Brian O’Neill: percussionist, composer, pianist (NYC & Boston)

Biography: Brian O'Neill (multi-percussionist, composer, bandleader)

Phone: 347.482.1775
Email: brian@crashandboom.com

Short Bio:

Brian with tambourines. by Robin Holland Brian teaching percussion at a 4th grade class

Boston Phoenix logo
"…a percussion master and musical polymath…"

Brian O’Neill is a versatile percussionist, drummer, and composer based in Boston, MA. Dubbed a “percussion master and musical polymath” by the Boston Phoenix, Brian has performed with Arizona Opera Company, Flagstaff Symphony (principal percussionist), Kristin Chenoweth, Donna Summer, Peter Erskine, and as a soloist with the Sun City Symphony (AZ). Brian’s musical adventures have brought him to the Montreal Jazz Festival, the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, and prestigious venues in Hawaii, Mexico, Germany, and Japan. In addition to maintaining a diverse freelance career, Brian leads and composes for the unique dual ensemble Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica, a “marvelously flexible unit” (Boston Globe) comprised of a vibraphone quintet playing global jazz and exotic chamber music, and the world’s only space-age pop big band performing Brian’s transcriptions of the lost music of Juan Garcia Esquivel. Brian is a regular percussionist with Klezwoods, David Wax Museum, Jeni Jol, and the Why (Bert Seager’s chamber jazz group), as well as the pianist for the chamber-rock quartet Cordis. He also plays drums and percussion for musical theatre productions, most recently at the Boston Opera House with the national tour of Motown the Musical. Brian currently resides in Cambridge, MA. He speaks Spanish and Portuguese and enjoys traveling, cooking, and throwing BBQs centered around his Big Green Egg and craft cocktail tiki bar. Follow Brian on Twitter and Instagram (@orchestrotica) and through his mailing list at crashandboom.com.

Full Bio:

Brian O’Neill is a versatile percussionist, drummer, and composer based in Boston, MA. Dubbed a “percussion master and musical polymath” by the Boston Phoenix, Brian has performed with Arizona Opera Company, Flagstaff Symphony (principal percussionist), Kristin Chenoweth, Donna Summer, Peter Erskine, and as a soloist with the Sun City Symphony (AZ). Brian’s musical adventures have brought him to the Montreal Jazz Festival, the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, and prestigious venues in Hawaii, Mexico, Germany, and Japan. In addition to maintaining a diverse freelance career, Brian leads and composes for the unique dual ensemble Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica, a “marvelously flexible unit” (Boston Globe) comprised of a vibraphone quintet playing global jazz and exotic chamber music, and the world’s only space-age pop big band performing Brian’s transcriptions of the lost music of Juan Garcia Esquivel. Brian is a regular percussionist with Klezwoods, David Wax Museum, Jeni Jol, and the Why (Bert Seager’s chamber jazz group), as well as the pianist for the chamber-rock quartet Cordis. He also plays drums and percussion for musical theatre productions, most recently at the Boston Opera House with the national tour of Motown the Musical.

All About Jazz
“…If John Zorn is an exotica Picasso, O'Neill is his Georges—Braque counterpart in cubism's transposition to music…and may be…a stronger exoticist than Zorn.…” —Gordon Marshall, AllAboutJazz

Boston Globe
“…[The Orchestrotica is] a marvelously flexible unit…”—Jonathan Perry, The Boston Globe

Downbeat
“…incredible arrangements, musicianship and artistic direction…the only thing better than hearing the record would be seeing this group live.…”—Frank Alkyer, DOWNBEAT

In addition to several recordings as a sideman, Brian has produced and performed on three acclaimed albums with his dual ensemble, Mr. Ho's Orchestrotica (2012 Best World Music Act, Boston Phoenix Readers Poll). Their series of recordings, entitled Exotica for Modern Living, commenced with The Unforgettable Sounds of Esquivel (2010), which was lauded by London’s Sunday Times (“Four stars…exquisite attention to details.”) and features the group’s big-band formation. The CD was named a Top 10 CD for 2011 by the Huffington Post, along with the group’s sophomore release, Third River Rangoon (2011). That second album, along with 2013’s Where Here Meets There, features Brian’s compositions and arrangements (“a first-rate composer,” Huffington Post). The Orchestrotica’s music, which The Washington Post calls “anything but straightforward,” can be heard in Starbucks stores, on the radio internationally, and in the background of PRI and PBS films.

As an ethnic hand percussionist and drummer, Brian is known for bringing an orchestral sensibility and colorful palette to the music. His unique setups often combine the western drum set with cajons, frame drum, doumbek, exotic tambourines (especially detuned pandeiro, riq, and tammorra), and a variety of found sounds. Brian is fairly certain he was the first musician to perform a pandeiro solo to over 100,000 people at the Montreal Jazz Festival.

Born and raised in Phoenix, AZ, Brian’s career in music began at age five with extensive classical piano training and a three-year engagement with the renowned Phoenix Boys Choir. He graduated summa cum laude from Northern Arizona University with a Bachelor of Music degree in percussion performance. Brian currently resides in Cambridge, MA. He speaks Spanish and Portuguese and enjoys traveling, cooking, and throwing BBQs centered around his Big Green Egg and craft cocktail tiki bar. Follow Brian on Twitter and Instagram (@orchestrotica) and through his mailing list at crashandboom.com.