Pianist and organist Oliver von Essen lives in Bay Shore, New York, a Long Island suburb of New York City. He has been active in the New York area Jazz scene and music business for the last 15 years. Oliver has achieved notoriety as a soloist and accompanist working in a wide range of situations from jazz club performances at Greenwich Village’s "Sweet Rhythm" and Harlem’s "Saint Nick’s Pub" to solo piano work, recording projects, clubs on Long Island’s East end and out of town concerts with national and international acts.
Oliver was born in Frankfurt, Germany, where his father is a jazz musician. Oliver received musical training from age five and started his first regular "gig" at age twelve when he worked a season performing music in an original musical play at Frankfurt’s "Theater am Zoo". The greatest leap forward in his journey happened at age 16 when he went to New Orleans, Louisiana to study jazz piano with Ellis Marsalis at the "New Orleans Center for creative arts". This most defining experience culminated in his first Jazz festival appearance with the "Nocca Jazz Ensemble" at the 1981 Jazz and Heritage Festival. He returned to Germany to finish High School while working nights in clubs.
After four years of conservatory study in Arnhem, Netherlands , his love of music and his desire to study with other jazz greats led him to New York in 1989 where he later graduated from the "New School Jazz and Contemporary Music Program" having studied with jazz legends such as Kenny Baron, Kenny Werner and Jackie Byard. Oliver began playing regularly in Harlem. This vibrant music scene with its unbroken and living tradition in jazz and its heavy emphasis on Hammond organ sounds provided Oliver with his next most important growing experience, musical employment and home.
He lead a regular jam session at Harlem’s "La Famille" jazz club from witch he expanded his base of performance venues throughout New York City including the famous Blue Note. His three years as house pianist for the Blue Note’s after hours session provided him the opportunity to share the stage with many of today’s most prominent jazz legends, including George Benson, Tony Bennet and Chaka Khan. The cultural diversity of New York City gave him countless opportunities to perform with musicians of different genres such as Afro-Cuban music, salsa and Latin jazz, Brazilian bossa nova, pop, reggae, calypso, blues and contemporary r&b.
New York’s recording industry gave him the opportunity to be the sideman on numerous pop and jazz recordings playing organ , piano and synthesizers. His latest work on organ includes Al Ashley’s 2003 release "These are Them" featuring David Liebman, and four tracks on singing legend Lena Horn’s latest recording, released on Blue Note records.
Oliver’s touring work includes national venues such as the Herbst Theater for the 2003 San Francisco Jazz Festival with the Band of the great blues and jazz singer Ruth Brown and some work with jazz recording artists Melvin Sparks and Rodney Jones. The 2003 "Hennessy Smooth and Mellow Jazz Tour" with the Brooks Giles Quintet brought him to Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, Taipei and Kuala Lumpur. He has also had successful three-month engagements at the Jazz clubs of the Shangri-la Hong Kong (2001 with Brooks Giles), the Grand Hyatt in Shanghai (2006 with Trebeka) and the Park Hyatt Tokyo (2004 and 2005 with Angela Stribling) and will appear again in the Tokyo Park Hyatt February, 26 – May 19, 2007 with Angela Stribling vocals and James Mahone on tenor sax.
"Shanghai Reflections" features two very prominent players on the Scene now in Shanghai, China. I am proud to work with them on this essentially improvised group effort: Ron Williams on drums and Donald Jackson on Bass. “Shanghai Reflections” features
OLIVER VON ESSEN (Piano-Leader): I'm the number one band member in this group named after me: The Oliver von Essen Trio. In August 2006, we produced a piano trio album with my original stuff entitled, "Shanghai Reflections"
RON WILLIAMS (Drums): Ronnie is currently the most sought after jazz drummer in Shanghai. More important than that--for the purposes of this recording--is that we had forged a musical understanding together before we ever came to Shanghai independently and met there again by chance (or providence). We had been working together with the great tenor saxophonist Bill Saxton at the St. Nicks Pub in Harlem!
DONALD JACKSON (Double Bass): Donald Jackson, from Chicago, is a fantastic Bass player who has been playing and recording in Shanghai for many years now and is still simply the best in town. I met him briefly at the "House of Blues and Jazz" in 2003 when I was touring with the wonderful tenor player and mutual friend Brooks Giles.
Influences (pianists:) Ray Charles, James Booker, Bobby Timmons, Phineas Newborn Jr., Thelonius Monk ,Tommy Flanagan (living) McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Oscar Peterson, Cedar Walton, Gene Harris (teachers:) Kenny Barron , Ellis Marsalis, Joanne Brackeen, Jackie Byard, Kenny Werner
(inspired in Shanghai by:) Dwight Dickerson (Organists:) Jack McDuff, Jimmy Smith, Victor Davis, Larry Young (non-pianists:) Louis Armstrong, Bird, Cannonball, Dexter Gordon, John Coltrane, Gene Ammons, Miles Davis, Elvin Jones, Wes Montgomery, Django Reinhardt, Wayne Shorter
(others:) B.B. King, Fela Kuti, Muddy Waters, Beatles, James Brown, Jimmy Hendricks, Bob Marley, Andy Bay and many more.
Sounds as though despite our heartfelt devotion to all the cats and heros, we manage to sound like ourselves...ok...on the real tip...we don’t manage anything; in the moment of truth we just play, and the sound that emerges is what you'll hear! More info and samples on www.myspace.com/olivervonessen