Roger Kellaway has been described as “a musical chameleon” and “the most awesome jazz pianist quite possibly anywhere on earth”. His discography runs to more than two hundred fifty albums. He’s performed with everyone from Elvis to Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie to Yo Yo Ma, Joni Mitchell to Mancini and Quincy Jones to Michael Tilson Thomas.
Kellaway is not only a major pianist, he is a composer of protean ability, writing in the jazz, classical and popular music fields, and scoring for films and television. His acclaimed “Cello Quartet” albums are described by some as “crossover”, “chamber jazz”, and by others as the beginning of “New Age” music. They were the first in an eclectic array of projects beginning in the 1960’s. Roger’s commissions include a ballet for George Balanchine and the New York City Ballet, orchestral pieces for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the National Symphony, the New American Orchestra and a concerto, “Songs of Ascent,” commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, Zubin Mehta, conductor. (Roger later conducted the second performance with The Sapporo Symphony.) He wrote a variety of chamber works for Carnegie Hall performances and served as musical director for Stephane Grappelli’s 80th Birthday Tribute which included Yo Yo Ma’s first journey into Jazz. Later, Stephane, YoYo and Roger traveled to Paris together. Kellaway played piano on and wrote all the arrangements for their album “Anything Goes”.
Kellaway was born in Waban Massachusetts, November 1, 1939. He fell in love with the piano at the age of 7 and began studying. By the time he was 12, and already listening equally to jazz and classical music, he decided that he wanted to spend his life in music.
He attended Newton High School, at that time ranked the number 3 high school in the United States, studying college level music theory and playing double bass and percussion in the school orchestra, performing works by Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach. (Meanwhile, he was playing bass in an extracurricular jazz band.) From high school, he went on to the New England Conservatory where he studied piano, double bass, and composition.
After two years at the conservatory he left to go on the road, playing bass. After two more, he settled in New York City and began freelancing on piano. By the age of 22, he was one of the busiest and most highly respected pianists in New York, playing record dates, jazz clubs, and working with singers such as Lena Horne.
In the mid ’60’s Kellaway moved to Los Angeles to continue doing studio work, which soon included playing on, and then writing film scores. He became musical director for Bobby Darin, and in 1968 arranged and conducted Darin’s album of songs from the film “Dr. Doolittle”. Writing songs and arrangements for wonderful singers is a passion that sometimes expands into producing, as was the case for the Carmen McRae album, “I Am Music”. The relationship had started with Roger’s song “I Have The Feeling I’ve Been Here Before”, written especially for her, with a lyric by the legendary team Alan and Marilyn Bergman.
Kellaway’s most prized television credit is, “Remembering You”, the closing theme for “All in the Family”. Composed in 1970, it is still being heard on TV around the world. He has also been honored with a Grammy award for his music on the album “Memos From Paradise” for Eddie Daniels. He has written (and conducted) twenty six film scores including Barbara Streisand’s “A Star is Born” for which he received an Academy Award nomination.
In 1999 Roger was commissioned to compose the music for London’s West End production of “Lenny” starring Eddie Izzard and directed by Sir Peter Hall. In 2000 he was commissioned by the West German Radio to write a two hour show celebrating the 100th birthday of composer Kurt Weill. As well as arranging the show, he also performed as pianist and conductor. Later that year he began working as Musical Director with Kevin Spacey on the pre- production for his film, “Beyond The Sea”, dedicated to Bobby Darin; and served as Musical Director, conductor and pianist for the Dec, 2004 13-city “Beyond The Sea” tour. In 2005 Roger conducted the world premiere of Sir Paul McCartney’s “Nova” in Buenos Aires with The Youth Orchestra of the Americas. In 2007 he performed at and served as Musical director for “Tribute To Oscar Peterson” at Carnegie Hall and later toured with Tony Bennett as his Musical Director.
2008 began with the prestigious award Prix du Jazz Classique (the French “Grammy”) for The Roger Kellaway Trio “Heroes” (dedicated to Oscar Peterson). Later he worked with Van Morrison as Musical Director for a live performance recording (CD/DVD) at the Hollywood Bowl, November, 2008.
2009 found Roger working again with the Bergmans on “Visions Of America”, an orchestral, multimedia portrait of Democracy. He wrote the “Photo-Symphony” for renowned photographer and producer Joseph Sohm which premiered in Philadelphia with The Philly Pops, conducted by Peter Niro. Kellaway received the “Outstanding Alumni” Award from the New England Conservatory and played solo piano at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall to a sold out audience. The year ends with his orchestrating and conducting the music for Clint Eastwood’s new film, INVICTUS.
Kellaway continues performing in concerts across the U.S. and Europe, recording numerous new CD’s, also writing for film, theatrical productions and commissioned works.