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Debbie Poryes

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Biography

A veteran of the San Francisco Bay Area jazz scene, Debbie Poryes is a bop-oriented acoustic pianist whose melodic and introspective playing has been influenced by Bill Evans (the pianist, not the saxophonist), Marian McPartland, Ahmad Jamal, and pre-fusion Herbie Hancock. Poryes has been playing the acoustic piano since the age of five, but jazz wasn't always her focus; growing up in Northern California, her taste in music ranged from European classical to Simon & Garfunkel. In fact, Simon & Garfunkel were among the folk-rock/soft rock artists of the '60s and '70s who inspired Poryes to put the piano on the back burner and concentrate on playing the guitar and singing when she was a teenager. One of the people Poryes studied voice with during her adolescent years was Judy Davis, whose well-known students had included Grace Slick (of Jefferson Airplane fame) and Barbra Streisand. After being awarded a full scholarship to the University of California at Berkeley, Poryes left home at 17 -- and it was during her years at Berkeley that Poryes became seriously interested in jazz. Hearing major pianists like Evans, Jamal, and Thelonious Monk inspired Poryes to emphasize the acoustic piano again and pursue a career as a jazz instrumentalist. At 20, Poryes landed a jazz-oriented gig at a Berkeley restaurant called Martino's, where she played five nights a week; Poryes went on to play gigs in quite a few other Bay Area venues in the '70s. But Poryes ended up spending most of the '80s in the Netherlands, where she recorded her first album, Debbie Poryes Trio, for Challenge Records (one of Holland's best-known independent jazz labels) in 1982. It was during the '80s that Poryes became fluent in Dutch, composed soundtracks for Codia Audiovisual (a Dutch documentary film company), and toured Europe with her own groups and with an 11-piece band led by American bassist/arranger John Clayton (of Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra fame). In 1990, Poryes returned to Northern California, resuming her activity on the Bay Area jazz scene. Poryes became a faculty member of UC Berkeley's Jazzschool in 2000, and she recorded her trio album, A Song in Jazz, for Jazzschool Records in 2006 and 2007. ~ Alex Henderson

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Born:

Berkeley, CA

Genre
Years Active:

'70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Influencers

Contemporaries