Bill O'Connell studied classical music at The Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Early in his career he played in various salsa and jazz settings, making him a pioneer of Latin Jazz.. O'Connell is an internationally recognized composer, and has original compositions on CDs by Mongo Santamaria, Emily Remler, Charles Fambrough, and on virtually every recording made by flutist Dave Valentin.
For years the go-to pianist and arranger for such artists as Mongo Santamaria, Dave Valentin, Gato Barbieri, the Fort Apache Band and others, Bill O'Connell has perhaps more than any other pianist developed a true melding of Latin and Jazz music. His own playing – from its robust chordal comping to its exuberant and sometimes knotty solos – transcends categorization and combines rhythmic complexities with glittering single note runs in a sort of Bud Powell-meets-Chick-Corea sound. With Latin-tinged trombone great Conrad Herwig, O'Connell provides a thoughtful program of originals and a few re-imagined standards including an amazing rendition of Victor Feldman's “Joshua” and a surprising “Surrey with the Fringe on Top.” Saxophonist Steve Slagle, percussion legend Richie Flores and his regular rhythm section make Bill O'Connell's Zócalo (Savant) a joyous romp filled with energy and high spirits from a powerful voice in Latin Jazz.