Today we’d like to introduce you to Jez Graham.
Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I was born in Binghamton N.Y. in 1959 and moved to N.Y.C. in 1960. I gravitated toward music and the piano at an early age. My father worked in radio and I dived in deep with records, concerts, musicals, Marx Brothers movies, and singing lessons with my Aunt Bee Walker who was actually a cousin of my grandmother. Bee was an accomplished songwriter and piano accompanist and I owe her a lot. Recordings of our work together when I was age 6 are available on my website as part of my archival project “The Double Album”. I moved with my family to Stockbridge Ma. in 1970 where I soon began Jazz piano lessons with the jazz guru of The Berkshires Mike Schiffer and was soon playing in bands and composing music. In the mid-’70s we relocated to The Bay Area where I spent my final year of High School at Berkeley High where I was fortunate to participate in the great Jazz program while studying privately with the great Art Lande. Settling in Oakland I continued my studies with Art as well as another mentor W.A. Mathieu. After a short stint at Evergreen College, it was time to go to L.A. where I met the love of my life, Mindy. We eventually started a family and moved to Atlanta in 1988.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The life of a freelance musician is always interesting. As far as struggles, That is an important part of the musician’s life and every rejection and/or gig that didn’t come through made me stronger and more resolute. Paying dues is the way to find out where you’re supposed to be and I’m grateful for all of the ups and downs which made me stronger in my resolution to continually learn and grow.
Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I am most proud of my family. Bill(34) and Janna(30) are both amazing musicians, composers, and all-around great people and my wonderful wife Mindy helps me with lyrics many of which can be found on my most recent album “Percolate” I am most proud of that album because it’s just Piano and voice bringing my roots full circle with all original songs that tell the story of my life and philosophy along with some humor, spiritual themes and lots of piano playing. https://jezgraham.bandcamp.com/album/percolate
As far as my work, I have been blessed to play and collaborate with many wonderful artists including Col. Bruce Hampton, Francine Reed, David Marks of The Beach Boys, and the poet lyricist Stephen Kalinich who is known for his spiritual and uplifting lyrics for The Beach Boys and others. Two of our collaborations are featured on “Percolate” and another will be on my next release “The Jez Graham Collection-1978-2022” which will be available on Bandcamp on July 4th of this year. To celebrate its release I am doing a special concert with my band The New Grit on July 16th at Music on Main in Lilburn GA. https://musiconmainstreetlilburn.com/concerts.html
Regarding my work as a piano player, since 2018 I have been playing solo piano at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport and it’s my favorite gig of all time. I look at it as musical therapy and healing for the travelers and also for myself. I play a stream of consciousness, never preparing a set. I like to meditate a bit and then look around and feel the vibe of the travelers and somehow I always know what songs to play for them. There is an exchange of energy that is profound and every day is a journey that leaves me feeling like I accomplished something. The travelers are so kind and appreciative and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to play for them. The songs form a continuity for me going back to material I learned from Aunt Bee and Mike Schiffer to the classic rock, pop, and soul I grew up with and I also like to read people’s t-shirts and play their favorite artists with the most popular being The Grateful Dead, The Beatles, and Bob Marley. We have an amazing team of piano players at the airport on Concourses A, and E. My airport schedule is on my website. http://www.jezgraham.com/
- Website: http://www.jezgraham.com/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jamesjezgraham/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jamesjez/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/jamesjez
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL77DBE9AD7F638514
Airport portrait by Giovanni