2022 SHORT BIO
Joe Heinemann’s career has taken him from studying Classical piano since age 7 to playing bass at the school dance at 14, playing cocktail piano at 15, keyboards in many bands since age 17, and touring since 21 years of age.
He had a regular gig as a jazz pianist in Amsterdam in the 80’s, including touring Europe with Archie Shepp.
Joe garnered critical acclaim with his debut modern jazz trio record Straight Ahead. He recorded and performed with blues artists Charlie Musselwhite, Robben Ford, Curtis Salgado, and rock stars Steve Miller and Ronnie Montrose. He also made a genre-busting, emotionally charged record with Moroccan multi-instrumentalist Tarik Banzi called Free Fall.
Joe built a thriving business as a private piano instructor in the San Francisco Bay Area for over a decade before moving to the East Coast
While living in New York City he composed and performed contemporary piano and instrumental music. He travelled to Vermont to record Gratitude, a Will Ackerman production, which received critical acclaim and positioned Joe for solo concertizing. Three songs from Gratitude have been in rotation on Sirius XM’s Spa channel for five years.
Joe moved back to San Francisco in 2017. That same year, he released a solo piano CD called Discovery. Gratitude and Discovery represent a style Joe calls New Americana Piano. It’s very distinct in representing a distilled blend of his musical experiences, especially his developmental years as a professional performing and recording pianist and keyboardist in the Pacific Northwest.
Now in the last five years since, Joe has concentrated his focus on transcribing his own pieces and bringing forth some material in his archives while performing and composing have taken a real backseat. He now has close to twenty albums and collections of various settings. Go to Recordings to check it out. All Archives and Collections are free to listen to.
Some music career voyages start early, some start late, but each one shares a point where the commitment to working on one's craft becomes important. For pianist Joe Heinemann, that happened at the young age of 7, shortly after he began taking piano lessons. His mother was the only member of the household “really into music,” and was the guiding force in his early musical development and the emergence of his performing talent. “My mother pushed me when I was young, which was key, because I wasn’t aware of what I was developing completely. I wasn’t self-driven. There were many small steps to feeling good about becoming a really proficient player and side-man, and that made making music more valuable to me as I aged."
Joe Heinemann grew up in Portland, Oregon, and studied classical piano from the age of 7 until he turned 20 (including a brief stint at the Music Conservatory in San Francisco). His professional playing career began smack-dab in the middle of that spell, at a mere 13 years old. As a young teen in Portland, he found himself drawn to jazz by listening to albums at friends' houses. In his twenties, he heard a Keith Jarrett album and a light bulb went on over his head. “I was a strong solo pianist and always wanted to do that most. When George Winston appeared [on the scene] I thought it was great that he could do concert halls with a casual appearance. I wasn’t at a point in my life to follow a similar path to [Winston's], though.”
After his formal studies, Heinemann funneled his energy into jazz and dance music, as well as a great amount of freelancing (he would end up playing piano and keyboards with an assortment of bands until he turned 45). For two years in the mid '80s he lived in Amsterdam, playing local gigs and touring Europe, performing and recording, including dates with saxophonist Archie Shepp. These years represented his most intensely focused jazz-playing period.
Moving back to the States, he launched a career as a jazz and blues keyboardist in both Portland and San Francisco, most notably touring and recording with Charlie Musselwhite's Band. Between 1992 and 2001, Joe recorded and shared the stage with many well-known artists (e.g. Robert Cray, Steve Miller, Bonnie Raitt, and Albert Collins, to name just a few), developing a reputation as the consummate sideman. He also fronted his own group, releasing six recordings under his name. One of his earlier songs, "Straight Ahead," placed in the top ten in a Jazzizz magazine national keyboardist contest. As accomplished as he had become, something was missing. “I knew in 2001 I had to leave freelancing and playing in other people’s bands. I needed to take time to develop my music and discover my true voice. I knew it would be a long process and I had to make a living, so I built a private piano teaching business in the Bay Area and left performing for a living to teach while I wrote and developed my own piano repertoire. That lasted about 12 years.”
In 2012, he and his wife moved to New York City and Joe spent time “getting to know himself” as a different kind of piano player and composer. “I fully realized I wanted to (and needed to) find a way to be a solo pianist, perform for respectful audiences on nice pianos, express my original music in a relaxed and mature environment.” This process of discovery slowly took shape, culminating in the artist reaching out to noted producer Will Ackerman, founder of Windham Hill Records and currently part of one of the hottest producer/engineer tandems in music alongside Tom Eaton at Imaginary Road Studios in rural Vermont. It is here that Joe recorded the CD Gratitude. While subtle elements of jazz can be heard on the album, “…with this music I’m doing now, melody is primary. Will stresses this and I think it’s part of why his judgment is so valuable. I will probably revere melody more for the rest of my life because of Will’s influence.”
This is apparent in Joe’s latest solo piano recording Discovery. “I really made a commitment to keeping it simple and expressing melodic content.” As Joe Heinemann continues to evolve, this new direction his music is taking has crystallized. “Writing and performing this original solo piano music is all I really wanted since I was very young. Ultimately, I want to leave something meaningful behind after I’m gone too. The music I’m making now will allow for that.”