Born in 1970 in Copenhagen, Denmark, although raised as a Norwegian musician, Maria moved to Norway at the age of ten. Her precocious musical interests began when she started playing and studying on the piano at the age of five. By the age of six, she began composing her own songs. At first her studies were formally classical, but when she began experimenting with the chord variations, her interest in jazz grew and opened a world of new harmonic possibilities. The music of Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans at first revealed the nuances of improvisation, and then the styles of such non-melodic based pianists such as Geri Allen and Herbie Nichols (who she wrote her thesis on) became a major influence on her style.
Maria really started focusing on performing jazz in 1985. She also started studying at the Trondheim Music Conservatory in 1992, in Norway, majoring in jazz performance. In 1997, after meeting bassist Mats Eilertesen and drummer Thomas Stronen, she went on to form her own trio, showing a fully developed and coherent style, and performed her own original compositions.
By 2000, her first album featuring her own compositions was released, Breaking the Surface, by the German label Act. The album was a summary of old compositions and new songs, lyrical yet with active free improvisation throughout. The album was released internationally, and received excellent reviews. The national jazz critic Roald Helgeim wrote of the album, “I immediately sat up and noticed Maria Kannegaard the first time I heard her … She was playing beautiful tunes, and then there was something about the way she was improvising. Something well defined, conscious, well-thought through: … she speaks to me with music so soulful it leaves one with a massive impression, but at the same time this music possesses an inner calm. … the most original trio-debut in Norwegian jazz for a long time.”
With Quiet Joy (Jazzland, 2005), Maria Kannegaard shows a rougher side to her music than “Breaking the Surface”. The album features new compositions that have more groove, perhaps a little more daring attitude yet combined also with more tender ballads. Indeed, it shows a considerable growth since her first album. The album is one of a reserved inspiration, yet at times allows the joy of creation to flow through. In her playing, one can hear disparate elements combining to create a more personal and original expression.