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If you’ve listened to a widely acclaimed album in the last few years, chances are you’ve heard John Carroll Kirby’s work. The pianist, producer and composer has collaborated with artists including Solange, Frank Ocean, Bat for Lashes, Connan Mockasin, Sébastien Tellier, Harry Styles, and many more. Growing up in California, Kirby didn’t have an especially musical background. Encouraged by his mom to take piano lessons, which led to a lengthy immersion in jazz, he went on to study at USC with a focus on big band composing. Soon, he began touring with other artists and making a name for himself as a collaborator. With several high-profile collaborations to his name, Kirby began releasing his own music:
Travel (2017), which he wrote and recorded in rural Belize, and the ambient Meditations in Music, released on Stones Throw’s sister label Leaving Records in 2018. Since 2020 Kirby has released 4 albums on Stone's Throw. 2020 saw the release of 'My Garden': nine richly detailed instrumentals inspired by Kirby’s hometown of Los Angeles. Economical yet emotional, with Kirby’s personality shining throughout, My Garden rewards deep listening with subtle details and sensual complexity.
The album won fans in Pitchfork, The Fader, LA Times, Q and Mojo, and was nominated for an A2IM Libera Award for Best Jazz Album. This was followed by the calming piano album Conflict' in response to the year’s chaos as well as collaborating on Eddie Chacon’s comeback album Pleasure, Joy and Happiness. Then in 2021 he released 'Septet' which was inspired by a bringing together of a septet to perform at LA’s famed jazz venue The Blue Whale and arrived when the Los Angeles jazz scene is thriving. It’s also a record inspired by the city’s nature and Kirby’s interest in animism, and how these intersect with the modern urban environment. Finally in 2021 he released his first film score for Cryptozoo, an animated feature-film drama, written and directed by Dash Shaw, featuring the voices of Lake Bell, Zoe Kazan, Michael Cera and Louisa Krause. The film won the NEXT Innovator Award at Sundance and premiered internationally at the 2021 Berlinale.