William Edward Childs

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William Edward Childs (born March 8, 1957), best known as Billy Childs, is a composer and jazz pianist from Los Angeles.[1]

Early life[edit]

Childs began piano lessons when he was six. At the age of 16, he started attending the Community School of the Performing Arts, a prestigious music program sponsored by the University of Southern California (USC). After having studied theory there with Marienne Uszler and piano with John Weisenfluh, he attended USC (1975–79), earning a bachelor of music degree in composition, under the tutelage of Robert Linn.[2]

Childs was playing professionally as a teenager and he made his recording debut in 1977 with the J. J. Johnson Quintet during a tour of Japan that is documented as the Yokohama Concert. He gained significant attention during his six-years (1978–84) playing with trumpeter Freddie Hubbard’s group. While influenced early on in his playing by Herbie Hancock, Keith Emerson, and Chick Corea and in his composing by Paul Hindemith, Maurice Ravel, and Igor Stravinsky, Childs nevertheless had an original conception of his own from near the start, developing his own voice as both a pianist and a composer in jazz and classical music genres.

Solo recordings (Windham Hill, Stretch and Shanachie)[edit]

Childs’ solo jazz recording career began in 1988, when he released Take for Example, This..., the first of four critically acclaimed albums on the Windham Hill Jazz label. He followed that album with Twilight Is Upon Us (1989), His April Touch (1992), and Portrait of a Player (1993). A long friendship with Chick Corea resulted in Chick’s asking Billy to join his new (at the time) label, Stretch Records, upon Childs’ departure from Windham Hill Jazz. His next album, I’ve Known Rivers on Stretch/GRP (now Stretch/Concord) was released in 1995. Childs then followed with The Child Within, released on the Shanachie record label in 1996.

Work as arranger[edit]

In 2000 Childs arranged, orchestrated and conducted for Dianne Reeves' project The Calling: Celebrating Sarah Vaughan,[1] helping that recording to a 2002 Grammy award for "best jazz vocal CD." Other artists and producers for whom Childs has arranged include Sting, Yo-Yo Ma, Chris Botti, Gladys Knight, Michael Bublé, David Foster, Phil Ramone, and Claudia Acuña.

Jazz Chamber Ensemble[edit]

Around 2001 Childs had an idea for a group which would have, at its nucleus, piano, acoustic guitar, and harp. It was a sound partly influenced by Laura Nyro's collaborations with Alice Coltrane (on "Christmas and the Beads of Sweat") and partly influenced by a desire to merge the classical and jazz music genres. The Jazz-Chamber Ensemble was the result and the group consists of: piano, bass, drums, acoustic guitar, harp and woodwinds. Sometimes the core group is augmented by string quartet, woodwind quintet, or both.[3]

In 2005, the ensemble released its first CD, Lyric, Jazz-Chamber Music, Vol. 1. The CD was nominated for three 2006 Grammy awards (best jazz CD, best instrumental composition, and best instrumental arrangement), winning for best instrumental composition, "Into the Light".


  • 2003 - Chamber Music America New Composition Grant
  • 2006 - Grammy Award - best instrumental composition Into The Light[4]
  • 2006 - Grammy Award - best arrangement accompanying a vocalist What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?
  • 2009 - Guggenheim Fellowship - music composition[2]
  • 2011 - Grammy Award - Best Instrumental Composition The Path Among the Trees from his ArtistShare release - Autumn in moving pictures.
  • 2013 - Doris Duke Artist Award
  • 2015 - Grammy Award - Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals. "New York Tendaberry."

Classical commissions[edit]


Title[5] Year of Release Label Chart
Take for Example This 1988 Windham Hill Jazz
Twilight Is Upon Us 1989 Windham Hill Jazz Top Jazz Albums 11 [4]
His April Touch 1991 Windham Hill Jazz
Portrait of a Player 1993 Windham Hill Jazz Top Jazz Albums 12 [4]
I've Known Rivers 1995 Stretch
The Child Within 1996 Shanachie
Skim Coat 1999 Metropolitan
Bedtime Stories 2000 32 Jazz
Lyric - Jazz/Chamber Music, Vol. 1 2005 Lunacy
Autumn: In Moving Pictures - Jazz/Chamber Music, Vol. 2 2010 ArtistShare
Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro 2014 Sony Masterworks Jazz Albums 1
The Billboard 200 104

With J. J. Johnson and Nat Adderley


  1. ^ a b Berlanga-Ryan, Esther (12 April 2011). "Billy Childs: The Perfect Picture". All About Jazz. Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  2. ^ a b "Billy Childs: 2009 - US & Canada Competition Creative Arts - Music Composition". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  3. ^ Wardle, Renato (11 October 2005). "Billy Childs Ensemble: Lyric: Jazz-Chamber Music Vol. 1 (2005)". All About Jazz. Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Billy Childs: Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 26 June 2015. 
  5. ^ "Billy Childs: DIscography". AllMusic. Retrieved 26 June 2015. 

External links[edit]