Artist Biography

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.


At USC my work includes instructing private piano students, teaching jazz keyboard basics to non-pianist jazz majors, and leading student combos. The level of talent of the students and teachers is very high at USC, and I'm honored to count among my colleagues luminaries Peter Erskine, Alan Pasqua, Alphonso Johnson and Russ Ferrante.


I'm so impressed with the people at Pasadena City College, where I have private piano students and teach a class in basic jazz keyboard techniques.There is no better bargain than PCC for the aspiring undergraduate - check it out!


For several years leading up to 2008, I played piano for the Phil Upchurch quartet, which had a monthly gig at HAL'S Bar and Grill in Venice, CA. I played piano on Phil's 2001 album, "Tell the Truth" (Evidence), described on jazzdigger.com as "one of the best jazz albums of the year... not to be missed." The CD earned 3 stars in Downbeat, and has been on dozens of radio stations across the country. Phil included my tune "Home Again" on the CD.


Legendary woodwind artist Bennie Maupin became one of my most significant musical mentors in the 1990s when he invited me to join his quintet as pianist/keyboardist. For almost five years we explored original material with an outstanding band that usually featured Alphonso Johnson on bass, Kenny Sara on drums, and Angel Figueroa or Munyungo Jackson on percussion. I am blessed to have had some "Miles dust" sprinkled on me in this very exciting band.


Voodoo Lounge is an instrumental rock quartet led by guitarist Corky James. The band plays instrumental versions of cool rock tunes with a special interest in the Jimi Hendrix songbook. VDL is a spinoff of theJames Gang, Corky's 9-piece dance band. Both bands are booked through West Coast Music.