Hays was born in New York City. Featured on dozens of recordings with a variety of leading jazz artists, ten CDs as leader, three on Blue Note Records, he has played with Sonny Rollins, Benny Golson, Ron Carter, Joe Henderson, Roy Haynes, John Scofield, Donald Harrison, Chris Potter, Al Foster, Buster Williams, Art Farmer, and others.
He began studying piano at the age of six and was playing professionally by 15, finding himself two years later, playing with baritone saxophonist Nick Brignola. After spending a year at the Manhattan School of Music to perfect his skills, he began travelling around the U.S., Japan, and Europe with various bands, including The Harper Brothers, Benny Golson, Joe Henderson and Eddie Gomez.
In 1994 he signed a contract with Blue Note, releasing three recordings which received favourable reviews. His Seventh Sense (1994), praised by The New York Times, was recognized as one of the "Top 40 Jazz Releases of the Year" by Musician Magazine; and Andalucia (1997), featuring Ron Carter and Jack DeJohnette, was voted four stars by DownBeat Magazine.
Hays continues to perform worldwide in solo concerts and as a member of The Sangha Quartet, which features young overseas jazz players such as Seamus Blake (tenor sax), Larry Grenadier (double bass), and Bill Stewart (drums); with this quartet he has recorded Fear of Roaming, where he contributed five compositions and one arrangement.
His own trio, which lines up as permanent elements bass player Doug Weiss and Bill Stewart on drums: on its recordings with the Kevin Hays Trio (the latest release is For Heaven's Sake, JazzEyes).
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- SweetEar (SteepleChase, 1991)
With Eddie Henderson
- Inspiration (Milestone, 1994)
With Brad Mehldau
- Modern Music (Nonesuch, 2011)
With Joshua Redman
- Joshua Redman (Warner Bros., 1993)