Bill Gilliam composer / keyboardist

*** Upcoming concert*** "Deceptive Moves" - Music Gallery, Fri, Sept 30th  2005

Previous Concerts

"Spirit Matter" CD Reviews

"Spirit Matter" - Where to Buy It

         "Spirit Matter" - Top of the Charts (May 2001)

        Check out my stuff on
        (contains some tracks from CD "Spirit Matter")

Urban Undercurrents CD & Concert Reviews
Urban Undercurrents - CD Description
Urban Undercurrents - MP3 audio samples
Urban Undercurrents - Where to buy it
Bill Gilliam - Bio
Concert music
Email moi:

"Deceptive Moves" - Music Gallery Concert, Fri, Sept 30th 2005

Bill Gilliam and Colleen Ostoforoff
"Deceptive Moves" a
New Music Concert Concert
the Music Gallery
Toronto, ON -  On September 30th, 2005 at 8 p.m. ,

The Music Gallery, as part of the "Composer Now Face to Face" series, presents "Deceptive Moves", the compositions of Bill Gilliam and Colleen Ostoforoff. This concert will be an evening of World premieres of new music showing how each composer approaches, explores and embraces the theme of "deception".

Bill & Colleen decided to collaborate on this music project based on their common artistic vision, approach and style of composition.  The topical theme of deception allows each artist a broad scope of interpretation while at the same time provides an opportunity to compliment each other's work and explore collective comment on current events.

For this concert, Bill's compositions are motivated by observations of deceptive behaviour in nature, children's emotions and adult machinations using extended techniques for voice and instruments.  In the same vein, Colleen's compositions will focus on the themes of political system's deception, manipulation and environmental concerns.  Her chamber music scores will explore the limits of the ensemble's sonic pallet through the use of concealed sound re-enforcement and signal processing.

Bill's style of music ranges from scores for new music ensembles to pieces for contemporary jazz performance to improvised soundscapes using handcrafted electronic samples.  The music for this project will be contemporary new music compositions interwoven with sampled / processed sound.  Bill's premiere works are:

Often inspired by the challenges of a unique sound source, Colleen set out to re-create the sound or create a useful musical notation for an unconventional instrument (for example a push lawn mower, a toy laughing stick, sheet metal or a water phone).  Her world premieres will be:

For more information contact
Jonathan Bunce
Music Gallery, St George the Martyr Anglican Church
197 John Street (at Stephenie Street, North of Queen St West)
Toronto, M5T 1X6


"Spirit Matter" CD Reviews

"Spirit Matter"

Doug Gallant,  Guardian, Charlottetown, PEI April 2002
British-born jazz pianist Bill Gilliam takes a rather dark and moody turn on Spirit Matter, his follow-up release to Urban Undercurrents. Gilliam, who has called Toronto home for some time now, is a highly creative and inventive composer, as he has so aptly demonstrated in the past through this work for stage and screen.

On Spirit Matter he explores a number of different themes, from the many colours of love and the ever-changing face of the world in which he lives to the importance of a sense of place, in some bold and imaginative ways. As stated previously, it's often dark and moody, but there are moments of joy and excitement as well.

Gilliam, an intense and passionate player who plays with equal measures of flash and finesse here, is supported on Spirit Matter by some of Canada's top jazz players, most notably trumpet player Kevin Turcotte, drummer Ben Riley and sax player Ernie Tollar. Choice cuts on this nine-song set include Rattle My Cage, Headlong, The Richness of Living and Nina's Love.

David Franklin, Cadence Magazine March 2002
Spirit Matter's strengths lie in the well-crafted very contemporary compositions of the leader and in the excellent work of the Toronto rhythm section and front-line soloists. British-born Toronto resident wrote and arranged all the tunes, and his experience in composing for non-jazz idioms provided him with ideas not always found in straight-ahead Jazz settings. The attractive compositions, the spirited bass and drums, and the imaginative, swinging front line make this one worth a listen.

Brant Zwicker, Kamloops This Week, Kamloops, BC. “Spirit Matter” CD review Dec, 2001
“Spirit Matter is Gilliam's second independent CD in only a couple of years, a powerful and fluid collection of contemporary material which fuses progressive technique and traditional textures in a manner few would even attempt, much less find success with. Supported by some of the finest musical talent in Toronto, Gilliam has created more than 70 minutes of first-rate modern jazz which should break him through to the genre's very front lines.”

Mark Vaugh-Jackson, Evening Telegram, St. John, NF. “Spirit Matter” CD review Jan, 2002
“This Ontario jazz pianist has turned out a compelling little number that, in my opinion, neatly bridges the gap between the way-out edgy fusionesque jazz that I'm not too fond of and the smoother sound of the jazz that I like. This is one of those CDs that you could stick on low in the background to set a mood or turn up a bit and focus your attention on, either way, it's good stuff.”

Ray J Arsenault, Journal Pioneer, Summerside, PEI. “Spirit Matter” CD review Nov, 2001
“Toronto’s Bill Gilliam shows slight traces of his British roots, his current Canadian environs and his traditional American leanings in his brand new independent jazz CD, Spirit Matter. This talented keyboardist/composer has somehow melded all these influences into a strong, fresh and ultra-modern package that will surely perk the ear of many a jazz affcionado. He’s assembled a heavy-hitting line-up of musicians to back him up and to perform some amazing lead work. I would recommend this one to those who really know their jazz.”

Sharpe On Jazz,  John Sharpe,  Scene Magazine, November 2001

Bill Gilliam        Spirit Matter        (Melos/Festival)
Pianist/composer Bill Gilliam was born in London, England but is now based in Toronto. In addition to leading the Bill Gilliam Ensemble, this multi-faceted artist has also written music for theatre productions, films and dancers. Spirit Matter, a follow-up to his first contemporary jazz release Urban Undercurrents, features eight inventive originals performed by some of Toronto’s finest jazz musicians. While Gilliam’s piano often deals in dark tonal colours, saxophonist Erinie Tollar and well-known trumpeter Kevin Turcotte add bright light to the leaders compositions. Indeed, Spirit Matter is full of shifting rhythms (courtesy of bassist Duncan Hopkins, drummer Ben Riley and percussionist Mark Duggan), solid group interplay and thoughtful improvisation. This is one Canadian jazz recording that definitely deserves wider recognition. Very impressive.   ####

Geoff Chapman Review, The Toronto Star, June 2001
British Born, Toronto-based pianist Bill Gilliam always offers contemporary sounds that have served him well composing for other art forms, including, dance, theatre and new music projects. Here it is jazz with a pronounced 21st-century spin; big on on tonal colours and contrast, fluid  pattern-weaving, considerable finesse and ballad themes handled with a lover's care. Among the nine Gilliam numbers the pianoman and able associates Ernie Tollar (saxes), Kevin Turcotte (trumpet), Duncan Hopkins (bass) and Ben Riley (drums) generate, there's plenty of punch and sophisticated deliberation. "Rattle My Cage" and "Headlong" are highlights.

"Spirit Matter" - Where to Buy It

"Spirit Matter" can be purchased at Sams Record Store, Yonge and Dundas, Toronto, or ordered online by credit card, phone or mail for worldwide delivery at: Indiepool.
and Festival Distribution.
Just click on the links, order the CD and enjoy!
If you have any questions about this music , please contact me directly at:

"Spirit Matter" - Top of the Charts (May, 2001)

"Spirit Matter" - top of the CIUT WEEKLY MUSIC JAZZ CHART!
As submitted weekly to;
CMJ, New York City
CHART Magazine, Toronto
Over 650 Labels, Musicians and Listeners Worldwide

CIUT Radio Toronto
89.5 FM 15,000 Watts
Star Choice Satellite CH852
Internet Broadcast at


 May 7, 2001

1 Bill Gilliam__Spirit Matter__Independent
2 Metalwood__The Recline__Verve
3 Mark Zubek__Horse With A Broken Leg__Fresh Sound
4 Glen Hall__The Roswell Incident__Leo
5 Oscar Peterson__Trio On The Town__Verve
6 Jazz Pharmacy__Amnesia__Sinistresound
7 Trigger__All These Things__Pogus
8 Domenic Duval__Asylem__Leo
9 Remi Bolduc__Renaissance__Effendi
10 Heillig Manoeuvre__Self Titled__Independent

Urban Undercurrents - CD & Concert Reviews

“Bill Gilliam has crafted a strong collection of songs and has an expressive way with funky pieces. He’s obviously comfortable with the other musicians and they respond with good work”
Richard B Kamins, Cadence magazine (Redwood, NY), CD review (Dec 2000)

"This Canadian attacks the piano with the power and rhythmic sensitivity of McCoy Tyner but uses the punch to create a style that leaps far beyond influences"
David McElfresh, Jazz Now, (March 2000) CD Review.

"Gilliam's music featured curious grooves, unusual contours, jolting time shifts and a frequent sense of intense four-way dialogue between performers seeking different paths to the same redemptive destination."
Geoff Chapman Review, Toronto Star, December 13, 1999

"a very hip collection of original compositions that are constantly engaging"
Joseph Sobara, Varsity (Spring 99) CD Review

"Gilliam bridges together contemporary classical composition technique with traditional jazz idioms with considerable amount of success ... the CD features rising trumpet sensation Lina Allemano who tears up the sound waves with passionate performances"
Maria Knight, The Strand (Sept 8th 1999) CD review

"Where have you been Bill Gilliam? ... a sophisticated mix of future jazz and new music that illustrates truly imaginative writing and execution", ...."to be noted by anyone keen on imagistic music that packs a punch".
Geoff Chapman, Toronto Star "Jazz Notes" (March 4th, 1999)

“subtle and tuneful playing that ventures into interesting musical terrain while never losing touch with the core melody of each number, very pleasing stuff”
Kerry Doole, “On The Beat” column in Tandem magazine (July 11th 1999), review of Bill Gilliam Ensemble June 24th 1999 performance at the Montreal Bistro in Toronto.

“bold melodies and rhythms  ..... featuring fluid improvisations by saxist Ernie Tollar”.
Dominique Denis, Toronto French newspaper L’Express (June 22nd, 1999) CD review.

"with Gilliam's attack strategy to the music form he should gain a solid foothold in the jazz market".
Walter Grealis, RPM magazine (March 8th, 1999)

"I enjoyed it (the CD launch event) a lot. Your music has something that Jarrett's and Brubeck's has that a lot of jazz groups' don't. For lack of a better term, I'll call it "spirit". The CD is a keeper (and a bargain at the price)."
Jazz Fan (Spring 1999)

 “one of the finest performances to ever take place in the (AGO) Walker Court”.
Jim Shedden, the musical director of the “All That’s Jazz” concert series at the Art Gallery of Ontario, review of the Bill Gilliam Ensemble recital (April 1st 1998)

Urban Undercurrents - CD Description

The style of the original compositions on this CD combines elements of instrumental modern jazz, such as angular melodies over modal harmonies and driving bass lines, with some influences of new music. This gives the performers rich musical textures to use as a springboard for improvisation within the song forms or over hypnotic grooves. My goal is to invite the listener to explore a fresh and unpredictable landscape of music that is intensely melodic, harmonically rich, rhythmically exciting and performed with passion.

Urban Undercurrents - Audio samples

Alecia  Alecia (MP3 2:00 mins)
Paradiso Perdido  Paradiso Perdido (MP3 2:00 mins)

"Urban Undercurrents" - Where to buy it

"Urban Undercurrents" can be ordered online by credit card, phone or mail for worldwide delivery at: Indiepool

It can also be ordered in the US through: NorthCountry Distributors

The CD is also available at the these retail stores in the Toronto area (as of May 2001).
Chapters Bookstore Richmond & John St, Toronto
Happy House 589 Markham St, Toronto, 
Tel (416) 588 0002 
Edwards Record World 2359 Yonge St / Eglington, Toronto 
(416) 489-1144

If you cannot find the CD, please email me at 
or call (416) 532-2157

“Urban Undercurrents”  (1998) - a CD album of original Bill Gillam jazz compositions featuring Ernie Tollar on sax, Dave Young on bass, Howard Gaul on drums, and Bill Gilliam on piano. Produced by Ron Allen and funded by FACTOR.
“Cyclic Dancing” (1990) - a cassette album of electronic music was produced with assistance by the Canada Council and distributed by the Canadian Music Centre (CMC) in Toronto.

Concert Music

Bill Gilliam Solos & Duets (March 22, 2003)
A concert of new music compositions by Bill Gilliam at the Music Gallery in Toronto

Send Between (Sample keyboard solo, 2001)
A composition of samples I created from bass flute sounds played by Diane Aitken. In this piece I imagined some fragments of prehistoric music being discovered mixed in with modern airwaves and deciphered as a message whose meaning is familiar but never understood.

Energeia (Piano & Marimba, 1996)
This piece was originally written for two marimbas. The title is from the Greek meaning internal or inherent power, qualities our earth has in abundance.

Residues (Flute & Tape, 2002*)
This piece describes a landscape of fragments slowly falling and disintegrating into essential elements that reform and regenerate.

Aspire To? (Piano solo, 2002*)
After I finished this three-movement piece, I imagined it as a loose chronology of different styles of music in the twentieth century. Part I reflects the idea of lyricism from the beginning of the period. Part II has echoes of Eastern European classical music from between the world wars. Part III combines short motifs, repetitive patterns and neurotic shifts in mood often found in music in the last fifty years.

Pleiades (Sample keyboard solo, 1999)
A composition using sample sounds of piano and other percussion instruments inspired by a cluster of stars named after the seven daughters of Atlas. The ancients used these stars as an eye test for their warriors. If they could see 6 to 8 stars, they had good eyesight.

Ulysses on the Love Canal (Sample keyboard solo, 1999)
A little known sequel to the Greek hero’s mythic voyage where he runs afoul at Love Canal, Niagara Falls, NY, which became famous in 1977 as the site of a toxic dump environmental disaster.

Entre Les Guerres (Flute & Percussion, 2003*)
Any respite between conflicts is fragile and worth savouring. My parent’s generation told me some of their most pasionate moments were snatched between bomb raids in London. This duet starts with long solo statements by each each instrument, which get successively shorter to the point where they join in syncopated rhythms to a forceful conclusion.

* Premiere performance
***all compositions by Bill Gilliam


Bill Gillam + Friends (April 1998)
An evening of original New Music / Jazz compositions as part of the Victoria’s music festival at the Music Gallery in Toronto. The program included the following compositions by Bill Gilliam.
Ebb & Flow (1997) sax, piano, percussion
Energeia (1998) marimba duet
Home (1998) sax, piano, marimba, percussion
The River Styx (1996) flute, synth, MIDI percussion, percussion
Cataluyna.MP3 (5meg) (1998) sax, piano, marimba


Burning Ambitions (1994)
An evening  of original New Music compositions performed at the Music Gallery in Toronto, included the following compositions:

Burning Ambitions (1994)
A piece for solo violin, percussion and tape. The title expresses both our personal desires to bring our dreams to fruition, contrasted with the realities of destroying our cultures to obtain our goals. (15.00 mins)

No Zone Flying (1994)
A duet for cello and piano. This piece is a reaction to the realization that after a nation has decided to wage a civil war, the flight of imagination is brought to a brutal halt. (15:00 mins)

Piano Variations (1993)
A theme and variations for solo piano that expresses my interest in atonal harmony with jazz rhythms and melodic lines. (8.00 mins)

Les Célébrations D'Été (1993)
A piece for 2 pianos and string quartet to celebrate the summer equinox. The idea of the sound of two pianos and a string quartet created an image of a shimmering summer evening. (8:00 mins)

Zed[4] (1989)
A quartet for bass clarinet, cello, percussion and sampler. This piece was originally written for ARRAY MUSIC and was performed as part of their "electric" concerts. "Zed" is an array of four characters accumulating to a point of unison in a hurry. (5.00 mins)


Flight out of Time (1988)
A piece for guitar synthesizer, sampler and tape, written in collaboration with Toronto composer John Free , performed at the Music Gallery in Toronto (featured on Cyclic Dancing) (13:00 mins)


Confessions of St Augustine (1984)
A score for narrator and four part choir in the renaissance style, which was written for "Lamentations" a film by Bruce Elder. (14:00 mins)

Bill is from London, England and moved to Toronto after completing his studies at Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1981.  Since moving to Canada he has studied classical composition and written scores for contemporary music ensembles, film, dance and theatre including collaborations with film makers Bruce Elder, Bruce McDonald and choreographers Philip Drube, Maxine Heppner and arie-Josée Chartier.  In 1988 he received a grant from the Ontario Arts Council to participate in the Inter Arts program at the Banff Centre of Fine Arts to develop a multi-media work using interactive music technology.  His compositions have been performed by ARRAY MUSIC and other Toronto new music performers such as pianists Eve Egoyan and John Farah, violinist Adele Armin, flautist Ken Hall and percussionists Richard Sacks, Mark Duggan, Bill Brennan and Graham Hargrove. In 1990 he received a grant from the Canada Council to produce a solo cassette album 'Cyclic Dancing" of electronic music.  In 1998 he
received funding from the Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent on Records (FACTOR) to produce a contemporary jazz CD "Urban Undercurrents" which was released in March 1999 at the Montreal Bistro jazz club in Toronto.  In 2000 he was awarded an Ontario Arts Council grant to record his second contemporary jazz CD "Spirit Matter".  Using palettes of hand crafted sample sounds and keyboards, Bill has improvised with performance artists such as clarinettists Lori Freedman, Ronda Rindone, sound poet Penn Kemp, actor Anne Anglin, percussionist Richard Sacks and performed solo at the 2001 Ought One Music Festival in Montpelier, Vermont. Bill performed with his jazz ensemble at the 2003 Distillery Jazz Festival and with "Soundspoke" in the 2004 Distillery Jazz Festival spoken word series.  Recently he is composing new music for an upcoming concert at the Music Gallery in October 2005 and performing improvised music with various artists at venues in Ontario.

Geoff Chapman Review of Bill Gilliam Ensemble gig at the Pilot Tavern, Dec 11th, 1999 in Toronto Star, December 13, 1999

         Gilliam band takes Pilot crowd on winding trip

                  By Geoff Chapman
                  Toronto Star Jazz Critic

                  Pianist Bill Gilliam may have earned his spurs creating music for
                  movies, dance and theatre, but, remember, he emerged from
                  Boston's prestigious Berklee College with a degree in jazz
                  composition as well as film scoring.

                  It's the different strokes of his jazz compositions as well as their
                  execution that makes him worth seeking out: he does not
                  plough a straight musical furrow.

                  The quartet he brought to The Pilot Saturday reflected the
                  unusual ideas he brings to the art form, with Ernie Tollar,
                  veteran of the genre's internecine wars, on soprano sax;
                  excellent mainstream bassist Duncan Hopkins; and Ben Riley
                  (son of monster organist Doug), an excitingly responsive
                  presence on drums.

                  It takes confidence to face the grizzled Pilot jazz inquisitors with
                  a program consisting entirely of your own material - much to be
                  found on his debut indie CD release Urban Undercurrents - and
                  there were also new tunes.

                  Gilliam's music featured curious grooves, unusual contours,
                  jolting time shifts and a frequent sense of intense four-way
                  dialogue between performers seeking different paths to the
                  same redemptive destination.

                  Thus, piano, sax and bass would ease into looping lines
                  speedily picked up by colleagues to take elsewhere, with
                  persistent unscripted commentary from the chattering Riley

                  All this makes for fascinating listening, Tollar's long, smooth
                  snaky sax lines over a walking beat and then polyrhythmic
                  pulse on ``The Impasse,'' typical answers to the leader's
                  challenging, knotty themes as Gilliam kept the band balanced
                  on an unpredictable edge, particularly with his dark-toned,
                  threatening comping.

                  The yearning ``Nina's Love'' was just one creation that climaxed
                  in ensemble excitement after florid, emotional work from Gilliam,
                  with players taking turns to peer ``outside'' before returning to
                  the broiling group stew and often with pairs of them trolling to
                  different pulses than their comrades.

                  Exploratory expeditions continued through three sets, Tollar
                  switching to alto to cruise mournfully over skittering beat on
                  ``The Richness Of Living,'' where Riley's hip accents stood out.

                  There were more measured structures, like the bluesy tribute to
                  Charles Mingus, but even here as on ``Pleasure'' Gilliam's elastic
                  ideas of focus and flow dominate, with particularly ecstatic
                  dialogues between piano and sax.

                  Time was also found to experiment with funk and dirge, which
                  showed group versatility and desire for earthy experimentation,
                  while fragmented material kept bursting into animated
                  interaction. Clearly a band to watch.


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