Born in Phoenix, Arizona, Joey Sellers is recipient of the Gil Evans Fellowship In Jazz Composition, the Sammy Nestico Award, and the Julius Hemphill Award. An accomplished composer in both jazz and classical idioms, Sellers has written for Doc Severinsen, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, symphony orchestras in Tulsa, Long Beach and San Antonio and several works commissioned by the St. Louis Brass. Warner Brothers, Advance Music, and Hal Leonard have published his music and transcriptions. He has received grants from the American Music Center, Meet the Composer, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Sellers attended Arizona State University where he studied trombone with Gail Wilson and improvisation with Chuck Marohnic. In 1980, he formed the Tempe Jazz Workshop, an 11-piece ensemble to perform his original music.
Sellers moved to Los Angeles in 1985, where he performed actively on piano and trombone. The 11-piece ensemble manifested itself there as the Jazz Aggregation, and that ensemble’s recordings and performances garnered critical praise. The Los Angeles Times says of the ensemble, “[Joey Sellers’] Jazz Aggregation is one of the most exciting new surprises of the decade.” The Penguin Guide to Jazz states of the Aggregation’s 9Winds release Pastels, Ashes “Sellers blends structure and surprise with a deftness that should leave other arrangers genuflecting.” In Los Angeles, Sellers played and recorded with the Kim Richmond/Clay Jenkins Ensemble, Joe LaBarbara, Bruce Fowler, Allen Vizzutti and Bobby Shew. He studied improvisation with Warne Marsh, and jazz composition with Bill Holman. During this period, Sellers also served as music director, trombonist and pianist for the Side Street Strutters, reworking and adapting the music of Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Fletcher Henderson and other seminal jazz figures for that ensemble’s six recordings for StopTime Records.
Moving to New York in 1996 to pursue more intense musical endeavors, Sellers played and recorded with Conrad Herwig, Dave Liebman, Toshiko Akiyoshi’s Orchestra featuring Lew Tabackin, Kenny Wheeler Large Ensemble, Satoko Fujii Orchestra, Mike Formanek and Tony Malaby, among others. The New York incarnation of the Jazz Aggregation was well received, with the New York Times commenting, “Sellers is one of few composers whose ideas actually press into new shapes; it’s not just a half dozen soloists coloring a big band core.” The Village Voice states simply, “There’s little typical about his pen.”
A short list of Sellers’ commissions includes, “Three Fantasies for Steelpan and Orchestra” for Liam Teague, “Concerto for Jazz Piano and Orchestra” for Chuck Marohnic, Odd Children: Piece for Marimba and Wind Ensemble for Robert Chappell, “Three Essays/Four Saxophones” for the Northern Illinois University Saxophone Quartet, “Aperitif, Tale, Digression and Entrée for Tuba and Clarinet” for Sam Pilafian and Robert Spring, Requiems for Wayne Bergeron, and “Miss Rogers’ Boots” for the Airmen of Note. Sellers solo trombone CD “What The. . .” got four stars in Downbeat Magazine and was choosen Talent Deserving Wider Recognition in the Critics Poll.
Sellers was assistant professor of music at Northern Illinois University; he is currently Director of Jazz Studies at Saddleback College. He lives in Mission Viejo, California with his wife, clarinetist Susan Sellers, and their children, Corissa and Benjamin.