Debbie Poryes has been on the faculty of the Berkeley Jazzschool since 2000 teaching jazz piano and functional harmony. She has just released a new trio CD on the Jazzschool Records label with Bill Douglass on bass, and David Rokeach on drums, entitled “A Song in Jazz”. Debbie Poryes brings a new voice to jazz piano with unique, warm, modern mainstream arrangements to standards and originals, an exquisite touch and a trio with an uncanny rhythmic rapport. She displays a special verbal communicative ability with audiences as well, creating a show that is fresh and accessible.
Debbie Poryes started playing classical piano at five years of age and loved practicing Chopin and show tunes until Simon and Garfunkel came along. She then switched to playing the guitar and singing. When she started to hear jazz at age seventeen, she wondered where this music had been all her life. She returned to the piano and listened and learned from her heroes -- Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk, etc.
She had her first regular gig when she was 20 years old playing 5 nights a week (from 5-midnight!) for a year at Martino’s Restaurant in Berkeley, where she certainly learned a lot of tunes! Throughout the 1970s, she played in many clubs and restaurants in the Bay Area as well as for private parties of all sorts. She played also in many other professional settings from solo piano to big band, including two summers as the pianist for Make-A-Circus.
She also started teaching privately as well as teaching ear training in Art Lande’s jazz school in Berkeley. Early on, Debbie developed an interest in classical harmony and has always been involved with finding ways to communicate the beauty of western compositional thinking to her jazz students.
Debbie spent most of the 1980s in The Netherlands where she held tenured positions in the jazz departments of two Dutch conservatories. She taught jazz piano classes and ensembles. She became fluent in Dutch and her students loved her sunny California disposition and her patient and encouraging manner.
During these years, she recorded a trio record for Timeless Records. German and Dutch jazz magazine reviews for that record referred to her playing as “crystal clear” .... “with the swinging elegance of Tommy Flanagan combined with the depth of Bill Evans.”
Debbie also worked and recorded as arranger and accompanist for many singers, and toured throughout Europe with her own trios, quartets and various other ensembles, including an eleven-piece group led by bassist John Clayton. Among many other venues, she played at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam, the September Club in Antwerp, New Morning in Paris, and Quasimodo in Berlin.
She spent some time composing soundtracks for the Dutch documentary film company “Codia Audiovisual” and continued to develop her own jazz compositions.
Since returning to the United States in 1990, she has maintained a large private teaching practice, continued to develop her piano technique with her classical teacher John Bloomfield, and play all sorts of gigs and concerts. She’s played at among others, the Downtown Restaurant in Berkeley, the Oakland Museum, Yoshi’s, the Berkeley Jazzschool, the Florio Concerts series, the Berkeley Piano Club, and numerous S.F. Bay Area hotels and restaurants.
She’s accompanied many singers, and recorded with singer Barbara Linn on her CD entitled “Smooth Road” for which Debbie did the arranging. In reviews of that CD, The S.F. Bay Guardian called her accompanying “impeccable” and the Oakland Tribune found her arrangements “lush.”
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