Billy Childs

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William Edward Childs (born March 8, 1957) is a jazz pianist from Los Angeles, California.[1]

Early life[edit]

When he was sixteen, he attended the Community School of the Performing Arts sponsored by the University of Southern California. He studied music theory with Marienne Uszler and piano with John Weisenfluh. From 1975–'79 he attended the University of Southern California and received a degree in composition under the tutelage of Robert Linn.[2]

His sister is the playwright Kirsten Childs.[3][4]

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 albums[edit]

Childs's solo jazz recording career began in 1988, when he released Take for Example, This..., the first of four critically acclaimed albums on Windham Hill Jazz. He followed that album with Twilight Is Upon Us (1989), His April Touch (1992), and Portrait of a Player (1993). Chick Corea asked Childs to join his label, Stretch Records. Childs's next album, I've Known Rivers appeared on Stretch/GRP (now Stretch/Concord) in 1995. This was followed by The Child Within on Shanachie Records in 1996.


In 2000 Childs arranged, orchestrated and conducted for Dianne Reeves's project The Calling: Celebrating Sarah Vaughan,[1] which won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album. 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]

In 2001 Childs formed a chamber jazz group consisting of piano, bass, drums, acoustic guitar, harp, and woodwinds. Sometimes the core group is augmented by string quartet, woodwind quintet, or both. Childs was influenced by Laura Nyro's collaborations with Alice Coltrane (on "Christmas and the Beads of Sweat") and by a desire to merge classical and jazz music.[5] In 2005, the ensemble released its first album, Lyric, Jazz-Chamber Music, Vol. 1, which was nominated for three 2006 Grammy awards: Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Best Instrumental Composition, and Best Arrangement, winning for best instrumental composition, "Into the Light".

Awards and honors[edit]

  • 2003 New Composition Grant, Chamber Music America
  • 2006 Grammy Award, Best Instrumental Composition, "Into the Light"[6]
  • 2006 Grammy Award, Best Arrangement Accompanying a Vocalist, "What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life?"
  • 2009 Guggenheim Fellowship[2]
  • 2011 Grammy Award, Best Instrumental Composition, "The Path Among the Trees"
  • 2013 Doris Duke Artist Award
  • 2015 Grammy Award, Best Arrangement Instruments and Vocals, "New York Tendaberry"

Classical commissions[edit]


Year Album Label Chart
1988 Take for Example This... Windham Hill
1989 Twilight Is Upon Us Windham Hill Top Jazz Albums 11[6]
1991 His April Touch Windham Hill
1993 Portrait of a Player Windham Hill Top Jazz Albums 12[6]
1995 I've Known Rivers Stretch
1996 Child Within Shanachie
1999 Skim Coat Metropolitan
2000 Bedtime Stories 32 Jazz
2005 Lyric Lunacy
2014 Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro Sony Masterworks Top Jazz Albums 1, The Billboard 200 104[6]
2017 Rebirth Mack Avenue


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. ^ Nesti, Robert (16 November 2006). "Kirsten Childs on "Bubbly Black Girl"". EDGE Media Network. Archived from the original on 31 August 2017. 
  4. ^ Luppi, Kathleen (17 October 2014). "Tapping the 'Treasure' of singer-songwriter Laura Nyro". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 31 August 2017. 
  5. ^ Wardle, Renato (11 October 2005). "Billy Childs Ensemble: Lyric: Jazz-Chamber Music Vol. 1 (2005)". All About Jazz. Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Billy Childs: Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 26 June 2015. 
  7. ^ "Billy Childs: Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 26 June 2015. 

External links[edit]