Over the past six years, Michael McNeill
has become “one of the busiest freelance musicians in Buffalo” (Artvoice
) and an integral part of that city’s thriving creative music scene. His imaginative piano playing has found a home alongside jazz players ranging from Maynard Ferguson-alumnus Bruce Johnstone (on Kelly Bucheger’s House of Relics) to local underground hero Steve Baczkowski, and he has developed a personal voice on the harmonium in crossover ensembles led by percussionist Ravi Padmanabha. McNeill performs composed music with the Wooden Cities New Music Collective and the Buffalo Bach Project, co-leads a chamber-jazz quartet with the polymath drummer John Bacon, and has collaborated with trumpet legend Paul Smoker on projects of standards and of original compositions. He also composes for, plays with, and facilitates the Buffalo Jazz Octet, an ensemble made up of “…a veritable who’s who list of killer regional jazz players…” (Buffalo News
McNeill received his Bachelor of Music Degree at Nazareth College in 2004, where his principal teachers included Beverly Smoker and Paul Smoker. He received a Master of Music degree in Modern American Music from the Longy School of Music (Cambridge, MA) in 2007, where he studied with Charlie Banacos, George Garzone, and Randall Hodgkinson. He has been music director at Unity Church of Buffalo since 2008, and currently teaches piano, Jazz Aural Skills, Music History, and Composition at Villa Maria College.
Passageways, McNeill’s debut CD as a leader, features renowned improvisers Ken Filiano (bass) and Phil Haynes (drums) on a program of original compositions and has been well-received by critics. The trio toured and recorded in January 2014 and will release a new album in 2015.
Other performances of note include a chamber music performance with virtuoso bass trombonist David Taylor; a New York City performance with bassist Drew Gress and drummer Phil Haynes; a live film score with the Buffalo Jazz Octet; performances with visiting artists Dave Ballou, David Bixler, and Adam Unsworth; and continuing, fruitful small-group collaborations with Dave Arenius, T.J. Borden, Kelly Bucheger, Tim Clarke, Andrew Drury, Esin Gündüz, Matt Honor, Charlie Kohlhase, Ron LoCurto, Mari McNeil, Zane Merritt, Jon Nelson, and Darryl Washington, among many others.
“McNeill, who is equally at home on the keyboard, whether he is kicking the jams out with jazz groups like What Would Mingus Do? or The Buffalo Jazz Octet, or playing a harmonium in an Indian restaurant, is also a fine, conservatory-trained classical pianist, as he demonstrated at a recent Pausa gig featuring Beethoven and Schönberg.” — Jan Jezioro, Artvoice