Bill Keis is a master pianist, keyboardist, composer, producer, musical director, and educator. He has been teaching music for over 35 years and has performed and/or recorded with;
Mark Isham, Stanley Clarke, Edgar Winter, Ronnie Spector, Maxine Nightingale, Chaka Khan, Morris Wade (The Drifters), David Campbell, Chick Corea, The Pointer Sisters, Kate Ceberano, Raven Kane, Tony Newton, Donny Most, Judy Norton, Izzy Chait and many others.
Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on April 7, 1958, Bill was instantly immersed in music by his parents and three of his grandparents, who were all music teachers. At age 5, after moving to upstate New York, he started piano lessons with his mother. Shortly thereafter, it was discovered that Bill had perfect pitch. He then began classical piano lessons, and as he got older, he studied cello and trombone. Throughout high school Bill played cello in the orchestra, trombone in the concert and marching bands, sang in the jazz choir and played piano in the jazz band.
Although classically trained, receiving “A” grades at state piano competitions, Bill developed an interest in Jazz and Rock genres. His first professional gig, at age 14, was a piano/trumpet duo. Various trios, quartets and quintets followed, encompassing music from Louis Armstrong to Charlie Parker, as well as Santana, The Allman Bros., Steely Dan, Chicago, etc. Additionally, Bill played his own solo piano arrangement of “Laura” on a live radio show.
At age 16, Bill began studying with one of Oscar Peterson’s students, a famous pianist in her own right, Lee Shaw. Lee had Bill study many great jazz pianists such as Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Billy Taylor, Horace Silver, Bill Evans, and of course, Oscar Peterson. He also studied Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley and the Brecker Bros. However his two biggest influences were Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea.
After graduating high school in 1976, Bill attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. After studying and playing in Boston, Bill moved to Los Angeles and began teaching private lessons.
Enter the LA gig scene
In addition to teaching, Bill began to work in Musical Theatre. For two years he accompanied such performers as: Arsenio Hall, Jay Leno, Richard Pryor, and Billy Crystal at The Comedy Store in Hollywood. Also, he was the pianist/musical director for several shows and vocal performance workshops. It was during this period that Bill worked for jazz vocalist Rose Weaver, actress/comedienne Kaye Ballard, vocalist Sam Harris, and actress/singer Karen Black.
Bill’s interest in recording led him and friend Mitch Talevi to build a recording studio. They formed a company called TK Productions. During the next 5 years, Bill co-produced innumerable recordings for upcoming artists in a wide variety of styles. TK Productions also recorded eight albums of television music for Capitol Records’ library division, composed and produced several TV jingles, and scored a documentary film. Bill played keyboards on a session for Howie Mandell’s TV show, “Bobby’s World.” Several of Bill’s compositions were used on the TV show “General Hospital.”
Additionally as a player, Bill landed a gig as the pianist/musical director for multi-platinum vocalist Maxine Nightingale. This was followed by a two year stint with L.A.-based 13 piece R&B/soul band “The Real Deal.” Other notable bands included Discovery Records smooth jazz saxophonist Sonja Jason, Michael McDonald’s sax player Vince Denham, and former bassist for Ray Charles, Adam Cohen. Bill also toured for 3 years with the Latin Rock group, Sudden Move Band.
When “SMB” signed with Jammin’ Mug Records, Bill was asked to produce their debut
CD. “Sudden Move Band, 25 Years Later” was released in 1998, on which he wrote two songs titled “Let’s Make It Real” and “Because Of You”. One of the songs from the Sudden Move CD was also released on a CD called “The Chicano Alliance”, R-Town Records. This CD is a compilation of famous Latin groups including; Little Joe y La Familia, Tierra, Malo, and El Chicano.
Another one of Bill’s compositions titled “Don’t Break My Heart” was released in 1998 on the CD, ”Through These Eyes”, by vocalist Geree. Additionally, Bill composed and produced two songs for Latin teen star, Angelica Rose, titled “Don’t Get Me Down” and “You’re The One”, which received airplay in 1998.
Bill Keis Quartet
One of Bill’s main goals was to form his own contemporary jazz quartet, which he did in 1992. This band has been described as fresh and innovative. It is high energy, but not too esoteric. Even people that don’t normally like Jazz find they really enjoy it. Bill gets to feature his compositions and monster chops in his band, which has performed in Southern California for thousands of people. In 1998, Bill signed a recording contract with Jammin’ Mug Records. His debut CD “Bill Keis, Journey” was released in May 1999. This CD features twelve of Bill’s compositions.
In 2000, Bill began his own successful private teaching practice and began to formulate his experiences into The Bill Keis Method, which became the basis of the acclaimed book “The Complete Guide to Learning Music”.
His love of Latin music prompted Bill to join the 7-piece Latin band “Chico.” This band performs over 100 concerts per year and received a Resolution from the city of Los Angeles on October 8, 2004 for outstanding contributions to the community. Bill, aka “Guillermo Llaves,” is featured on Chico’s third CD titled “Carnaval,” released in 2005.
Additionally, Keis opened a new recording studio (1st Choice Recording) in 2001, where he recorded his solo piano CD “Welcome Home,” released June 21, 2005.
2006 was a very productive year; during this time Keis wrote his 488-page book, “The Complete Guide to Learning Music” which has now sold in numerous countries.
In recent years
Bill has continued to perform, compose, record, teach and write. Now his works are available in print and eBooks.
In 2008 Bill got the pianist/musical director gig for vocalist Izzy Chait. In addition to numerous live performances in southern California, New York city, Chicago & Phoenix, Bill played on and mixed Izzy’s live recording “For Your Love” recorded at the Jazz Bakery and has just completed a new CD – Izzy Chait -REMIXED.
Virtuoso jazz guitarist Mitch Talevi and Bill have played together on & off since 1979. They recently formed the band Power Jazz and in December 2011, they released the group’s debut CD “Live Again” which features compositions from Bill & Mitch.