Roger Kellaway’s discography runs to more than two hundred and fifty albums. He’s worked with everyone from Elvis to Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie to Yo-Yo Ma, Joni Mitchell to Mancini and Quincy Jones to Michael Tilson Thomas.
Kellaway is not only a major pianist, he is a composer of protean ability, writing in the music fields of jazz, classical and “pop”, also scoring for films and television. His acclaimed “Cello Quartet”albums are described by some as “crossover”, “chamber jazz” and by others as the beginning of “New Age” music. They were the first in an eclectic array of projects beginning in the 1960’s. Roger’s commissions include a ballet for George Balanchine and the New York City Ballet, orchestral pieces for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the National Symphony, the New American Orchestra and a concerto, “Songs of Ascent,” commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, Zubin Mehta, conductor. He wrote a variety of chamber works for Carnegie Hall performances and served as musical director for Stephane Grappelli’s 80th Birthday Tribute, which included Yo-Yo Ma’s first entry into Jazz. Later, Stephane, Yo-Yo and Roger traveled to Paris together. Kellaway played on and wrote all the arrangements for their album, “Anything Goes”.
Roger was born in Waban Massachusetts, November 1, 1939. He fell in love with the piano at the age of 7 and began studying. By the time he was 12, he was already listening equally to jazz and classical music and decided that he wanted to spend his life in music. He attended Newton High School, at that time ranked the number three high school in the United States, studying college level music theory and playing double bass and percussion in the school orchestra, performing works by Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach. (Meanwhile, he was playing bass in an extracurricular jazz band.) From high school, he went on to the New England Conservatory where he studied piano, double bass, and composition. After two years at the conservatory he left to go on the road, playing bass. In 1960, he settled in New York City and began freelancing on piano. By the age of 22, he was one of the busiest and most highly respected pianists in New York, playing record dates, jazz clubs, and working with singers such as Lena Horne. His favorite recordings during that period were with Sonny Rollins, Wes Montgomery, Oliver Nelson, Ben Webster, Clark Terry & Bob Brookmeyer.
In the mid ’60′s Kellaway moved to Los Angeles to continue doing studio work, which soon included playing on and then writing film scores. He became musical director for Bobby Darin and in 1968 arranged (and conducted) Darin’s album of songs from the film “Dr. Doolittle”. Writing songs and arrangements is a passion that sometimes expands into producing, as was the case for the Carmen McRae album, “I Am Music”. The relationship had started with Roger’s song “I Have The Feeling I’ve Been Here Before”, written especially for her, with a lyric by the legendary team Alan & Marilyn Bergman. Kellaway’s most prized television credit is, “Remembering You”, the closing theme for the ground breaking, “All in the Family”. Composed in 1970, it is still being heard on TV around the world. In 1988, Kellaway was honored with a Grammy Award for his music on the album “Memos From Paradise” for Eddie Daniels. He has written (and conducted) twenty-nine film scores including Barbara Streisand’s “A Star is Born”, for which he received an Academy Award nomination.
In 1999 Roger was commissioned to compose the music for London’s West End production of “Lenny” starring Eddie Izzard, directed by Sir Peter Hall. In 2000 he was commissioned by the West German Radio to write a two-hour show celebrating the 100th birthday of composer Kurt Weill. As well as arranging the show, he also performed as pianist and conductor. Later that year he began working as Musical Director with Kevin Spacey on the pre-production for his film, “Beyond The Sea”, dedicated to Bobby Darin; and served as Musical Director, conductor and pianist for the Dec, 2004, 13-city “Beyond The Sea” tour. In 2005, Roger conducted the world premiere of Sir Paul McCartney’s “Nova” in Buenos Aires with The Youth Orchestra of the Americas.” In 2007 he performed at and served as Musical director for “Tribute To Oscar Peterson at Carnegie Hall and later toured with Tony Bennett as his Musical Director. 2008 began with the Prix du Jazz Classique (the French “Grammy”) for Roger’s CD, “Heroes” (dedicated to Oscar Peterson) and ended with serving as Van Morrison’s Musical Director for the classic “Astral Weeks” live performance/recording (CD/DVD) at the Hollywood Bowl.
2009 found Kellaway working again with the Bergmans on “Visions Of America”, an orchestral, multimedia portrait of Democracy. The “Photo-Symphony”, for full orchestra, Jazz piano, chorus and featured singer Patti Austin, was commissioned by renowned photographer, Joseph Sohm. The show premiered in Philadelphia with The Philly Pops, conducted by Peter Nero. Roger played solo piano at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall to a sold out audience later that year, ending with his orchestrating and conducting the music for Clint Eastwood’s film, INVICTUS.
In 2010, Roger received an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, the New England Conservatory of Music and began to spend most of this time writing, only stopping long enough to play a few concerts. 2011’s acclaimed “Live at the Library of Congress” with Eddie Daniels was followed by several jazz festivals. The Boston Pops performed an expanded “Visions of America” in 2012, conducted by Keith Lockhart with chorus directed by Peter Mansfield. Singers Patti Austin and Steve Tyrell were featured with Kellaway on piano. In the fall, Roger recorded “Duke At The Roadhouse – live in Santa Fe”, his third duo CD with Eddie Daniels. This time they added cello to the mix.
In January of 2013, the New West Symphony performed “Visions Of America: A Photo Symphony,” conducted by Marcelo Lehninger. The revised, fifty minute show featured Kellaway on jazz piano, a chorus of twenty-four, singers Judith Hill & Steve Tyrell, totaling ninety-five performers on stage! Roger’s most recent commission, a twenty-two minute piece for two pianos, bass and drums, is a Jazz exploration of nine songs by Sir Paul McCartney. The summer months included three Festivals with Eddie Daniels; San Francisco Jazz, Johannesburg, South Africa and the Detroit Jazz Festival.
The “eclectic Maestro” continues recording and performing concerts across the U.S. and Europe, also writing for film, theatrical productions and commissioned works. He resides in Ojai, California with his wife (of 48 years) Jorjana.–