Saturday, September 29, 2012

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase:
A few minutes with Billy Childs

This week, let's spend a few minutes with some videos of pianist Billy Childs, who will be in St. Louis next week to play Wednesday, October 3 through Saturday, October 6 at Jazz at the Bistro.

Although the gig is billed as the Billy Childs Quartet, the group - which includes alto saxophonist Steve Wilson, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade - is positioned as more of a cooperative effort than a typical leader/sidemen scenario. And though they've worked together before on a very limited basis, playing in Los Angeles and at the Blue Note in Tokyo back in March, there seems to be no online video footage of them playing together.

So instead, we're focusing on the nominal leader, who may be a bit under the radar of many music fans despite his numerous accomplishments. Childs, 55, grew up in Los Angeles and studied music at USC. He worked briefly with trombonist J. J. Johnson while still in college, then joined Freddie Hubbard's band from 1978 to 1984.

Since then, in addition to leading his own bands, Childs has performed and/or recorded with Dianne Reeves, Allan Holdsworth, Eddie Daniels, Bobby Hutcherson, Branford Marsalis, Joe Locke, Grover Washington Jr., Donald Harrison, and others. In recent years, he's also worked regularly with Chris Botti, playing in St. Louis with the trumpeter several times.

Drawing on his background in classical music, Childs has written arrangements for Botti, Sting, Yo-Yo Ma, Gladys Knight, Michael Bublé, David Foster, Phil Ramone, Claudia Acuña, and others. He's also penned many commissioned pieces for a variety of ensembles, ranging from string quartet to full orchestra, and in 2009 received a Guggenheim Fellowship for composition.

In 2000 Childs arranged, orchestrated and conducted Dianne Reeves' album The Calling: Celebrating Sarah Vaughan, which won a 2002 Grammy award for "best jazz vocal CD." Childs also has won three Grammy Awards on his own, in 2006 (for "best instrumental composition" and "best arrangement accompanying a vocalist") and again in 2011 for "best instrumental composition."

He made his first album as a leader for Windham Hill Jazz in 1988 and since has recorded for several labels, including GRP, Shanachie and Metropolitan. Childs' most recent recordings for ArtistShare, Lyric, Vol. 1 (2006) and Autumn: In Moving Pictures, Vol. 2 (2010), combine jazz and classical elements.

Today's first clip up above, recorded late last year at Duc des Lombards in Paris, conveys some of the flavor of those two recent records, as Childs leads a sextet that include Blade on drums as well as Tim Garland (saxophones), Carol Robbins (harp), Larry Koonse (guitar) and Hamilton Price (bass).

Down below, you can see Childs with Price and drummer Gerry Gibbs, showing off some keyboard pyrotechnics on Chick Corea's "500 Miles High" in a clip recorded in 2007 at Steamers Jazz Cafe in Fullerton, CA. Below that, there's a video interview with Childs in four parts, recorded in 2009 for a Detroit-based program called eFactor.

For more about Billy Childs, check out his episode of NPR's "Piano Jazz", recorded in 2006.

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