b. William Francis O’Connell, 22 August 1953, New York City, New York, USA. Raised in Port Washington, Long Island, O’Connell studied piano with his uncle, Bill Wisnewski, while still in school, then went on to study piano and composition at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. He also studied for a year with Richie Beirach in New York City. From the late 70s and through the early 80s, he worked in sometimes-exalted company, including spending two years with Mongo Santamaría and a year each with Chet Baker and Sonny Rollins. From the mid-80s onwards O’Connell worked often with Dave Valentin, not only in performance but also as co-composers. This collaboration continued through the next two decades and in the early 00s showed no signs of diminishing.
Among O’Connell’s early musical influences were John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, McCoy Tyner, and many aspects of Latin music. It is this last influence that has been dominant and a substantial and important portion of O’Connell’s career has found him playing an elegant form of Latin jazz for which his lyrical piano playing is admirably suited. Other musicians with whom O’Connell has worked over the years, often on record as sideman and leader, are Randy Brecker, Conrad Herwig, Gato Barbieri, Emily Remler, Nnenna Freelon, Astrud Gilberto, Kenny Rankin, Jon Lucien and Jerry González And The Fort Apache Band. On four occasions O’Connell has received the SESAC Jazz Writer Of The Year award.