detailed biography below...
Arthur Lipner grew up in Weston, Connecticut in a musical household. His mother, soprano soloist Judith Lipner (1930-2017), attended the Yale Music School and freelanced in the NYC area. Arthur attended many of her concerts and recorded them with his Dad on a Revox reel to reel, learning at a very young age about electronics, microphone placement, tape editing and more. Arthur began classical piano at age 6 with Bill Duffy at the Neighborhood Music School in New Haven, CT. At age 10 he began a second weekly lesson, studying improvisation and theory with legendary jazz educator John Mehegan in neighboring Westport, CT. At age 12 he acquired a Deagan xylorimba and mallet percussion with Howard Zwickler in downtown Westport above a head shop next to Buffalo Clothier. At 13, after discovering the vibraphone, he declined a classical piano scholarship to the Mannes School of Music Prep Division and focused solely on vibes. He also studied general percussion with David Smith, who at the time was a Professor at Western CT State College in Danbury, CT. Arthur's first jazz mallet teacher was David Friedman, then Dave Samuels with whom he continued studying with regularly through high school and college. Friedman, Samuels and Zwickler were role models for Arthur during these early years.
After earning a BS in Plant Science at the Univ of Delaware, in which he focused on plant pathology and genetics, Arthur stayed on at UD and began his Masters in Nutrition doing Graduate Research. His research was a Land Grant involving analytical organic chemistry, assessing the viability of a specific soybean variety for human consumption. He also worked with carrots that had been up in space through a NASA research grant, assessing bacterial disease growth in a weightless environment. During this year of grad school, Arthur went on tour to Costa Rica for three weeks with the Hal Schiff Big Band. In his second semester he accidentally started a large fire in one of the Nutrition Dept. labs, while doing a fatty acid extraction, which could have been quite serious (ie he could have blown up himself and the building). As that second semester wrapped he felt the need for change. An acquaintance was at North Texas State (now Univ. of North Texas) so he decided to put mass spectrometry/gel electrophoresis on hold and drove down to Denton, TX. As a 23 year-old part-time student he quickly assimilated in the working music scene of the Dallas/Forth Worth area. He was an original member of the band "Heads Up," formed by Dave Love, who went on to create a successful jazz record company of the same name. In 1983 Heads Up did an album of the same name, Arthur's first. Heads Up was the opening act for many headliners at the Agora Ballroom in Dallas. Rubbing shoulders with Phil Woods, Steps Ahead, Jaco Pastorius' Big Band, Mike Stern, Bob Mintzer, McCoy Tyner and many others gave Arthur the itch to get back to the gritty NYC scene. After only three semesters in Denton, Arthur left for Manhattan to begin his professional career.
Soon after he arrived back in his home area, Arthur began teaching at the University of Bridgeport (CT). There he met fellow faculty member/bassist Brian Torff, who was putting together a band called ETOSHA. Arthur joined in 1985. ETOSHA released an album in 1986 and began working in major NYC jazz clubs such as the Blue Note and Seventh Avenue South. They also played for 3 weeks in Jupiter, FL at the Burt Reynolds Supper Club. Meantime, Arthur was doing his own jazz gigs around the area and beyond as a bandleader. He bought his first set of steel pans from Andy Narell in 1985. Arthur quickly began getting called for private events. To organize the booking efforts he started "Tropical Music Productions," which still exists today. He named his band "The Caribbean Cruisers" and got very busy very fast as a player and music contractor. 1995 was the busiest year for Tropical Music Productions: they booked 243 jobs, including 17 in one week! Through the 1990's everyone in the band was making a lot money...and playing a lot of Hot Hot Hot! Arthur's reputation as a flawless sight reader soon got around and he began getting calls for album/tv recording sessions. He was a regular at Crushing Music doing tv spots for AT&T and other sessions, and also worked at other jingle studios around town. He also started doing his own jazz gigs at NYC clubs, writing/arranging material and producing his own album projects.
Arthur signed on as an Artist/Clinician with Selmer-Ludwig instruments and Mike Balter Mallets in 1986. Around this time he began a five-year Guest Faculty position in Holland. The commitment was teaching one week per semester. Arthur took this opportunity to stay for a couple weeks and toured around Western Europe. His uncle Herbie (cardiologist and pianist in Middletown, CT) had a studio flat in London's Russell Square which he could use, so he began to teach and perform throughout England and Scotland, using the flat as a home base. Arthur began working regularly in Belgium, also touring in France and Spain. Many of those early experiences in Europe became the seeds from which he has built his successful career around the world, establishing contacts and learning the business of touring as a clinician/bandleader.
Invited to a Percussion Festival in Poland during the mid 1990's, Arthur spent road time with Brazilian composer/percussionist Ney Rosauro. Arthur had met Rosauro prior when the University of Miami invited him for improvisation workshops. In Poland, Arthur & Ney realized they had common interests in music publishing. Arthur had just started the publishing company MalletWorks Music, primarily to release his book "The Vibes Real Book" along with other music he and colleagues had written. Lipner and Rosauro decided to partner in publishing by having MalletWorks be the exclusive worldwide distributor of all Rosauro's music. MalletWorks also took on the rental of all Rosauro's orchestral works. This helped propel MalletWorks to become an important publisher in the field of percussion. Rosauro and Lipner have continued this partnership to this day - and become the closest of friends along the way.
In 1996, Ney Rosauro invited Arthur to participate in the International Percussion Festival he was organizing at his university in Santa Maria, Brazil. This was Arthur's first trip to Brazil. Arthur was familiar with Brazilian jazz, but the immersion in Brazilian music and culture blew his mind wide open! On his return to NYC, at a Caribbean Cruisers gig, Arthur met Rio native Ze Luis. Ze had played with Caetano Veloso, whom Arthur had seen live in Rio de Janeiro only a few weeks prior. Ze invited Arthur to play with the Brazooka Band at NYC's famed club Cafe Wha? This NYC fixture of the Beat Generation was also the original stomping ground for Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Springsteen and many more. Brazooka played a mix Brazilian pop and dance music. Arthur began joining them at Cafe Wha? weekly on Monday nights with his vibes. There was a rehearsal 2-6p, then gig 9p-2am. Then of course a wind-down hang. Arthur would pack up and get back to Connecticut after the sun came up. The volume was loud, the dance music was pounding, and the crowd totally wild. What an experience! But, after a couple of months, Arthur couldn't sustain starting his non-Brazooka week on Tuesday afternoons. There were also two young children at home for Arthur to spend time with (Julia born 1994, Elliot born 1997). Additionally, he was getting busier with his own USA/International touring schedule. Nevertheless, the Cafe Wha? gig was a game-changer in Arthur's life. The players on the gig were some of the best in the city: Ze Luis (woodwinds), Tony Cedras (keys, Paul Simon), Mauro Refosco (percussion, David Byrne), the super-talented and charismatic band leader Carlos Darcy (trombone/vocals, Black Rio), and Vanessa Falabella (vocals).
Some of the musicians Arthur met on that gig became the friends and fabric of the rest of his career, collaborating together for future albums and performances. Mauro played on several albums Arthur produced. Ze Luis and Arthur continue to collaborate to this day in the studio on various projects. Arthur met Nanny Assis (vocals/percussion/guitar) on a Ze Luis gig in NYC. They formed the band Brasilian Vibes in 2009. Vanessa became a member of Brasilian Vibes, in fact recording her tracks on that album with Arthur while he was on tour in São Paulo. Their album "Brasilian Vibes" was nominated "CD Of The Year" by the Brasilian Press Awards in 2010. Vanessa and Carlos Dias started a group called Brasilian Music Soul. Arthur's involvement in this band, and Brasilian Vibes, led to engagements at NYC's Blue Note, BB King's, Zinc Bar as well as road gigs in Montreal, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Connecticut and elsewhere.
As of this writing (July 2021) Arthur has toured in Brazil 18 times. He has recorded a half dozen albums there and has many friends who are close musically and personally. These include Nelson Faria (guitarist/composer, web show host) with whom Arthur has done three albums and numerous concerts over the years, all in Brazil. Arthur has presented about a dozen workshops in Brazil at universities and Arts centers.
In 2004 a filmmaker was intrigued by Arthur's career and approached him about the possibility of pre-production in consideration of possibly making a documentary. The film was to be an inspirational and educational documentary about a musician’s inner and outer journeys with his percussion instruments vibraphone and marimba. After several scriptwriters and two directors, the storyline finally took shape. It was determined that the best way to tell the story was that there be a main character who knew about the instruments and the journey playing them from the inside. That person needed to be Arthur! Out of the blue, Arthur became the main character in a documentary. Talking Sticks took a very circuitous and challenging production route.
The Talking Sticks storyline reads like this: "Arthur Lipner is one of the top players in the world. But, he feels disconnected since his instruments are not part of the USA music scene. The conquering of this disconnect, through travels and interviews, is Talking Sticks." The creation of Talking Sticks turned Arthur's life upside down for a few intense years. There was constant stress about production deadlines and budget limitations. A lot of very personal footage shot about Arthur was shot in various locations, including his CT home, which involved his entire family. In her efforts to establish a strong main character and connection with the viewer, director Flavia Fontes dug deep into Arthur's head about his personal and professional motivations as a good filmmaker should. This caused a lot of pain for Arthur due to his difficult childhood dealing with a physically abusive alcoholic father. He learned about the role music played in his life as a child and how that impacted him and those around him during that period and in his adult life. Some of this is touched upon in Talking Sticks, but the version with full details was created then left on the cutting floor. In 2009, during a filming hiatus, Arthur's father died. This intensified the whole process and added new dimensions to the soul-searching that Flavia was seeking. In 2011, after finding more budget to continue production, Talking Sticks was back on track. More filming, more travel and more editing ensued. Location footage was shot in Ghana, Iceland, Mexico, Brazil and Norway. Finally, Talking Sticks premiered in 2014 at the New Haven Int'l Film Festival in New Haven, CT. After that it was actually recut a bit and had another premier of sorts, this time at NYC's Symphony Space in 2016. Arthur's mother, who appears briefly in the film, attended that screening and passed the following year.
The creation of Talking Sticks was life-changing for Arthur. It gave him even greater purpose and pride in his work. It strengthened his understanding that he has a responsibility to share his gift with others, that this is the true reward he may reap as an artist. Since the film's release, with the passing of Arthur's parents, Flavia, and two of the main characters (Vida Chenoweth and Bernard Woma) it has become an important archival piece.
Travelling the globe regularly, upon returning to his home in Wilton, CT Arthur felt the absence of the cultural connections he experienced on tour. He also felt a gap between the experience he was sharing with students on the road compared to that of only his local private teaching. Meantime, he had always dreamt of having a band which would accept everyone as a member without auditions. So, in 2010, Arthur merged these two parallel desires and started the Wilton Steel Community Band. Now in it's 11th year, Wilton Steel accepts all members of all ages. This includes people with no musical experience. The current youngest member is 10 years old. The eldest was 78. When available, Arthur gigs in the Summer months with the group. Check out the video of Wilton Steel playing Arthur's arrangement of "Shut Up And Dance" in the Projects area of this site. Fun stuff!
Vibraphone and marimba are instruments rarely used by others in bands and on recordings. Jazz mallet players are an unusual breed. They are most often band leaders in their own right. This takes a certain drive, a certain type of person willing to continuously be on the lookout for new directions and situations. This is the life Arthur has been living since his first professional gig at age 14. In the four decades since starting his career in NYC, he has released 9 solo albums and appeared on over 50 others recorded in the USA, Brazil and Netherlands. He has presented over 300 workshops in 26 countries at some of the world's most prestigious music schools including Juilliard, Royal College of Music (London), Sydney Conservatorium (Australia) and many others. He learned enough Dutch to teach in Holland and now speaks Portuguese. He authored the critically acclaimed method books "The Vibes Real Book" and "Jazz Mallets: IN SESSION." Faculty positions have included Director of Percussion Studies at the University of Bridgeport (CT) 1985-1987, Guest Faculty of the Brabants Conservatory now called "Fontys" 1986-1991 (Tilburg, Holland), teacher at Drummers Collective 1998-2000 (NYC) and Adjunct Faculty at SUNY Purchase 1999-2001 (Purchase, NY).
Arthur Lipner has gone the unconventional route of a lifetime freelancer, following his own star. Arthur has had zero "big breaks." He has cleared the path for his career with his own two hands every step of the way, understanding his journey and embracing it. Arthur's next album will be music he recorded on tour in Istanbul, St. Petersburg (Russia), Iceland and Brazil. Who knows what the future holds!
For more info on Talking Sticks, a complete discography, and lists of venues including universities please visit those areas of this website.