Neal Kirkwood is a composer, pianist, arranger and bandleader living in New York City. His ensembles include the Neal Kirkwood Octet, a "little big band" featuring some of the top improvisers in New York City. Experimental yet swinging, the Octet performs Kirkwoods original compositions and arrangements of jazz standards. He also leads the Chromatic Persuaders, a quartet featuring violinist Mark Feldman, bassist Lindsey Horner, and drummer Tom Rainey. He recently debuted a new trio with Allison Miller on drums and Lindsey Horner on bass.
As a composer, Neal Kirkwood has received has received numerous commissions, including a 2007 New York State Music Fund commission for Village Songs, a song cycle for childrens chorus and a ten-piece jazz ensemble, with a text drawn from the writings of 4th grade students in New York public schools. In 2000 he received a New York State Council for the Arts commission for The Future of Futurism, a five movement work for jazz orchestra. Other commissions include Voices for childrens chorus, 2008, for the Childrens Aid Society chorus, and The Mirrored Self and The Enchanted Realm for the Belgian ensemble Octurn. His composition for jazz orchestra Goldbergs Variations was winner of the Jazz Composers Alliance Competition in 1996. He has composed music for symphony orchestra, jazz orchestra, chamber ensembles, and voice. He holds a masters degree in composition from Mannes College of Music, where he studied with Charles Jones.
In addition to his activities as a bandleader and composer, Kirkwood has performed and recorded with Pony Poindexter, Bobby Previte, Lindsey Horner, Mark Feldman, Mike Clark, among others, and has toured with vocalists Michel Hermon, Chris Connor, Abby Lincoln and Bobby McFerrin.
He has also been deeply involved performing and composing for some of New Yorks most creative and experimental theater ensembles. For the last 7 years he has composed scores for Ralph Lees Mettawee Theater. He has contributed to many of playwright Jim Neus productions, often in collaboration with saxophonist Harry Mann. He has also worked with Otrabanda Company, the Talking Band, Anne Bogart, Joseph Chaiken, and Louise Smith.
He has released four CDs as a leader: The Neal Kirkwood Octet, The Chromatic Persuaders, and Extrospection on Timescraper Records, and a solo piano CD Times Circle on Present Eye Music.