Kirk Lightsey is a Michigan-born pianist of immense accomplishment and versatility who worked with scores of major Jazz stars. Lightsey had piano instruction from the age of five and studied piano and clarinet throughout his years in high school. In 1954 he was awarded a music scholarship to Wayne University to study the clarinet, then in 1960 he played clarinet for 2 years in the Fort Knox Army Band, and the bassoon for the Louisville Civic Orchestra.
When he was discharged from the army, he went back to Detroit with fellow Army Band member, Cecil McBee, where they formed a Jazz duo. Lightsey also played for Motown hit recording sessions, and made time to study with classical pianist Boris Maximovich. Lightsey’s main influences however, are piano masters Hank Jones and Tommy Flannagan.
To play alongside Kirk Lightsey for the evening is renowned Jazz saxophonist, Gaoyang Li. He was the first Chinese Jazz artiste to be featured in famous jazz media, ‘All About Jazz’. To date, he has toured with master musicians from the likes of David Liebman, Jerry Bergonzi, Tim Hagans, and Adam Nussbaum. His work involves his research and compositions of Chinese musical elements created with Chinese instruments with traditional jazz leading to an album release titled, “China Jazz”.
He is known for his hard bop, post bop, modern jazz and fusion, but fans of Li’s work often dub his style to be a great mix of ‘East meets West’. Being recognised for his talents across the globe has led him to be awarded an “Outstanding Chinese Instrumentalist” award by the Chinese Music Awards.