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Christopher Simmons

Pianist/Composer

About Me

Pianist, keyboardist, percussionist and composer Christopher Simmons started his music career in Orillia, ON, Canada. His father James Herbert Simmons, (1917 – 2005), was a jazz pianist and organist that had been playing since the late 1940’s with several jazz bands around southern Ontario. Christopher’s influence was evident in that at the age of 8 he received his first of many drum sets. He first started playing professionally at the age of 14 and frequently performed with his father’s trio and bands he was in for several years. Christopher was a percussionist in high school as well. After he graduated, he then enrolled as a drummer, in the advanced applied music program at Mohawk College in Hamilton, ON, where he eventually became the principal pianist in both the Mohawk College and McMaster University big bands. Like his father, it was very evident that Christopher had a natural talent on the piano. In his final year at college, he was hired as an assistant jazz piano instructor. After receiving his diploma in advanced applied music in 1987, Christopher performed the Toronto circuit for several years as a sideman in several groups, including being keyboardist with local Hamilton sensation and Juno award winning blues singer Harrison Kennedy. Christopher then went onto lead his own jazz fusion group, resulting in live and syndicated performances on Radio and National Television across Canada. He was then awarded Grants from the Canada Council for the Arts which enabled Christopher to study with Jim McNeely; pianist, composer, arranger for the Grammy Award winning Vanguard Jazz Orchestra in New York City. While in New York City, some of Christopher's performance highlights included; Musical Director/Pianist at the centennial birthday tribute on April 29th, 1999, to the late great pianist/composer/band leader Duke Ellington (1899-1974); at the Triad off Broadway Theater. The sold out tribute featured New York City gospel/jazz vocalist Karl Dixon, and several special guests including Duke’s only sibling; his younger sister, the late Ruth Ellington (1915-2004). While in New York City, Christopher also performed piano and keyboards at 55 Bar, CBGB's, Chicago Blues, Dan Lynch Blues Bar, Jazz Gallery, Knickerbocker Bar & Grill, Knitting Factory, Leisure Yacht Charters, Man Ray, National Arts Club, Nell's, New Music Café, Smalls Jazz Club, Sweet Basil, Visiones, Waldorf Astoria, and Zinc Bar. He also played keyboards with the Sunday Gospel house band at Ashford & Simpson’s Sugar Bar; and had a solo piano house gig every Monday night for several years at the infamous Empire Diner. Throughout Christopher’s career; he has performed and recorded with some of the most respected names in blues, gospel and jazz of our generation. Some of these talented musicians include; Harrison Kennedy, Karl Dixon, Mandy Lagan, Donny McCaslin, Bocle Bros, Harvie S, Chris Wood, Gene Calderazzo, Jay Anderson, Jeff Hirshfield, Rufus Cappadocia, Ernie Tollar, Kevin Turcotte, Paul DeLong, Ted Quinlan, Jeff Levine, Mike Sim, Steve Davis, Mark McCarron, Artie Roth, Kevin Dempsey and Robert Bonisolo. Now living in Toronto; Christopher Simmons is teaching and performing solo and with his trio at jazz venues throughout Toronto such as; Home Smith Jazz Bar, Gallery 345, and Jazz Bistro. He has also performed in music festivals such as; TD Toronto Jazz Festival and Arts in the Parks Summer Concert Series and is also part of the performing artist roster of the Music Can Heal Organization. As a composer/pianist, Christopher's compositions capture and reveal several genres of music that is influenced by blues, classical, gospel, new age and jazz. The music maintains a noble stylistic consistency that provides a solid foundation for highly active interplay, heartfelt expression and creative dynamic improvisation. To date Christopher Simmons has released seven CD’s as a leader. His most recent CD “Know The Now”, featuring Artie Roth - Bass and Kevin Dempsey - Drums, was recorded at Noble Street Studios and engineered by Juno winning engineer George Seara. It was released in 2015 and is receiving great listener reviews and strong airplay both at home and abroad. On October 10th, 2017, at the Jazz Bistro in Toronto, the Christopher Simmons quartet performed a very special Centennial birthday tribute concert featuring the music of the late great composer/pianist Thelonious Monk. The concert featured Mike Filice, Artie Roth and Anthony Michelli.

My Jazz Story

I love jazz because it is a creative force that expresses from the heart. I was first exposed to jazz through my parents. My mother was a great dancer and singer and my father was a jazz pianist. I met Lyle Mays on a few occasions in New York City. He is very influential on my tastes in music. The best show I ever attended was in Toronto featuring Egberto Gismonti and special guest musicians Jane Bunnett and Don Thompson. There was magic in the air that night. The first 'jazz' record I bought was Heavy Weather by Weather Report. What first hit me was the energy of the music. My advice to new listeners is to not hear music; but feel it; by actively engaging yourself by listening to it. Anyone serious about becoming a musician, should also learn how to play a percussion instrument. Rhythm is one thing, groove is another; but "TIME" is everything.

My Favorites

  1. Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Jack DeJohnette - Standards Volume 2
  2. Glenn Gould - Bach The Goldberg Variations
  3. Lyle Mays - Solo Piano