Kevin Hays

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Kevin Hays
Born (1968-05-01) May 1, 1968 (age 53)
New York City, New York, US
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
Years active1985–present
LabelsSteepleChase, Blue Note

Kevin Hays (born May 1, 1968) is an American jazz pianist and composer. He began playing in New York while still at high school and led his first record date in 1990. He has recorded more than twenty albums as leader or co-leader, including three each for SteepleChase and Blue Note Records. He led a long-standing trio with bassist Doug Weiss and drummer Bill Stewart, and has also sung with his New Day Trio of bassist Rob Jost and drummer Greg Joseph.

Early life[edit]

Hays was born in New York City on May 1, 1968,[1] the youngest of four children.[2] He was raised in Greenwich, Connecticut, and began studying the piano at the age of six,[1] after hearing his father, an amateur player.[2] He was initially interested in rock music and other things that he heard on the radio, and became more interested in jazz in his early teens.[2] Initially self-taught,[1] Hays later had lessons with Lou Stein, and attended several Interlochen Music Camps.[2] Hays played locally from 1982.[1]

Later life and career[edit]

Hays started playing in New York in 1985,[1] while still at high school.[2] He then had a period in Nick Brignola's band,[1] and attended the Manhattan School of Music for a semester[2] in 1986 before dropping out to concentrate on performing.[3] His debut recording as a leader came in 1990, for the Japanese label Jazz City.[2] Several of the tracks on this album, El Matador, were his own compositions.[4] During 1991 to 1993, he also recorded three albums for SteepleChase Records.[2]

"Hays played regularly with a number of Bob Belden's ensembles from the late 1980s, and in the 1990s he toured Japan and recorded with the Harper Brothers (1990) and worked with Steve Wilson, Benny Golson (from c. 1990), Joshua Redman's quartet (1992), Seamus Blake (from 1993), and Eddie Henderson (from 1994)."[1] After the SteepleChase albums, he signed to Blue Note Records, who released three of his albums.[2] In 1995 Hays toured with saxophonist Sonny Rollins.[1]

Hays's trio, with Doug Weiss (bass) and Bill Stewart (drums), played together for 15 years.[3] Hays also recorded albums under Stewart's leadership in the 2000s.[5] In 2010–11, Hays performed and recorded duets with pianist Brad Mehldau.[6][7] Also in 2011, Variations, a solo piano album that included interpretations of Robert Schumann, was released by Pirouet Records.[8] Hays formed the New Day Trio, with Rob Jost on bass and Greg Joseph on drums, and also sang on their first release, New Day.[3] This was followed around a year later by North.[9] Hope, a duo album with Lionel Loueke, was released around 2017.[10]

Playing style[edit]

"Hays has a linear style and a strong harmonic sense, and uses the pedal to produce a clipped sound, recalling the early work of Paul Bley."[1]


As leader/co-leader[edit]

Year recorded Title Label Personnel/Notes
1990 El Matador Jazz City Some tracks quartet, with Steve Wilson (alto sax, soprano sax), Scott Colley (bass), Bill Stewart (drums); some tracks quintet, with Joe Henderson (tenor sax) added; reissued by Evidence[11]
1991 SweetEar SteepleChase Quintet, with Eddie Henderson (trumpet), Vincent Herring (soprano sax, alto sax), James Genus (bass), Joe Chambers (drums)[12]
1991 Ugly Beauty SteepleChase Trio, with Larry Grenadier (bass), Jeff Williams (drums)[12]
1992 Crossroad SteepleChase Quintet, with Scott Wendholt (trumpet, flugelhorn), Freddie Bryant (guitar), Dwayne Burno (bass), Carl Allen (drums)[12]
1994 7th Sense Blue Note Quintet, with Seamus Blake (soprano sax, tenor sax), Steve Nelson (vibes), Doug Wiess (bass), Brian Blade (drums)[13]
1995 Go Round Blue Note Sextet, with Seamus Blake (soprano sax, tenor sax), Steve Hall (tenor sax), Doug Wiess (bass), Billy Hart (drums), Daniel Sadownick (percussion)[13]
1996 Andalucia Blue Note Trio, with Ron Carter (bass), Jack DeJohnette (drums)[11]
2001 What Survives PinonDisk Trio, with Doug Weiss (bass), Bill Stewart (drums)[11]
2003 Fear of Roaming Fresh Sound New Talent As Sangha Quartet; quartet, with Seamus Blake (tenor sax), Larry Grenadier (bass), Bill Stewart (drums)[11]
2004 Open Range ACT Solo piano; Hays sings on one track; one track has sampled singers[12]
2004 One Little Song Duo, co-led with Eli Degibri (tenor sax, soprano sax)[11]
2005 For Heaven's Sake Jazz Eyes Trio, with Doug Weiss (bass), Bill Stewart (drums)[12]
2006 The Dreamer Artist Share With Hilary Smith (vocals), Doug Weiss (bass), Bill Stewart (drums)[11]
2007 You've Got a Friend Jazz Eyes Trio, with Doug Weiss (bass), Bill Stewart (drums)[11][14]
2008 Live at Smalls Smalls Live Trio, with Doug Weiss (bass), Bill Stewart (drums); in concert[15]
2009 Dawning Palmetto As Saffron; quintet, with Katayoun Goudarzi (vocals), Tim Ries (tenor sax, soprano sax, bass clarinet, Hungarian folk flute), Shujaat Khan (sitar, vocals), Abhiman Kaushal (tabla)[11]
2010 Variations Pirouet Solo piano[11]
2010 Modern Music Nonesuch Duo, co-led with Brad Mehldau (piano)[11]
2015 New Day Sunnyside With Tony Scherr (electric guitar, acoustic bass), Gregoire Maret (harmonica), Rob Jost (electric bass, bass), Greg Joseph (drums, percussion)[16]
2016 North Sunnyside Trio, with Rob Jost (bass, ukulele), Greg Joseph (drums)[9]
2017 Hope Newvelle (France) / Edition Records (UK) Duo, with Lionel Loueke (guitar, vocals)[10]
2019 Where Are You Fresh Sound Records Trio, with Marc Miralta (drums), Mark Turner (tenor sax)
2019 Across The Sea Via Veneto Jazz Duo, with Chiara Izzi (composer, vocals)

As sideman[edit]

With Jeff Ballard

  • Fairgrounds (Edition, 2018)[17]

With Bob Belden

  • Straight to My Heart: The Music of Sting (Blue Note, 1991)
  • Puccini's Turandot (Blue Note, 1992)
  • When the Doves Cry: The Music of Prince (Blue Note, 1994)
  • Shades of Blue (Blue Note, 1996)
  • Strawberry Fields (Blue Note, 1996)
  • Tapestry (Blue Note, 1997)
  • Black Dahlia (Blue Note, 2001)
  • Three Days of Rain (Sunnyside, 2006)

With Benny Golson

With Ricardo Grilli

  • 1962 (Tone Rogue)[18]

With Eddie Henderson

  • Inspiration (Milestone, 1994)
  • Dark Shadows (Milestone, 1995)
  • Dreams of Gershwin (Key Stone, 1998)
  • Reemergence (Sharp Nine, 1999)
  • Oasis (Sirocco, 2001)
  • Precious Moment (Kind of Blue, 2006)

With Vincent Herring

With Chris Potter

With Joshua Redman

With Mark Turner


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Kennedy, Gary W. (2003), "Hays, Kevin", Oxford Music Online, Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.J588500
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Colligan, George (October 30, 2010). "The Kevin Hays Interview". jazztruth. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Yanow, Scott (May 2015). "Kevin Hays". Jazz Inside. pp. 50–51.
  4. ^ Adler, David R. "Kevin Hays: El Matador". AllMusic. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  5. ^ Chinen, Nate (November 1, 2008). "Bill Stewart: The Tie That Binds". JazzTimes.
  6. ^ Hobart, Mike (September 17, 2011) "Brad Mehldau & Kevin Hays: Modern Music".
  7. ^ "Brad Mehldau + Kevin Hays + Patrick Zimmerli – Modern Music". Nonesuch Records. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  8. ^ Bilawsky, Dan (November 21, 2011). "Kevin Hays: Variations". All About Jazz.
  9. ^ a b Kato, Yoshi (October 2016). "Kevin Hays New Day Trio: North". DownBeat. Vol. 83 no. 10. p. 60.
  10. ^ a b Drouot, Alain (October 2017). "Kevin Hays & Lionel Loueke: Hope". DownBeat. Vol. 84 no. 10. p. 59.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Kevin Hays Catalog". Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  12. ^ a b c d e Cook, Richard; Morton, Brian (2008). The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings (9th ed.). Penguin. pp. 676–677. ISBN 978-0-141-03401-0.
  13. ^ a b Cook, Richard; Morton, Brian (1996). The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD (3rd ed.). Penguin. pp. 605–606. ISBN 978-0-14-051368-4.
  14. ^ Panken, Ted (September 2011). "Blindfold Test". DownBeat. Vol. 78 no. 9. p. 74.
  15. ^ Panken, Ted (May 2010). "Big Smalls Launch". DownBeat. Vol. 77 no. 5. p. 56.
  16. ^ Dean-Harris, Anthony (July 2015). "Kevin Hays: New Day". DownBeat. Vol. 82 no. 7. p. 59.
  17. ^ Macnie, Jim (February 2019). "Jeff Ballard: Fairgrounds". DownBeat. Vol. 86 no. 2. p. 58.
  18. ^ Lorge, Suzanne (June 2020). "Ricardo Grilli: 1962". DownBeat. Vol. 87 no. 6. p. 44.

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