'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.