PIANIST COMPOSER TEACHER WRITER GRADUATE
jazz: mainstream, etc. | funk | jazz-inflected high-end new age | blues | film & TV | Sheffield Institute | SAE Media School | Berklee College of Music | Wiesbaden Conservatory
About Bill Gordon
With an innate feel for harmonized rhythm, sly humor and a love of pathos, pianist and composer Bill Gordon divines what’s musically and emotionally essential. This has served him well in his fifty year music career.
Born in the serene beauty of the Maryland countryside, Bill Gordon started performing as a little boy, dancing in front of the jukebox at a rural restaurant. He discovered a piano in an old farm house and used it to tell musical stories of his days in the fields and woods; later it would be a means of expressing sorrow and bewilderment at the untimely loss of his beloved father. At fourteen, he started playing drums and put together a big R&B band. The RaVons became one of Baltimore’s most popular acts, and were one of the first truly racially mixed groups of the era, playing previously whites-only debutante balls and the like. Bill also filled in for other drummers at colorful downtown clubs and parties, and made his first studio recordings. Too young to drive, his mother drove him to the gigs. He also dabbled with some jazz piano lessons.
Vietnam was ablaze, the Air Force beckoned, but the Fates landed Bill in Germany. Alongside military duties, he found himself playing drums throughout Europe, and, in fits and starts, studying piano and harmony at the Wiesbaden Conservatory. Sergeant Gordon practiced in the warm, moist, dark attic at the base chapel. A Downbeat magazine article mentioned Boston’s Berklee College of Music, and upon discharge, he went there, gleefully graduating with his degree in composition and piano in l976.
Amidst New England gigs ranging from tuxedoed society orchestras to rock operas in vinyl jockstraps, Bill met budding saxophone wizard David Sholl. They formed Pork Chop, a sort of James Brown-meets-John Coltrane-at-Sun Ra’s band. He also started teaching.
Then came New York City. He converted a Chinese toy factory into a place to live and the Pig Pants Performance Space and Recording Studio. Along with heavy construction, Bill found himself in an exceptionally prolific era, as his classical and jazz background mingled with his love of funk, soul, and good pop. He performed and recorded his and others’ music, and taught a wide range of intriguing pupils.
His Off-Off Broadway quasi-avant-garde funk fable, Peculiar Rhythm & Blues, put him in cahoots with many extraordinary fellow travelers. His loft became home to this pack of irreverent musicians, painters, poets, actors, comedians - the general arts riffraff -
The Short Version
Pianist, composer and teacher Bill Gordon started playing professionally at age fourteen as drummer and leader of his rhythm & blues showband in Baltimore. He later studied piano and composition at the Wiesbaden Conservatory in Germany, graduated Berklee College of Music, and since has composed, performed and produced mainstream jazz, evocative solo piano ballads, quirky pop songs, a quasi-avant-garde funk fable, written for film and TV, and enjoyed decades of teaching.
Bill has recorded extensively, appeared as soloist, accompanist, music director, sideman and band leader throughout the United States and Europe, and taught music privately and at colleges in Boston, New York City, Raleigh, Los Angeles, Miami, Vienna and now back in Baltimore. He currently writes and performs with jazz, soul and indie-pop singer/songwriters, does annual European tours, and continues composing TV and film tracks (The Glass Castle, Nashville, CSI, Entourage, etc.).
Bill taught at SAE Institute media school in Miami for nine years and wrote their music and music business courses. He presents song, performance, and music business workshops at a wide variety of schools in the U.S. and Europe, and has published the DIY textbook It’s Music, Not Theory, Damn It! along with its companion online ear training course, as well as the online music course Music, No Theory.
who’d gather regularly to display and share their wares at what was dubbed Studio Bill. The New York years also brought Bill to one of his favorite and best musical expressions: accompanying jazz, blues and pop singers. Although rich in work alongside absurdly gifted artists, and deep in rewarding musical productivity, the wear and tear of the city wore Bill down. So it was on to Raleigh, North Carolina, where steady gigs, concerts, commissions and some conducting followed, as did A Little Romance, his first solo piano CD.
The next move was to Miami, where Bill worked with gifted singers, played his longest steady gig – five years at Da Ermanno, was occasionally cajoled into session work, taught a gaggle of generally wonderful pupils, started writing and recording music for film and TV, authored and taught the music and music business courses at SAE Institute, and began going back to Europe for short tours playing classy jazz standards, classic soul and rock ‘n roll plus a few of his own tunes. He also released Out The Box, a jazz and funk CD featuring none other than the late and sadly missed saxman David Sholl alongside a stellar band from Boston.
Yearning for home, Bill pulled the plug on Florida and came back to Baltimore. The friendlier, better mannered, quirky, feisty city has proven as comfortable a fit as predicted, a place of difficulties as well as deep promise, smart and down-to-earth as it is ridiculous, offering a vast cornucopia of all things musical as well as education formal and street, arts, people of every stripe, and real life in general. This is indeed the shoes he ordered.
Bill Gordon’s history serves as a deep and inspiring resource, just like his fat love of music. Ever the late bloomer, the rhythm guitar player at the piano, the ballad dude with a feel for Chopin, his retirement plan is not to. His path is wide and curvy, and he walks it with the assuredness achieved by a lifelong devotion to music, playing and dancing by the jukebox in his heart.