Jim McNeely

Jim McNeely has been chief conductor of the Frankfurt Radio Big Band since 2011. He became our Composer in Residence in 2022/23 and stayed an important part of the bands work for many projects. By 2024, the time has come to say goodbye, but Jim will remain our Conductor Laureate.

Jim McNeely was born on the 18th of May 1949 in Chicago/Illinois and is one of the best-known greats of the jazz scene in the USA as a pianist, arranger and composer. After studying at the University of Illinois he moved to New York in 1975, where he appeared on stage with Ted Curson and Chet Baker, before becoming a member of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra in 1978. He remained a part of that orchestra until 1984.

From 1981 till 1985 he worked with the Stan Getz Quartet as a composer and pianist. He was the pianist of the Phil Woods Quartet from 1990 till 1995. Parallel to this, he worked as a composer and arranger for the Danish Radio Jazz Orchestra, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, the Metropole Orchestra, the WDR Big Band Cologne and the Stockholm Jazz Orchestra among others, having received many Grammy nominations.

In 1996 he returned to composing and playing piano with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. He was the Chief Conductor of the Danish Radio Jazz Orchestra from 1998 till 2003. At the same time he also led many bands of his own and also released a number of his own albums. Since 1981 he has been an instructor at the jazz faculty of New York University and has been co-director of the B.M.I. Jazz Composer's Workshop since 1991. He has also held summer courses at the Stanford Jazz Workshop and at Jamey Aebersold's Summer Jazz Clinics.

In August 2008 Jim McNeely became the artist in residence of the Radio Frankfurt Big Band. In this function he conceived and conducted projects with his own compositions as well as projects with guest soloist like Dave Liebman, Richie Beirach, John Abercrombie, Dave Douglas, The Bad Plus, Oregon, Gary Burton or John Scofield. In August 2011 Jim McNeely was appointed chief conductor of the Radio Frankfurt Bigband. With the season 2022/23 his role changed again, but he stayed an important part of many projects of the Big Band as Composer in residence. Now, in 2024, we held our last concert together, but will stay in friendly contact with Jim as our Conductor Laureate.