Michael Abene

Michael Abene is a pianist, composer, arranger, educator & record producer. From 2004 to 2014, he was the Musical Director and Principal Composer/Arranger of the WDR Radio Big Band of Cologne, Germany, considered by many to be one of the finest big bands in Europe. From 2011 to 2018, Michael held the chair of Professor of Ensemble Conducting and Associate Professor of Composition at the KUG Jazz Institute in Graz, Austria. Michael also served as the Associate Music Director of the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop and was an Associate Professor of Jazz Composition at Manhattan School of Music.

Michael joined the Maynard Ferguson band as a teenager and wrote and arranged many charts for Maynard. He then went on to produce Grammy-winning projects such as “Digital Duke” featuring the Duke Ellington Orchestra and “The GRP All-Star Big Band-All Blues.” He also produced the Grammy nominated “The GRP All-Star Big Band” and “The GRP All-Star Big Band Live,” which received nominations in the arranging category for all three big band recordings. Michael was also nominated for his arrangement of “America” from “Dave Grusin Presents West Side Story.”

Michael has arranged, composed and/or produced for a wide array of people, such as: Take 6, Billy Cobham, Eddie Daniels, Bireli Lagrene, Chick Corea, Buddy Rich, Dick Oatts, Dizzy Gillespie, The Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, Dave Taylor, The Metropole Jazz Orchestra, The Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, New York Voices, Ronnie Cuber, UMO Jazz Orchestra (Helsinki), Jazz Big Band Graz and the BBC Big Band.

Two works of Michael’s were premiered during the summer of 2000. The first was a piece he arranged for the Metropole Jazz Orchestra for seven trombones in which each trombonist contributed an original and Michael composed opening and connecting sections allowing the piece to be played as a suite. This composition was performed at the International Trombone Festival in Utrecht, The Netherlands. The second composition was an original work commissioned by The Mancini Institute and written for bass trombonist Dave Taylor entitled “Heritage: New/Old and Then Some” and was performed by The Mancini Institute Big Band and orchestra. This work has also been performed by the Manhattan School of Music Jazz Orchestra and in 2004 by the Amsterdam Conservatory Orchestra and Big Band. Two new compositions by Michael performed in 2003 were “Odyssey for Brass,” commissioned and performed by the Metropole Jazz orchestra, and “Fragmentations,” which was performed by the Slovenian Symphony and Radio Big Band. Michael also composed a piece for the WDR Big Band to feature the clarinet artistry of Paquito D’Rivera entitled “PFP” (Piece for Paquito) which premiered at the 2006 IAJE Convention and has since been re-orchestrated to include symphony orchestra. He is currently preparing a number of composing commissions for both big band and orchestra.

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