Jazz pianist/composer BILLY CHILDS remains one of the most diversely prolific and acclaimed artists working in music today. Childs’ canon of original compositions and arrangements has garnered him the 2013 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship (2009), 16 Grammy nominations, and five Grammy awards, most recently for Best Jazz Instrumental Album (Rebirth). Previously he won for Best Arrangement, Instrumental & Vocal in 2015 for “New York Tendaberry” (featuring Renée Fleming and Yo-Yo Ma), from his highly successful release Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro. Other Grammy wins include Best Instrumental Composition for “The Path Among the Trees” (2011) and “Into the Light” (2005), from his much-heralded jazz/chamber releases, Autumn: In Moving Pictures and Lyric. Downbeat magazine states, “Childs’ jazz/chamber group has taken the jazz-meets classical format to a new summit.”
Born in Los Angeles in 1957, Childs was already proficient at the piano by age six; he was accepted in USC’s Community School for the Performing Arts at age 16, studying music theory and piano with some of the world’s most renowned musical scholars. He graduated from USC in 1979 with a degree in composition. Among Childs’ early influences he counts Herbie Hancock, Keith Emerson, Chick Corea, and others. He credits classical composers such as Paul Hindemith, Maurice Ravel, and Igor Stravinsky for also influencing his love of composition. Child’s performing career was also enriched by early-career apprenticeships with legendary jazz trombonist J.J. Johnson, and trumpet great Freddie Hubbard, in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Childs released his first solo album, Take for Example, This…, in 1988, on Windham Hill Records. It was the first of four raved-about albums on the imprint, culminating with the acclaimed Portrait of A Player, in 1993. In 1995, Childs’ released I’ve Known Rivers on Stretch/GRP Records. In 1996, he released The Child Within on Shanachie Records. Songs from both recordings garnered his first Grammy nominations.
Childs’ multiple musical interests also include collaborations, arrangements, and productions for other acclaimed artists, including Yo-Yo Ma, the Kronos Quartet, Wynton Marsalis, Sting, Chris Botti, and Leonard Slatkin, among others. He has received orchestral commissions from the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Master Chorale, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. In 2013, he premiered “Enlightened Souls” a commission from Duke University featuring Dianne Reeves and the Ying Quartet, to commemorate fifty years of African-American students attending the school. In 2016, he premiered the piano quintet, “The Bird, The River, The Storm,” with the Ying Quartet (a piece they commissioned).
In 2014, Childs released Map to the Treasure – Reimagining Laura Nyro (Sony Masterworks), which was produced by Larry Klein and features Reneé Fleming, Esperanza Spalding, Alison Krauss, Shawn Colvin, Rickie Lee Jones, Becca Stevens, Ledisi, Chris Botti, Yo-Yo Ma, and Susan Tedeschi. In Spring 2017, he reached back to his jazz roots with Rebirth, a quartet album and his debut on the Mack Avenue label.