Born: October 10, 1958 Primary Instrument: Piano
Michael Pagán was born in Ravenna (near Cleveland), Ohio. He was raised in a musical family and received his first piano instruction from his parents. He remembers hearing recordings of Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, and Miles Davis, as well as Beethoven, when he was seven years old. He entered Kent State University and earned his Master of Arts in composition; his composition teachers there were James Waters, Thomas Janson, and Frank Wiley. He was a music theory student of Hugh A. Glauser, after whose death the Kent State University School of Music was named. At Kent he played piano in the new music ensemble under the direction of Frank Wiley and the jazz ensemble under the direction of Chas Baker. His piano teachers have included Toni Glauser, Lois Rova Ozanich, Robert Palmieri, and Olga Kuehl-White of the University of Akron. The piano playing and compositions of Pat Pace were also an influence. During those years Mike played jazz piano and bass in the Akron-Cleveland area, including two years with the well-known bassist Newman Williams. Pagán also played bass himself at that time in the University Orchestra. He received his Doctor of Music degree in composition from Northwestern University, where his principle teachers were Lynden DeYoung, Alan Stout, and Steven Syverud. He played piano in the NU jazz and contemporary music ensembles, both directed by Don Owens and continued classical piano studies with Laurence Davis. While playing jazz piano in Chicago he was named a “musician deserving wider recognition” by Downbeat magazine.
As a jazz pianist he has performed for over thirty years throughout the United States and in Europe with many jazz greats including Greg Abate, Billy Hart, Bijoux Barbosa, Claudio Sloan, Kenny Wheeler, Jiggs Whigham, and many more. He has performed as soloist with ensembles including the Ashland (OH) Symphony Orchestra, the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra, the University of Michigan Jazz Ensemble and the Northshore Concert Band; he has also played jazz aboard the legendary Delta Queen on the Mississippi river.
Pagán has produced an extensive list of compositions and arrangements, over 150 works mostly in the jazz idiom. He has received numerous awards for his work in this area, gaining national attention by winning First Prize, New Music for Young Ensembles composers competition for his Impromptu, Chorale & Fugue for woodwind quintet, this included a Carnegie Hall premiere. He has been commissioned by the Michigan Music Teachers Association; the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra; WLS-TV Channel 7, Chicago; the American Jazz Museum, and high schools and colleges throughout the country. An invitee of the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop, his big band CD Pag’s Groove received airplay and critical acclaim throughout the United States and Europe, earning a 5-star review in the Irish Times of Dublin. The recording received three reviews from allaboutjazz.com, including mention as one of the Top 10 Big Band recordings of 2005 by Jack Bowers.
Michael Pagán's jazz playing has been described on numerous occasions as elegant (Westword, Denver; Plastic Sax, Kansas City; Jazz Society of Oregon). In January of 2010 Capri Records released Michael Pagán Trio Three for the Ages featuring bassist Bob Bowman and Ray DeMarchi on drums. It received favorable reviews and national airplay.
Pagán performs solo piano on Wednesday nights at Cafe Trio in Kansas City, appears frequently with vocalist Millie Edwards, and with Greg Carroll's Midnight Blue Jazz Quartet in addition to appearances with his own trio. A 70-minute composition for saxophones, Twelve Preludes & Fugues was recorded by the Colorado Saxophone Quartet and released in 2010.
Additionally he has led a distinguished career as a jazz ensemble conductor and clinician. He frequently appears as an adjudicator at jazz festivals and from 2007-2009 served as Vice President of the Missouri Association for Jazz Education. He continues to play the bass as a secondary instrument. In 2011 he joined Artists Recording Collective (ARC) and recorded a CD with Millie Edwards, Millie and Mike Live on that label. He has also recorded for the Cadence, Capri, and Dutch Music Partners labels and his compositions and arrangements are available from UNC Jazz Press, Dutch Music Partners, P&D Jazz Publications, and The American Music Center.
Awards:Cover and feature story, Kansas City Jazz Ambassadors Magazine (JAM), December 2009/January 2010 issue Certificate of Appreciation, Missouri Music Educators Association Conference, for UMKC Concert Jazz Band 2009 selection and performance at 71st annual conference Pag’s Groove: Named One of the Top Ten big band recordings of 2005 by allaboutjazz.com Named One of the Top Twenty Jazz Recordings of 2005 by CHUO FM 89 Ottawa, Ontario Named One of the Top Twenty big band CDs of 2005 KBEM FM 88.5 Minneapolis, MN Invitee, BMI Jazz Composers Workshop, “A” Group (Jim McNeely, director) NY, NY 2005 Certificate of Appreciation, Colorado Vocal Jazz Society 2005 Inductee, Pi Kappa Lambda honorary music fraternity, Alpha Tau Chapter, University of Colorado at Boulder 2002 Outstanding Service Award, International Association for Jazz Education for CU-Boulder Jazz Ensemble I Conference performance, Anaheim, CA 1999 Outstanding Student Organization Advisor, IAJE Student Chapter, University of Minnesota, Duluth 1996 Distinguished Service for Presentation, Minnesota Music Educators Association In-Service Clinic 1996 Mentor Award, Olivet Public Schools, Olivet, Michigan 1993 Honors Concert Award in Composition, Department of Theory/Composition, Northwestern University for composition Savannah Suite for cello duet 1988 Musician Deserving Wider Recognition, Downbeat Magazine, March issue 1988 Composition Winner, Concerto Competition, Kent State University for Cuyahoga Rhapsody (masters thesis orchestral composition) 1986 Piano Runner-up, Concerto Competition, Kent State University for Franck: Symphonic Variations 1985 First Prize, New Music For Young Ensembles Composers Competition including Carnegie Recital Hall premiere for Impromptu, Chorale and Fugue for Woodwind Quintet Second Prize, Ohio Federation of Music Clubs Young Composer's Contest for String Quartet 1984 Honorable Mention, Ohio University New Music Ensemble Composition Contest for Three Songs About the Seasons 1983 Jazz Scholarship, Kool Jazz Festival/Berklee College of Music Music Scholarship, Hugh A. Glauser School of Music, Kent State University 1977
“Pagán’s mastery of contrapuntal sophistication is on full display here. . . by far, the most swinging chamber music I’ve ever heard.” Wayne E. Goins, Jazz Ambassador Magazine
“. . . a showcase for Michael Pagán’s seemingly boundless eclecticism . . .“ Lucidculture.wordpress.com
I have never heard such magnificent music composed for a saxophone quartet. David J. Gibson, Editor, Saxophone Journal
This is as masterful a piano trio effort as one can hear, anywhere, covering thoughtful ballads, midtempo swing, and the gorgeous original title track . . . Pagan delivers with clarity, reverence for melody, harmonic choices that reflect a broad emotional palette and luxurious spaces that allow each note to breathe fully. Bassist Bowman is a perfect foil and artful soloist throughout, drummer Ray DeMarchi a shimmering timekeeper. Andrea Canter, Jazzpolice.com
Piano heroes like Bill Evans, Hank Jones, Tommy Flanagan and Alan Broadbent have laid the groundwork for the elegant, in-the-pocket pianist Michael Pagan. Like theirs, his approach is to find both the beauty and the swing in the music. And, like them, his trio is just that . . . a trio where each player makes a significant contribution . . . the arrival of Michael Pagan in the small circle of jazz pianists who listen first and then find their own voice. George Fendel, Jazz Society of Oregon
Blessed with a beautiful touch and a steady stream of ideas to match, Pagan makes music that is beautiful and honest with tradition firmly in hand . . . Pagan and his trio have created an organ of beauty that stands out in the crowded foyer of piano/bass/drums jazz trios, but more for its command of subtlety than its overt pyrotechnics. Michael G. Nastos, All Music Guide
“Michael Pagán deserves recognition as a superior jazz pianist.” Scott Yanow, All Music Guide
“An elegant classicist . . . Pagán flies solo with perfect assurance.” Bill Gallo, Westword
“Sophisticated piano work” Inside Chicago Magazine
“Michael Pagán is a musician/educator and an excellent mainstream jazz pianist who deserves a lot more renown.” Bill Falconer, JazzReview.com
“Dynamite piano stylings . . . his performance was jazz- inspired through-and-through and the audience loved it.” Dominic Papatola, Duluth News-Tribune
Pagán’s melodic intelligence shines . . . simple and wonderfully effective.” David Lewis, Cadence Magazine
“A versatile keyboard improviser” Downbeat Magazine
Pagán delivers the whole package - melody, harmony and rhythm in abundance. Beyond that, he is an eye-opening and ear-catching pianist, technically sound and conspicuously resourceful.” Jack Bowers, www.allaboutjazz.com
“If Bach had played jazz, it might have sounded like this.” Brad Weismann, Colorado Daily
“ . . . unmatched piano virtuosity . . . Michael’s keyboard skill is unbelievable. . . a memorable evening of superior jazz musicality.” Ed Fenner, KC Jazz Voice LLC
On Pag’s Groove: “Now comes Michael Pagán, whose recording unveils a writer of uncommon ability and perception . . . Who knew he could make a big band sound so marvelous? . . . Pag’s Groove is a stellar album from start to finish, and as concerns Pagán’s big-band writing and arranging skills, that cat is out of the bag for good.” Jack Bowers, Cadence Magazine
“A fine pianist, [Pagán] is also, as this exceptional example of swinging big band jazz proves, a hugely talented composer arranger . . . he has the ability to conjure up scintillating lines, fondness for artful counterpoint, great attention to detail and clarity of focus.” Ray Comiskey, The Irish Times
“With bold dynamics, Pagán has crafted an original and compelling big band sound . . . A start-to-finish fine big band outing.” Dan McClenaghan, allaboutjazz.com
“. . . Special attention has to be paid to ‘Lyric Interlude.’ It will grab you. The composition opens and closes as a bossa nova with eloquence . . .The core, however, is a majestic brass chorale. An inspired combination . . . Pag’s Groove is quality all the way.” Bill Falconer, Jazzreview.com
“As it turns out, KC managed to snare this gifted composer away . . . to the friendly confines of UMKC, where the already formidable Bobby Watson gets a chance to showcase Pagán’s talents as a pianist, arranger, and composer. [Pag’s Groove] will leave no doubt about how lucky UMKC is to have him as the latest addition to the family.” Wayne Goins, Jazz Ambassador Magazine Director of Jazz Studies, Kansas State University
“The music has an extra-ordinary quality of sounding very relaxed but at the same time, careful listening reveals a quality and depth that suggests that the album has been drawn from an exclusive archive of defining performances, in short there is a timeless quality about it . . . This is contemporary big band jazz at its most rewarding . . . a must have!” -John Kiloch, mainlybigbands.com
On John Hines In the Pocket: “Michael Pagán has a particularly light touch and his piano is the ideal companion for the leader’s trombone.” Paul Donnelly, ejazznews.com
“ . . . and I can’t say enough about pianist Pagán’s part . . . when he gets his spot, things go to a level I didn't suspect existed.” Dan McClenaghan, allaboutjazz.com
On Nobody Else But Me: “Pagán’s melodic intelligence shines . . . simple and wonderfully effective.” David Lewis, Cadence Magazine
On Duo: “This recording features the ‘Cadillac’ of vibraphone and piano duo performance by Doug Walter and Michael Pagán . . . There are really no words to describe the magic of this duo’s ensemble precision . . . Duo should be on everyone’s ‘must buy’ list.” Lisa Rogers, Percussive Notes
On Is Waiting For You: He certainly knows the jazz tradition . . . the musicianship is excellent. . . and the leader [Pagán] has a very clean approach devoid of any clichés. Solid.” Mark Ladson, Marge Hofacre’s Jazz News
Pagán is a fine pianist from a technical standpoint but he does not give in to garish display of his talents. The articulation of his lines, which move from blues to bop in a heartbeat, is impressive . . . Is Waiting for You is a subtle knockout. Richard B. Kamins, Cadence Magazine
He has a crisp touch and a very full piano style . . . there's excellent rapport between the pianist and the two rhythm men . . .a convincing debut for the group . . .” John Chadwick, Jazz Journal
Pianist and composer Michael Pagán has a range as dramatic as the seasons’ changes outside his windows . . . this is one of the finest bop-oriented dates I've listened in on lately. Andrew Bartlett, Arts Midwest
On Impromptu, Chorale & Fugue for Woodwind Quintet: “Bright, modest neoclassicism . . . played with energy and flair”. Tim Page, The New York Times
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Lee's Summit, MO
Willing to teach:
Advanced students only.
Director of Jazz Studies, Olivet College; University of Minnesota Duluth; Interim Director of Jazz Studies, University of Colorado at Boulder; Assistant Director of Jazz Studies, University of Missouri Kansas City; Artist-In-Residence, Missouri Valley College, Professor of Jazz Piano, Ottawa University
Available for clinics on any jazz topic, including improvisation, performance, big band, combo, composition, arranging, history and pedagogy.