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Chicago-based full-time performing jazz pianist and accordionist “Don Stille proves he is . . . an artist to be reckoned with,” says Howard Reich Music critic for the Chicago Tribune. “ . . . The fluidity of his technique, the depth of his tone and the intellectual sophistication of his improvisations firmly established him as an accomplished and polished artist.”
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, a city rich in artistic and cultural diversity, Don began formal music instruction at the age of 5. Soon after, he expanded his musical palette by including studies in piano performance and composition. Since then he has gone on to perform throughout the country with a long list of nationally and internationally acclaimed jazz artists: Clark Terry, Red Holloway, Roy Hargrove, Terry Gibbs, Ira Sullivan, Eddie Daniels, Doc Severinsen, Lew Soloff, Harry Connick Jr., The New York Voices, Peter Erskine, Claudio Roditi, Mark Murphy, Marlena Shaw, Dr. Billy Taylor, Marian McPartland, Scott Hamilton, Howard Alden, The Four Freshman and Chicago legends Barrett Deems, Franz Jackson and Frank DaRone; he opened for Herbie Hancock and Stephane Grappelli. He also performed with entertainers and pop artists of stage, screen, studio and TV fame: Aretha Franklin, Smokie Robinson, Theodore Bikel, Red Skelton, Kevin Neland (of Saturday Night Live fame), Steve Allen, Bob Hope, Lyle Lovett, Roger Williams, Ben Vereen, The King’s Singers, Taj Mahal and Chuck Berry.
Some achievements include: being proclaimed the Mainstream Jazz Pianist of the Year by the Twin Cities Jazz Society in Minnesota; house pianist and accordionist and often-featured jazz artist on National Public Radio’s “First House on the Right" (broadcast weekly across the country); and finalist in The Great American Jazz Piano Competition at Jacksonville, Florida (a national competition). In the early 70’s, Don was a member of the house trio at the Statler Hotel in New York, and in 1978 he moved to Las Vegas, Nevada and almost immediately became the house pianist at the Landmark Hotel. Through his association with an art-music ensemble known as The New Budapest Orpheum Society (NBOS), Don is currently a member of the Artist-Ensemble-in-Residence at the University of Chicago.
He has performed in concert at DePaul and Roosevelt Universities in Chicago; University of Wisconsin-Madison; University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point; University of Wisconsin-River Falls; Wright State University in Ohio; University of Minnesota; Northern States University, Aberdeen, South Dakota; St Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota (where he was a member of the music faculty); Illinois State University-Bloomington; Kirkwood Community College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Oakton Community College, Des Plaines, Illinois; Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut (with NBOS); Beloit College, Beloit, Wisconsin (also with NBOS); University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky (with Lew Soloff). Several of these involved clinics and master classes.
He has the following jazz festivals to his credit including Elkhart, Gateway (St.Louis, MO), Des Moines, LaCrosse, Sioux Falls, Rockford, KBEM (Minneapolis radio station), New Orleans International Jazz Festival. He has also performed several times at the Chicago Jazz Festival over the years, as well as the Gypsy Jazz Festival at the Green Mill.
For over twenty years, Don has been, and still is, the featured pianist and accordionist with the legendary Chicago blues, folk and jazz vocal recording artist, Bonnie Koloc. Together they have performed in campus and club venues in the Chicago area as well as throughout the country. To name just a few: University of Iowa, Cedar Falls; College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois; Harper Community College in Palatine, Illinois; Old Town School of Folk in Chicago; SPACE in Evanston, Illinois; Fitzgerald’s in Berwyn, Illinois; The Metropolitan in Arlington Heights, Illinois; Joe’s Pub and The Metropolitan Club, both in New York City; The Hamilton in Washington DC. They were featured on a live broadcast of Public Radio’s Midnight Special Program, Dec. 31, 2013. He has performed on several of Bonnie’s recordings.
Don has had the honor of recording and performing with New York-based blues and jazz singer Catherine (Cat) Russell, including a performance at the Chicago Blues Festival.
He was also the featured accordionist on a CD project (Our Song) jointly led by award winning actor, musician, and internationally recognized star of stage, screen and television, Theodore Bikel and Chicago based, world renowned Cantor, Alberto Mizrahi.
He has performed in three movie soundtracks:
Iron Will – a Walt Disney production, featuring Don on piano
Picture Paris – Directed by Brad Hall (Saturday Night Live), and starring Julia Louise Dreyfus (Seinfeld), Don is featured on accordion
The Looking Glass (formerly named Swan Song) – Directed by Oscar nominated director, John Hancock (Bang the Drum Slowly, Weeds and Prancer), Don on accordion
A TV drama soundtrack: Point Man, Don on accordion
In listening to a Don Stille performance, be it live or recorded, one shares in a musical experience that is rich in stylistic diversity and experience. Whether sitting at the piano or donning the accordion, from ragtime to stride, mainstream to bebop, high energy latin to hard-driving straight-ahead jazz, gypsy-jazz to tango, his skills are all-encompassing and complete on the highest artistic level. At the same time he can approach a ballad using his own ultimately personal, deeply musical blend of tasteful restraint and melodic intensity. Further recognition of his diverse musical experience and palette was displayed when he was invited to perform on accordion in a week-long presentation of an all-German program with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Recently, he was Music Director, pianist and accordionist in several concerts headlined by Lyric Opera singers, Martha Cares and Bob Swan, featuring the music of Kurt Weill, Jacques Brel and Edith Piaf.
He has performed and continues to perform full-time in a variety of venues: jazz clubs (Andy’s, The Jazz Showcase, Sayat Nova in downtown Chicago, SPACE in Evanston, Fitzgerald’s, The Green Mill) jazz festivals, recording studios, clinics and concerts.
Don recently celebrated his 70th birthday in a special performance of Steve Rashid Presents: Live at the Whiskey Lounge, 27 Live in Evanston, IL. To view this performance in its entirety, go to www.steverashidpresents.com, scroll down to click on "view past shows," and then click on Don Stille 70th Birthday Celebration with Daniela Bisenius, August 6th. This performance was streamed live around the globe.
Having performed on many recordings headed by other outstanding artists, he has two CD projects under his own name. “Aurora’s Dance” featuring mostly original compositions, and his latest CD project, “Keys to My Heart," features him on accordion as well as piano and is available at cdbaby.com or by contacting him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone: 847-204-2779.
“Don Stille’s “Keys to My Heart" showcases a masterful performance by one of the best pianist/ musicians in the jazz world today." “ . . . Stille succeeds in making a powerful musical statement with this recording that jazz critics and audiences alike are sure to notice.” Ed Blanco, eJazzNews
”. . ..[Stille] plays with style, not to mention warmth, intelligence and perception." “Stille is an accomplished pianist, and in his capable hands the accordion is far more than a novelty instrument.” Jack Bowers, All About Jazz
“. . .there’s musical substance beneath the deceptively slick surface. [Don] Stille proves himself a sophisticated improviser armed with a formidable piano technique and a vivid harmonic vocabulary. . .Stille brings unmistakable classical influences to his jazz playing, as in the title track which bristles with impressionist harmonies and with a decidedly orchestral approach to the keyboard.” Howard Reich, Arts Critic, Chicago Tribune, review of “Aurora’s Dance”