Neal Kirkwood is a composer, pianist, arranger and bandleader living in New York City. He composes for jazz and contemporary music chamber ensembles, and for voice, chorus, and orchestra. Jazz groups directed by Kirkwood include a 17-piece big band, an octet, a quartet and a trio.
As bandleader, CD recordings include: The Neal Kirkwood Octet; The Chromatic Persuaders and Extrospection, with drummer Tom Rainey, bassist Lindsey Horner and violinist Mark Feldman, (Timescraper Records); and a solo piano CD, Times Circle (Present Eye Music).
In 2013 Ruminations, composed to poems by Sufi mystic Rumi, was performed at Smalls with an 8-voice chorus and jazz ensemble. "Five Choruses from Mexico City Blues", scored for a 16-voice jazz chorus and 17-piece jazz band, was premiered
at Kutztown University in 2012. The Belgian ensemble Octurn commissioned The Mirrored Self and The Enchanted Realm. Voices (2008) was written for the Childrens Aid Society chorus. Goldbergs Variations was winner of the Jazz
Composers Alliance Competition in 1996.
Kirkwood received funding from the New York State Council for the Arts to compose The Future of Futurism, a five-movement work for jazz orchestra. In 2007 he was granted a New York State Music Fund to compose Village Songs. This 30-minute song cycle, scored for childrens chorus and a ten-piece jazz ensemble, uses lyrics drawn
from the writings of 4th grade students in New York City public schools.
As a pianist, Neal Kirkwood has performed and recorded with Pony Poindexter, Bobby Previte, Lindsey Horner, and Mike Clark. He has toured with vocalists Michel Hermon, Chris Connor, Abby Lincoln and Bobby McFerrin. He is currently touring with artist Art Spiegelman and composer Philip Johnstons joint project, Wordless!.
Mr. Kirkwood performs and composes for many of New Yorks creative and experimental theater ensembles. For twelve years he has composed the music for Ralph Lees yearly Mettawee Theater productions. He wrote the music for many of playwright Jim Neus productions, often with saxophonist Harry Mann. He has worked with theater groups Otrabanda Company, the Talking Band, Anne Bogart, Joseph Chaiken, and
actress Louise Smith.
He has a masters degree in composition from Mannes College of Music, where he studied with composer Charles Jones. He was a charter member of the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop, where he studied with Bob Brookmeyer and Manny Album. He is currently on the faculties of Kutztown University in Pennsylvania and Third Street
Music School in New York City.