Christopher Simmons is a composer, keyboardist, pianist and percussionist. His late father James Herbert Simmons, performed piano throughout his entire life. At the age of 16, Herb wrote the school song for Kingston Collegiate and Vocational Institute (KCVI), founded in 1792, which was a secondary school in Kingston Ontario, Canada which was the oldest public secondary school in Ontario and the second oldest in Canada until it closed in 2020. Herb played semi-professionally starting in his teens and played with several jazz bands around southern Ontario and Florida until his passing at the age of 88. Christopher’s influence from his father was evident, in that at the age of 8 he received his first of many drum sets and started playing professionally at the age of 14 by frequently performing with his father’s trio and other jazz groups for several years.
After studying drums and percussion in high school, Christopher enrolled as a drummer, in the advanced applied music program at Mohawk College in Hamilton, ON. Over the course of his studies, he became the principal pianist of the Mohawk College Big Band. In his final year at Mohawk College, he was hired as an assistant piano instructor. After graduating; Christopher performed the Hamilton and Toronto circuit for several years as a sideman in several groups; including being keyboardist with local Hamilton sensation and JUNO Award winning blues singer Harrison Kennedy; as well as being the keyboardist with the Tait Fusion Big Band under the direction of the late arranger/composer/trumpet player, Rick Tait. Christopher was also active in workshops and piano sales at Remenyi Music, Toronto. He then went onto lead his own jazz fusion group which performed throughout Toronto. His acoustic quintet and electric fusion band was also headlined in his hometown at the very first Orillia Jazz Festival. In 1991, Christopher was awarded a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts, which enabled him to live and study privately in NYC with Jim McNeely, Richie Beirach and Lynne Arriale.
While in NYC, some of Christopher's performance highlights included; Musical Director/Pianist at the Centennial birthday tribute on April 29th, 1999, by paying homage to the late great pianist/composer/band leader Duke Ellington (1899-1974); at the Triad Theater. The sold out tribute featured NYC gospel/jazz vocalist Karl Dion Dixon, and several special guests including Duke’s only sibling; his younger sister, the late Ruth Ellington (1915-2004). Other performance venues Christopher performed at included; 55 Bar, Bradley's, Cameo's, CBGB's, Chicago Blues, Dan Lynch Blues Bar, Jazz Gallery, Knickerbocker Bar & Grill, Knitting Factory, Leisure Yacht Charters, Man Ray, National Arts Club, Nell's, New Music Café, Oak Room, Smalls, S T Bar, Sweet Basil, The Bottom Line, Visiones, Waldorf Astoria and Zinc Bar. He also performed with the Sunday Gospel house band at Ashford & Simpson’s Sugar Bar, and was grateful to have a solo piano house mainstay every Monday night for several years at the iconic Empire Diner. Several recording sessions also took place at studios such as; Acoustic Recording, Imagination Room, New Breed Records, Turkisher and Roberts Lane Studios. During his time in New York City, Christopher recorded 5 CD's as a leader.
Now living in Toronto, Christopher is devoted to music in several capacities. To date he has released seven CD’s as a leader. His most recent CD “Know The Now”, which is entirely acoustic; features Artie Roth on bass and Kevin Dempsey on drums. It was recorded at Noble Street Studios, and engineered by George Seara. The original compositions reveal several genres of music influenced by classical/gospel/jazz.
He has performed regularly at various Toronto venues such as; Home Smith Bar, Musideum, Gallery 345, The Pilot, Jazz Bistro, Array Music etc. On October 10th, 2017; the Centennial of pianist/composer Thelonious Monk's birth, his quartet performed a tribute by paying homage to Monk at the Jazz Bistro, Toronto.
As a strong proponent in the power of healing through music; Christopher served as a board member and was on the artist roster with Music Can Heal; a non-profit organization bringing uplifting, live music to those in need. He has also volunteered his time with the University Health Network (UHN) performing solo piano at Toronto General Hospital for 'Music for the Heart & Soul'; as well as at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre for 'Music in the Atrium'. Additionally, he has performed at the Dotsa Bitove Wellness Academy; which offers guests art-based programs, that include but not limited to, visual arts, dance, yoga theatre arts and music. Christopher has also assisted Soul Drums in team building circles, which inspires teamwork, through the power of collective synchronized drumming.
Christopher continues to volunteer his time, and is very honoured to be an adjudicator for MusiCounts, which is Canada's premier music education charity, affiliated with CARAS and the JUNO Awards. MusiCounts celebrates musical excellence and puts musical instruments into the hands of kids that need them the most, while striving to see that all children and youth across Canada have access to music education.
He also is the administrator for the group "Late Great Jazz Pianists" on Facebook; which is dedicated to pianists of the 20th century who are no longer with us. In recognition of their legacy, the group pays homage by posting articles, biographies, birthdates, interviews, memorials, obituaries, photos, recordings, reviews, transcriptions, and videos. The primary focus is in relation to pianists who contributed in improvisation as well as performance and/or composition.
In 2022 and beyond; I hope for a more compassionate and healthier planet for all that is living. May we always cherish music to a collective truth of universal understanding of healing, peace and joy. Rise in Love.