Primary Instrument: Piano
Debbie Poryes has been on the faculty of the Berkeley Jazzschool since 2000 teaching jazz piano and functional harmony. She has just released a new trio CD on the Jazzschool Records label with Bill Douglass on bass (Marian McPartland, Mose Allison), and David Rokeach on drums (Ray Charles, Jersey Boys), entitled “A Song in Jazz”. Debbie brings a new voice to jazz piano with unique, warm, intelligent, modern mainstream arrangements to standards and originals, an exquisite touch and a trio with an uncanny rhythmic rapport. She displays a sense of humor and a special verbal communicative ability with audiences as well, creating a show that is accessible, genuine and fun.
Debbie Poryes discovered the piano at the age of five and loved practicing Chopin and showtunes until Simon and Garfunkel came along. She then switched to playing the guitar and singing. These early guitar years of figuring out music from records were the beginning of a life long fascination with harmony, music theory and listening closely and passionately. At this time, she was also accepted as the first teen age singing student of the legendary Judy Davis, who taught Barbra Streisand and Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane. Here, she got her first deep exposure to jazz standards.
A student who always loved learning, she skipped the 11th grade and graduated first in her senior class with a full tuition scholarship and stipend to the University of California at Berkeley. Moving away from her family at 17, she worked many jobs to support herself, including lunch counter waitressing and piece work making macramé plant hangers. When she started to hear jazz during this time, she wondered where this music had been all her life. She returned to the piano and listened and learned from her new and continuing heroes -- Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk, etc. In those days there were no jazz courses at U.C. Berkeley, so she decided to stop going to school and devote herself full-time to jazz piano.
She had her first regular gig when she was 20 years old playing 5 nights a week (from 5-midnight!) for a year at Martino’s Restaurant in Berkeley, where she certainly learned a lot of tunes! Throughout the 1970s, she played in many clubs and restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as for private parties of all sorts. She played also in many other professional settings from solo piano to big band, including two summers as the pianist for Make-A-Circus, a non-profit organization that provided free shows for children in the public parks.
In these years, Debbie started teaching privately as well as teaching ear training in Art Lande’s jazz school in Berkeley. She studied with various classical and jazz teachers in the Bay Area, including Art Lande and Allaudin Mathieu. Because Debbie loved classical harmony and its application to jazz harmony, she has always been involved with finding ways to communicate the beauty of western compositional thinking to her jazz students.
Debbie spent most of the 1980s in The Netherlands where she held tenured positions in the jazz departments of two Dutch conservatories in Hilversum and Arnhem. She became fluent in Dutch and her students loved her sunny California disposition and her patient and encouraging manner. During these years, she recorded a trio record for Timeless Records. German and Dutch jazz magazine reviews for that record referred to her playing as “crystal clear”....“with the swinging elegance of Tommy Flanagan combined with the depth of Bill Evans.”
Debbie also worked and recorded as arranger and accompanist for several Dutch and American singers, and toured throughout Europe with her own trios, quartets and various other ensembles, including an eleven-piece group led by bassist John Clayton. She played at both the Bimhuis and Concert Gebouw in Amsterdam, the September Club in Antwerp, New Morning in Paris, Quasimodo in Berlin, and many of the various Jazz Festivals in Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg. She spent some time composing soundtracks for the Dutch documentary film company “Codia Audiovisual” and continued to develop her own jazz compositions.
Since returning to the United States in 1990, she has gotten married and become a happy mother to a wonderful daughter. She has maintained a large private teaching practice, continued to develop her piano technique with her classical teacher John Bloomfield, and play all sorts of gigs and concerts. She’s played at Yoshi’s Jazzclub, the Downtown Restaurant in Berkeley, the Oakland Museum, the Jazzschool, the Berkeley Piano Club, and numerous S.F. Bay Area venues.
Debbie is a member of the Music Teachers' Association of California and The International Association for Jazz Education.
- #1 on the jazz !Earshot chart Oct 23, 2007
- #39 on CMJ Jazz Chart, issue #Issue #1033
Debbie Poryes is a fresh voice in jazz, playing piano in a clean, unadorned style without pretention and with modern arrangements. The music pays homage to jazz' past while having a pop sensibility, breathing fresh air into these well-traveled standards.
Bob Collins, WRHU
This CD has stellar musicianship and imaginative styling of great standards and original compositions. First rate!
Peter Kuller, Radio Adelaide 101.5fm
Certainly a new voice to jazz piano with contemporary & mainstream arrangements to well known standards and her own compositions. A very good album which will please audiences no doubt.
George Fendel, Jazzscene
Bay Area pianist Debbie Poryes possesses a lovely and lilting touch on a host of standards like “A Wonderful Guy,” “I Hadn't Anyone Till You,” “Alone Together” and more. This is straight to the heart, finely honed piano trio music.
A Song In Jazz
Tracks: Wonderful Guy; I Hadn't Anyone Till You; The Very Thought of You; Alone Together; Sweet and Lovely; So It Seemed; Pannonica; Profile; People.
Personnel: Debbie Poryes (piano), Bill Douglass (bass), David Rokeach (drums).
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