Composer/Arranger/Pianist Billy Childs Wins Two Grammy Awards


Sign in to view read count


CD Features Larry Koonse, Scott Colley, Brian Blade, Marvin “Smitty" Smith, Bob Sheppard, Jimmy Johnson and Carol Robbins

Acclaimed Los Angeles-based pianist/composer/ arranger Billy Childs has won two Grammy Awards!

  • “Best Instrumental Composition" [for the composition “Into The Light," featured on Lyric]

  • “Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist" [sharing the award with arrangers Gil Goldstein and Heitor Pereira, for Chris Botti's and Sting's “What Are You Doing For The Rest of Your Life"]

    Childs was also honored to be nominated for the following two awards (also relating to his Lyric: Jazz-Chamber Music Vol. 1 CD):

  • “Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group" [for Lyric]

  • “Best Instrumental Arrangement" [for “Scarborough Faire," featured on Lyric]

Childs attended the ceremony in Los Angeles on Wednesday, February 8 to accept his two Grammys in person. He is currently touring the country with trumpeter Chris Botti, with upcoming February stops in Detroit, Dallas, Kansas City, Cleveland, Washington and more.

Since the album's release in September of 2005, Lyric (released through ArtistShare, who also had Grammy success with last year's “Concert In The Garden" by Childs' longtime friend, Maria Schneider) has received press accolades around the world, including a 17-minute January 2006 feature on NPR's “Weekend Edition Sunday," which can be found here.

About Lyric:

“...Billy Childs is one of America's national treasures. He's one of the most unique and gifted composer-pianists of our times. His music spans practically every musical genre in existence and his genius continues to grow and expand. I've been a huge fan of his work for at least 20 years." - Chick Corea

Heady words, for sure, but well-deserved, as more and more jazz - and recently classical - enthusiasts, are discovering the lush, vibrant and daringly innovative music of four-time Grammy nominee BILLY CHILDS. With the release of Lyric (on Lunacy Music / ArtistShare), Childs' prodigious powers and gifts come to bear, as the musician, ever pushing the artistic envelope, continues to break new ground. The self-produced album features the Billy Childs Ensemble performing eight original works and a gorgeous arrangement of “Scarborough Faire."

“It's called 'Lyric', explains Childs, “Because I wanted to bring people to a place of serenity. It's not dazzlingly in-your-face, but meant to get under your skin. It's lyrical."

It also teems with rich harmonies, complex rhythms and cool textures, as Childs' five- year old ensemble soars to new heights. Traces of French Impressionism can be felt, while the meld of acoustic guitars, saxophones, drums, bass and harp burst with exotic textures and tantalizingly sweet melodies, all anchored by Childs' virtuosic piano playing.

As Childs points out, “People don't listen to music and then talk about the theory of it. It's melody that speaks to people. This ensemble is about blending elements of jazz and classical into an organic whole. We call it ' jazz chamber music,' not a new concept, to be sure, but this is our twist on it."

The genre is a perfect fit for the eternal quester, whom Don Heckman of the Los Angeles Times has hailed “...a Los Angeles treasure." Heckman adds: “As a pianist, he possesses the improvisatory skills and powerful sense of swing one associates with world-class artists. He is a thoughtful observer of the jazz scene with a born educator's insightful view of its many complexities. And perhaps, most importantly, Childs is an inventive composer and arranger whose efforts in those areas consistently expand the dimensions of the jazz genre - and beyond."

All of this is in evidence on “Lyric," a bountiful feast that takes the listener on an emotional journey, where the joys and rigors of performing shimmer like facets of finely etched Lalique. From the opening track, “In Carson's Eyes," a tribute to his nine-year old son, to the deeply moving, “Goodbye, Friend," in memory of bassist Eric Von Essen, “Lyric" stirs the soul and merits repeated listenings.

Of the late bassist, Childs recalls, “I only knew Eric the last two years of his life, but we had this magical connection where it was almost telepathic. That's why bass is prominently featured in this piece."

Childs' musical mind, curious and probing, forays into Bach-like territory with “Prelude in B-flat Major." The work, which began as a book of well-tempered clavier- type preludes for solo piano, ended as an arrangement for a jazz chamber group setting.

Indeed, the concept of the CD was to make melodies that beckon the listener with beauty and grace, qualities highlighting “The Old Man Tells His Story." Augmented by woodwind and string quartets, and conducted by Patrick Gandy, the piece was a commission from the Henry Mancini Institute and grew out of an image Childs had of old men playing chess in Central Park. With its waltz-like feel, the clarinet, symbolic of the old man, also pulsates with lilting melodies reminiscent of a Satie “Gymnopedie."

“Into the Light," is the result of another commission, which came from Tim Jackson and the Kuumbwa Jazz Society in Santa Cruz, CA. With his career in high gear - Childs was scoring a movie as well as producing an album for Claudia Acuna - it was also an emotionally complex time for the composer, whose mother was ailing. But against these odds, Childs said he came up with a composition unlike any he'd ever written. Structuring the music to reach climaxes before “breaking way down," Childs recalls, “I was thinking of it as one prolonged crescendo. We performed it in Santa Cruz after my mother passed."

Childs was inspired to write “Hope in the Face of Despair" after encountering Art Spiegelman's Pulitzer Prize-winning “Maus" in 1989. A graphic novel depicting the Holocaust, this is deep, psychologically daunting terrain that Childs would revisit in “Voices of Angels," the large-scale cantata that was commissioned and premiered by the Los Angeles Master Chorale in May, 2005.

As a native Los Angeleno, Childs understandably takes an interest in cinema. “Quiescence," a rearrangement of a piece that begin as a commission for Steve Houghton for the 1992 Grenoble Jazz Festival, has what Childs refers to as, “a French new wave feel, something that might be played in a Godard or Truffaut movie."

Completing the album is “American Landscape," a work pulsing with vitality that Childs says - albeit with tongue in cheek - was written, “before it was fashionable to be patriotic." Witnessing a Fourth of July fireworks show, Childs remembers thinking of a triadic, American-sounding melody in the vein of Copland's “Fanfare for the Common Man."

With the release of Lyric, Childs aligns himself with ArtistShare (www.artistshare.com), the innovative company bringing a new business model to the recording industry by allowing artists to not only own their works, but to finance them through purchases from interested “participants," who receive various premiums for different levels of participation. Debuting in 2004 with the release of Maria Schneider's Grammy- winning Concert In The Garden CD, ArtistShare was recently voted the #7 label of the year in DownBeat magazine's esteemed Critics Poll, ahead of established labels like Delmark, Concord and Fantasy.

“ArtistShare is very empowering to solo artists," Childs says. “You determine how and when your music is marketed. You determine your own destiny. I've conceived of this music my whole life and now the music truly belongs to me."

And, with ArtistShare's help, to the rest of the world as well.

This story appears courtesy of All About Jazz.
Copyright © 2021. All rights reserved.

Visit Website

For interview requests or more information contact .

Post a comment


Jazz News


All About Jazz needs your support

All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded albums and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, limited reopenings and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary step that will help musicians and venues now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the sticky footer ad). Thank you!

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.