Billy Childs

Doris Duke Artist Award, 2013

Los Angeles, CA

Pianist and composer Billy Childs is known for bridging chamber music and jazz. He has performed with legendary jazz artists such as Ron Carter, Jack DeJohnette, and Wynton Marsalis, as well as cellist Yo-Yo Ma and violinist Joshua Bell, and popular artists Chris Botti and Sting. He has been commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Kronos Quartet, Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, and Dorian Wind Quintet. His solo jazz recordings have garnered ten Grammy nominations and three Grammy awards. Recently, he has recorded two volumes of jazz/chamber music—Lyric, Vol. 1 (Lunacy, 2006) and Autumn: In Moving Pictures, Vol. 2 (Lunacy, 2010). Critics have described the music as episodic, full of color, and seamlessly coherent, devoid of string quartet annexes. He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship (2009), a MAP Fund grant (2008), and a Chamber Music America New Jazz Works grant (2004), among other honors. His quartet recently performed as part of the inaugural season of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s DOHA, Qatar location. In 2014 he will release an album re-imagining the music of singer/songwriter Laura Nyro.

  • Billy Childs- “Raindrop Patterns,” “The Path Among The Trees,” Autumn: In Moving Pictures (Lunacy, 2010):
    “Raindrop Patterns,” “The Path Among The Trees,” Autumn: In Moving Pictures (Lunacy, 2010)
  • Billy Childs- “Into the Light,” Lyric (Lunacy, 2003):
    “Into the Light,” Lyric (Lunacy, 2003)
  • Billy Childs working with Yo-Yo Ma
  • Photo Credit: Bob Barry

Suppose you just met someone who didn't know your work, what project from the past 10 years would you direct them to as an entry point to you and your work, and why?

I would direct a person unfamiliar with my work to my most recent jazz/chamber recording: Autumn: In Moving Pictures. Autumn was recorded in 2009 and is the fullest realization of what I've been attempting to achieve my whole career—that is, the organic integration of European classical music and American classical music (jazz), through the prism of chamber music. Since small group jazz and classical chamber music are genres which are both conductor-less, are both "one musician to a part," and both based upon an ensemble inter-dependency, they have much in common. My goal has always been to find those common areas and use compositional devices to explore and highlight those points of connection. I believe that Autumn: In Moving Pictures is my most successful rendering of that ethos. Because the unique instrumentation of the ensemble on Autumn is predominantly leaning towards the string section of a typical orchestra (eight stringed instruments out of ten—including harp, string quartet, piano, guitar, and bass), the sound is very impressionistic, which fits perfectly with the concept of the album; the concept being an impressionistic depiction—a musical illustration—of the beauty of a New England autumn.