Primary Instrument: Piano
William “Billy” White is a pianist, composer, producer, ethnomusicologist and music scientist living in Brooklyn, New York.
The 28-year-old pianist grew up in the rich stew of San Francisco's music scene in the 80's and 90's. After receiving a few years of classical education, he began studying jazz with teachers as Jim Rowsey, Wayne Wallace, Rebecca Mauleon, Gordon Fels, and Marc Levine, in addition to leading his own groups by the age of fifteen.
Winning a number of music scholarships, he attended UCLA, and studied with the legendary guitarist Kenny Burrell, the pianist Tom Ranier, and the arranger Gerald Wilson. He also solidified held down the piano chair in Bobby Rodriguez’ Latin big band, contributing his own original arrangements and compositions, as well as Llew Mathew's big band.
But from this time forward, White realized that jazz was not the only kind of music he wanted to play. Taking advantage of UCLA's incomparable Ethnomusicology program, White’s perspective was broadened to include not only jazz, but a wide variety of world music including Indonesian Gamelan, Indian Classical music, Chinese music, Japanese gagaku, Ghanaian drumming, African pop styles, Balkan folk music, and Brazilian music. As part of a construction team building a school in a remote rural village in 2001, he took part in Ewe drumming and made field recordings of “bologo” music, his first fieldwork.
His appetite for travel now whetted, he also studied abroad in Paris in 2003, dropping out of school to live and play there. While there, he met and joined the French hip-hop group Heezbus, many of whose members, including the rapper Spleen and the vocalist Hugh Coltman, are currently signed to Universal France..
Returning to Los Angeles to finish school, White began to study production and composition on his own, searching for a way to combine and express the diverse musical experiences in his life. In addition, White joined and was musical director for BOKU, a hip-hop group fronted by rapper Jo D Jonz which achieved quick success, selling out the House of Blues and Viper room in Los Angeles only months after their formation. Their acclaimed live disc, “Boku: Fully Loaded” is available on iTunes.
Ultimately, his traveler’s spirit, and desire to live in what he considered to be the center of the musical world, took him to New York. He formed the electro-jazz group Nobody with bassist Mark Sposato and drummer Jim St.-Amour, played in many diverse musical situations with musicians like Bilal, Tony Cimorosi, Kenny Brooks, and Karen Rodriguez, but focused on leading his own groups and composing. He also began working as a music educator, private teacher, and accompanist for the Martha Graham School of Dance, as well as accompanying for Graham Company teachers, notably Whitney V. Hunter as faculty dance accompanist Long Island University.
In 2009, he began writing and recording his debut album as a leader, “First Things First”. The material is firmly in the jazz idiom, but draws influences from all of the prior experiences in White’s life, including tangible Latin, hip-hop, and French influences. This recently-completed disc, featuring the astonishing talents of bassist Yunior Terry (Steve Turre), drummer Steve Belvilus (Les Nubians), trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and tenor saxophonist Dayna Stephens (both collaborators with Wayne Shorter), represents a culmination of all of these past experiences, along with hints of what the future holds. First Things First is currently available on iTunes, Pandora and Amazon as well as the Porto Franco Website.