The son and grandson of musicians, Bill Berry was born in Benton Harbor, Mich., on Sept. 14, 1930. His formative years were spent traveling with his parents, who were on the road with bands. He began piano lessons at the age of five in South Bend, Indiana, his parents' home base.
When he graduated from high school, Berry began a three-year stint with a traveling territory band that worked the midwest doing one-nighters. This provided a tough yet valuable training ground for him. After four years with the U.S. Air Force, Berry studied at the Cincinnattie College of Music, and then attended the Berklee School of Music in Boston, where he was assigned the jazz chair on Herb Pomeroy's Band.
In 1957 Berry left Berklee to join Woody Herman, and over the next several years worked with other legendary big bands, including Maynard Ferguson, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis, and Duke Ellington, whom he regards as the most profound musical influence on his life.
By 1960 Berry had married and moved to New York City, where he became one of the most active trumpet players in town, doing film, television, recordings and gaining a reputation as a jazz soloist and leader. He joined Merv Griffin's television show in 1965 and was featured on this nationally syndicated program for the next 15 years. Berry formed his own big band in 1970, and when Griffin moved his operation to Los Angeles later that year, the nucleus of Bill's New York band came with it. BILL BERRY AND THE L.A. BAND rapidly became one of the leading ensembles on the West Coast and is described as the definitive interpreters of Duke Ellington's Music.
Berry has performed at major jazz festivals around the world, and has toured internationally as leader of his own groups and as featured soloist with such artists as Benny Carter and Louis Bellson. He has also served as Musical director of the Monterey Jazz Festival for several years, and as director of the California High School All-Star Band, which tours Japan and performs at the Monterey Jazz Festival.
Berry is co-producer and Musical director of the highly acclaimed International Jazz Party held in Los Angeles and Monterey, Calif.