry Harris. She joined his workshop and he encouraged her to continue playing and at a jazz party insisted that she play with Lionel Hampton.
During that period Lenore also developed a private teaching practice and at one point had forty students, which helped her formulate methods of teaching jazz by tape.
A meeting with Charles Hansen of Hansen publishing led to the creation of her jazz theory book "Jazz Master Class" which she wrote with jazz theoretician Sid Schwartz.
Lenore also started studying privately with Dizzy Gillespie's arranger and pianist Mike Longo and after a year, she was ready to move on to clubs in New York like Birdland, The Metronome, Carlos 1 and the West End Gate.
In 1991 she was asked to be accompanist to a vocalist on the S.S. Norway Jazz Cruise and wound up playing with Clark Terry, Al Grey, Illinois Jacquet and others.
Moving to northern New Jersey, she realized there was a need for jazz entertainment and started producing JAM, the concert series Jazz at the Millburn Library. For six years she held the piano chair and brought in guests like Joe Cohn, John Pizzarelli, Marlene VerPlank, Vic Juris and many more.
Continuing her interest in jazz education, she was asked by the head of the New Jersey jazz society to put together a program for elementary school students to teach them the history of jazz. She and vocalist Janet Lawson combined ideas and invited guests Clark Terry, Arnie Lawrence, Ray Drummond and Billy Drummond to participate in the program. It was videotaped by TCI cable and has become the model for teaching jazz to young people in several European states. She also organized, along with bassist Chris White, a six week summer jazz workshop at Montclair State College in Montclair, New Jersey. The program was a complete success with 100 students enrolled the first year. It ran for three consecutive summers.
In 1991, she recorded her first CD "The Whole Truth" with guest artists guitar great Vic Juris, sax master Mark Vinci, bassist Mike Richmond and drummer John Paul Biagi. Featuring several originals, some of her tunes have been recorded by other artists. She has won ASCAP awards for her original tunes.
Lenore moved back to her home in New York City in 1998, and realizing the need to expand her performance venues, she also began to play clubs and concerts outside of New York City.
Since then she has performed in concerts at the Panasonic Village Jazz Festival, the Gainesville Friends of Jazz gala, the Colorado Springs Conservatory, Jazz in The Sangres festival, East Coast Jazz festival, the International Association for Jazz Education showcase, Pops for Champagne in Chicago, the Jazz & Blues Company in Carmel, California, and many more.
As a result of her second CD "Reflections", Lenore was invited to be a guest on Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz radio show.
Her third CD "Wingin' It" was recorded in Florida at the WUCF studios. With Mike Bocchicchio on bass and Roger King Jr. on drums, it is still getting heavy airplay on jazz stations around the world.
In 2004 she released "A Beautiful Friendship" which has gotten critical acclaim for her different takes on standards. With Hilliard Greene on bass and Rudy Lawless on drums, she tries to keep this New York trio together as much as possible.
Her 2007 release "Invitation" was nominated for a 2008 Grammy Award. Lenore's latest release "CLASS ACT" is now available!
My name is Clayton E. Corley, Sr. aka Big Trigger host and producer of an award winning internet program!