Born in Tarrytown and raised in Buffalo, New York, Billy Mitchell tinkered with the piano as a child but did not get serious about music until he entered Morehouse College. While pursuing a political science degree he joined an off-campus jazz band and was soon playing gigs in and around Atlanta. In 1970 Mitchell moved to Los Angeles to pursue his career and was soon backing up such artists as Gloria Lynn, Ester Phillips, Randy Crawford and Linda Hopkins, to name a few.
His first solo efforts, Blue City Jam (1984) and Night Theme (1987) captured the funky, urban flavored vibe of the Quiet Storm format just before the advent of smooth jazz, and Faces (1988) and the similarly styled In Focus (1991) rose high on Billboard’s contemporary jazz chart and continue to receive international airplay. After a few colorful excursions into swing and straight-ahead, Live All Night Long – 1994, Cat’s Pajamas – 1996, and Passion – 1998, all recorded live, Mitchell returns to the smooth jazz fold with his PRC 2001 release, Never Give Up On Love, a soulful and dynamic session which combines Mitchell’s love for jammin’ R&B funk with a keen sense of romance and grace. Never Give Up On Love (PRC- 2001), a soulful and dynamic session which combines Mitchell’s love for jammin’ R&B funk with a keen sense of romance and grace. 2005 has produced a collaboration of international flavors Minority Report-Classified (Vista) and the 2006 release of The Traveler (Vista) featuring the influences of Afro-Centric music. Jazz It Up – 2013, featuring the Jazz Leaders. His most recent ventures have featured his Circle of Friends, live concerts recorded in 2011, 2014 and a YouTube series recorded in 2015.
Recent Billy Mitchell Productions projects for Vista Records include: Black Creole Chronicles -2013 featuring the blues compositions of actor/musician, Garrett Morris. Waves – 2011, and My Life 2103 featuring Japanese pianist, Yuko Mabuchi and Spirituals: Reflections and Meditations featuring the gospel piano stylings of Dr. Ruth-Bass Green.
The Billy Mitchell Group has appeared at many international festivals including the Monterey Jazz Festival, Playboy Jazz Festival, Heineken World Music Festival, International Jazz Festival, Pori Jazz Festival, Sedona Jazz on the Rocks, and countless club appearances. His solo career has included appearances in film, most notably Clint Eastwood’s “Bird.” In 1999 America West Airlines awarded Mitchell the Jazz For The Next Generation Award for his continued work with young musicians. His work as a clinician has centered on his book, “The Gigging Musician” (Backbeat Books) based on interviews and his articles as a writer for Gig Magazine.
In 2002 Billy founded SAPPA (The Scholarship Audition Performance Preparatory Academy). This program is designed to increase participation of inner-city students in music and arts scholarship competitions. SAPPA works to develop the students’ artistic and creative aptitude, ability, desire and skills toward the ultimate goal of applying for and winning arts competitions. SAPPA’s premier program is the Watts-Willowbrook Conservatory and Youth Symphony, that was started in 2010 in partnership with the Watts-Willowbrook Boys and Girls Club. www.sappa.net
Billy is currently performing with the Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra Unlimited under the direction of legendary jazz guitarist, Kenny Burrell, Dr. Bobby Rodroguez and Charlie Harrison.