Born: February 9, 1981 Primary Instrument: Piano
'Winner of the festival's piano competition last year, Staaf could have earned a small slot on the program on the strength of her technique alone. What stood out, though, were her compositions, particularly the fanciful Merry Go Round, and her trio's fresh interpretation of Denzil Best's 45 Degree Angle, a Williams favorite.' - David Malitz, The Washington Post (review of the 2010 Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival opening night concert at the Kennedy Center).
'Next to take the stage was Carmen Staaf, winner of the 2009 Mary Lou Williams Pianist Competition. Performing with a trio, Staaf presented a mix of original compositions and pieces somehow related to Williams. For each, Staaf provided a detailed explanation of its origins, adding a heartfelt explanation of her respect for William's music and generosity of spirit. Equally sincere in her playing, Staaf delivered clearly articulated ideas, particularly on her own well-structured original compositions. Of particular note was her solo piece Rory.' - Frank A. Matzner, All About Jazz, June 24, 2010 (Mary Lou Williams Festival review).
Please visit the new www.carmenstaaf.com for upcoming events, photos, downloadable press materials, video links, and more music! Click on Reflection under discography to hear clips and buy the album at www.cdbaby.com/cd/carmenstaaf. Reflection is also available at www.itunes.com.
Winner of the 2009 Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Pianist Competition, Carmen Staaf has performed throughout the United States and at the Festa do Jazz do Teatro Sao Luiz in Lisbon, Portugal, the Panama Jazz Festival, the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and the North Sea Jazz Festival in The Netherlands, and at the Concurso de Jovenes Jazzistas (Young Jazz Musicians Contest) in Havana, Cuba. She toured India with the Xylopholks in 2010 and Europe with Benjy Fox-Rosen and Frank London in 2009. As the winner of the 2009 piano competition, Carmen will be a featured performer at the Kennedy Center during the 2010 Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival, Mary Lou Williams' centennial celebration. As a winner of the 2004 IAJE Sisters in Jazz Competition, she performed at the 2005 IAJE Conference in Long Beach, California and the Mary Lou Williams Festival. In 2004, Carmen was selected to attend the International Music Council's International Music Day celebrations in Paris, France, and performed at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago as a participant in the prestigious Steans Institute for Young Artists.
Ms. Staaf has worked with jazz luminaries including Eddie Gomez, Bob Brookmeyer, Oliver Lake, Rakalam Bob Moses, Stefon Harris and George Garzone. As an accordionist, she has performed with Lila Downs at Carnegie Hall and with Klezmatics members Frank London, Lorin Sklamberg (at the Teatro Manzoni in Milan) and Alicia Svigals, as well as with Susan Watts and Elaine Hoffman Watts. She was awarded a St Botolph Club Foundation Grant-in-Aid to record her 2008 album “Reflection”, which was called “profoundly beautiful” and features young stars Austin McMahon, Jorge Roeder and Dan Blake. She can be heard on the New Jewish group Khevre's debut album Oyfn Sheydveg and with the Staaf Quartet, which she co-leads, on its eponymous first release, as well as on Richie Barshay's album Homework (which features Herbie Hancock on piano). Carmen's compositions and arrangements have been performed by pianist Ran Blake and the Seattle Women's Jazz Orchestra, as well as being featured on the Staaf Quartet recording and “Reflection”. She was the pianist in Malian kora master Balla Tounkara's afro-pop group and currently performs with a variety of NYC groups, including the Xylopholks (a ragtime band featuring animal costumes) and the Prana Trio (a creative improvisation ensemble that performs settings of Rumi and Hafiz). She co-leads Four Across, a jazz quartet which has toured both coasts extensively, given clinics at the University of Oregon, and performed at Seattle's Earshot Jazz Festival.
Carmen taught in the piano department at Berklee College of Music in Boston for four years upon graduating from college. She has co-led clinics at the Panama Conservatory, the University of Oregon, Seattle Central Community College, and Berklee College of Music. She studied at the New England Conservatory with Danilo Perez and Bob Brookmeyer and has immersed herself in many styles, building on a foundation of classical studies. Before college, she spent six months studying and performing in Cuba. While a student at the New England Conservatory, Carmen simultaneously completed a degree in anthropology at Tufts University, where she was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa Society, was a University Scholar, received the Anthropology Prize and graduated summa cum laude. Upon graduating from NEC, she received the George Whitefield Chadwick Award and was nominated to the Pi Kappa Lambda Society.
Carmen's solo piano album, with the working title Arts and Sciences is scheduled to come out in 2010.
Awards:2009 Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Pianist Competition winner. 2005 St. Botolph Club Foundation Grant-in-Aid Award winner. 2007 Berklee College of Music Faculty Fellowship for "Reflection" recording project. 2004 Sisters in Jazz Piano chair winner. Phi Beta Kappa, University Scholar, Anthropology Prize winner and summa cum laude (Tufts University). George Whitefield Chadwick Award, Pi Kappa Lambda (New England Conservatory).
“A new star to discover…a wonderfully melodic and inventive keyboardist.” -Michael G. Nastos, Allmusic.com, 2009
Winner of the festival's piano competition last year, Staaf could have earned a small slot on the program on the strength of her technique alone. What stood out, though, were her compositions, particularly the fanciful Merry Go Round, and her trio's fresh interpretation of Denzil Best's 45 Degree Angle, a Williams favorite. - David Malitz, The Washington Post (review of the 2010 Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival opening night concert at the Kennedy Center).
“[Reflection is] lovely work, heartfelt and lyrical...I love it when I can hear an artist's personality in her or his work.” -John Chacona, writer for Signal to Noise and CODA, 2009
Staaf came up with a subtly crafted, wonderfully realized arrangement of swing and professional quality. -Craig Jolley, All About Jazz, www.allaboutjazz.com, 2005
Pianist/accordionist Carmen Staaf is quite extraordinary... - Ari Davidow, www.klezmershack.com, 2004
“The heroes of this performance are the musicians, particularly accordionist Carmen Staaf...Staaf provides the piece with the appropriate Brecht-Weill vibe...” -David Johnston, www.nytheatre.com, 2008
“'Reflection' is profoundly beautiful...One of the best things I've heard in years” -Bud Young, KBCS FM 91.3, Seattle, WA, 2008
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Willing to teach:
Intermediate to advanced students
Taught at Berklee College of Music in the Piano Department for four years (2005-2009). Private instruction to students of all ages and levels, with an emphasis on improvisation as well as the foundations of classical technique.
I offer clinics on jazz improvisation for beginners (working with the basics of blues, call-and-response, and swing feel); intermediate students (broadening repertoire and exploring Afro-Cuban and Brazilian influences in jazz); and advanced students (motivic improvisation, advanced jazz harmony and free improvisation). Additionally, I give jazz piano clinics that incorporate improvisational concepts and vocabulary specific to the piano in the jazz tradition, as well as technical considerations for pianists. I also offer a clinic on non-genre-specific improvisational and compositional techniques, including game pieces, text settings, and set theory.