Pianist David Arnay, born in New York City, spent his formative professional years in Ithaca, New York. His keyboard work was essential to a series of original musical projects including a lengthy collaboration in the eclectic Zobo Funn Band, with influential guitarist/composer David Torn.
In Los Angeles, Arnay was recruited in 1994 by jazz woodwind legend Bennie Maupin for his new quintet. The group thrived for several years, performing Arnay's compositions along with Maupin's. Alphonso Johnson played bass. "Playing with Bennie brought me to one of the coolest branches of the jazz family tree. He really helped me to listen more carefully, to leave more space and respect silence. A true mentor."
In 1997 Arnay released Daddy's Groove, his first CD as a leader, for Band Together records. The disc featured woodwind performances by Maupin and Bob Sheppard, with drummer Peter Erskine and bassists Alphonso Johnson and Dave Carpenter. Daddy's Groove received national distribution and strong reviews.
David performed all keyboard tracks on guitarist Phil Upchurch's CD Tell the Truth (Evidence, 2001), which earned three stars in Downbeat. Upchurch is known as a versatile trans-genre artist; in Arnay's playing and writing he recognized a shared sensibility.
Arnay's second CD release as leader was the self-produced trio project, Blues... And Then Some (Studio N, 2003). With drummer Dave Tull and bassist Larry Steen, the album presented eight original compositions along with fresh arrangements of "In A Sentimental Mood," "Isfahan," and "Have You Met Miss Jones." The CD remains in regular rotation in Los Angeles (KKJZ) and Seattle (KPLU).
David played guitar and keyboards for the original Los Angeles production of the Broadway hit musical RENT starring Neil Patrick Harris, for over 250 performances. Self-taught since childhood on guitar, bass and drums, the paths he finds on these other instruments are vital to his compositional process.
After completing the master's degree program at the USC/Thornton School of Music in 1999, David was invited to join the USC faculty. Colleagues at USC include jazz and pop masters Bob Mintzer, Alan Pasqua, Ndugu Chancler, Patrice Rushen, Peter Erskine and Alphonso Johnson. As a teacher, introducing newcomers to the jazz tradition and approach continues to be especially rewarding. "When a classically trained player discovers that s/he doesn't need to rely on written music, it's like watching a creature being born."
Arnay performs constantly in L.A. as a soloist, leader of his own jazz group, and as a busy sideman. He's been in residence at the luxe supper club Parkway Grill in Pasadena since 1989. He continues to cross boundaries, performing in a broad spectrum of styles. His music is energetic and accessible, rooted in the jazz mainstream, charged with eclectic influences. After performing in Germany, Italy, Spain, Finland and Japan, he is eager to reach the international jazz audience with his new album "8."
Arnay's new album "8" (Studio N, 2013) co-produced by Arnay and Michael Lizarraga, employs a unique concept. Opening with a solo piano rendition of "Caravan" the album adds a new instrument on each track up to the closing octet "Dream Groove." With Peter Erskine on drums and a cast of A-list L.A. musicians, the album provides a compelling, evolutionary listening experience.