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Keith DeStefano

The music of bassist/composer, Keith DeStefano is mercurial. He combines the traditional with the avant-garde, taut arrangements with free jazz, classical influences with genre music, angular bitonality with gentle lyricism, far out grooves with driving swing.

In the words of Homer Jackson, director of the Philadelphia Jazz Project, “One of the studious legions of the great Charles Mingus is Philadelphia bassist/composer Keith DeStefano. With a lushness and rich, warm tonality, that can be sweet or dangerous. Puzzlebox shares music of great texture, depth, and voluptuousness”

Keith grew up in Red Bank, NJ. At three, he was introduced to classical music, listening to his mother play Bach and Chopin on the piano. He studied trumpet at age 6, then switched to bass in High School where he was introduced to jazz and the jazz greats John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, and Miles Davis. Though he played all styles of music in local bands, jazz was his real love. But Keith, who was never content to confine himself to one art form, chose to get a Bachelors in Fine Arts in painting (his other passion) from the Philadelphia University of the Arts. All the time he still played music. He studied for eight years with Classical double bass with Robert Ricccardi, principal bassist for the Pennsylvania Ballet, and furthered his jazz studies with Tyrone Brown, Trudy Pitts, and Odean Pope. It was in Odean’s Collective Voices Workshop which performed in an eight sax choir format, balancing arranged with free jazz, that Keith was inspired to form his jazz octet Puzzlebox.

Keith has been featured in DownBeat, NPR, Channel 12 WHYY, 90.1 WRTI and radio stations across the country. He has performed with Puzzlebox at the Cape May Jazz Fest, West Oak Lane Jazz Festival, World Café Live, Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz, Trenton Grounds for Sculpture, Chris Jazz Café, West Oak lnae Jazz Festival, Twins, Ortleibs, World Café Live, Trenton Music Festival, Woodmere Art Museum, Khyber Pass, Club Medusa, Fertgies, Time, University of Pennsylvania Irvine Auditorium, Triumph Brewery, and numerous venues in the region.

He has been awarded two grants from the American Composers Forum in 2006 and 2010. A 2013 grant from the Philadelphia Jazz Project which will allow him to record a 3rd Puzzlebox CD this year. The music in his 2010 release , “A PLACE TO BE,” was described by Michael West of the Washington CityPaper as taut, edgy, and full of surprises…but surprisingly catchy and lyrical throughout,” and who Karl Stark of the Philadelphia Inquirer described as , “Ambitious writing often creating a sizzle that ignites his soloists.” In 2006 he released an EP with his avant groove trio, Yellowbrain. In addition to writing for his octet, Keith has composed chamber music, and music for solo mandolin and guitar.

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