Pianist/composer Carmen Staaf is an active voice in the NYC and global music scenes. Her skills and approach have led her to perform in a wide range of settings, with some of the most influential and important musicians of our era. Currently, she is the pianist and Musical Director for NEA Jazz Master Dee Dee Bridgewater. Her past major performances have included the Playboy Jazz Festival in a two-piano setting with the legendary Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, and the Kennedy Center alongside Kenny Barron and Fred Hersch. She has been heard at the Village Vanguard, Blue Note, SFJazz and major jazz festivals around the world including the Montreal and North Sea Jazz Festivals, among many others.
Carmen graduated with a double degree from Tufts University (Anthropology) and the New England Conservatory (Jazz Performance), and immediately thereafter became one of the youngest faculty members ever hired by Berklee College of Music, joining their piano department in 2005. After spending some years touring and recording while based in New York (including winning the Mary Lou Williams Jazz Pianist competition), she was accepted to the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance, where she was mentored by the most important living jazz musicians.
Staaf co-leads the group Science Fair with drummer Allison Miller; the band's eponymous debut album features Ambrose Akinmusire, Dayna Stephens and Matt Penman. She also performs regularly with Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom, violinist Jenny Scheinman and Allison Miller’s Parlour Game (with Tony Scherr), drummer Jeff Williams, and vocalist/composer Thana Alexa, in addition to her musical direction for Dee Dee Bridgewater.
Carmen’s most recent album is “Science Fair” (Sunnyside), which was released in 2018 to wide critical and audience acclaim (NY Times “Best Jazz of 2018”, LA Times “Best of 2018”, 4.5 stars in DownBeat). She is a member of the Jeff Williams Trio alongside bassist Michael Formanek; the trio’s album “Bloom” (Whirlwind) is due out April 2019.
An active educator, Carmen has held faculty positions at Berklee, the New School, Stanford Jazz Institute, Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music (Chennai, India), Jacob’s Pillow, Litchfield Jazz Camp, and the New York Jazz Academy, and has led masterclasses around the globe. She was also tapped, with Herbie's approval, to provide transcriptions for Herbie Hancock's MasterClass performances and lessons.