Brian Priestley

Brian Priestley
Background information
Birth name Brian Priestley
Born (1940-07-10) 10 July 1940
Origin Manchester, England
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Pianist, musical arranger
Instruments piano
Associated acts National Youth Jazz Orchestra

Brian Priestley (born 10 July 1940[1]) is an English jazz writer, pianist and arranger.


Priestley began studying music at the age of eight. In the 1960s he gained a degree in modern languages from Leeds University, while playing in student bands. In the mid-1960s he began contributing to the jazz press and was responsible for entries in Jazz on Record: A Critical Guide to the First Fifty Years, 1917–67 (1968), edited by Albert McCarthy.

In 1969 Priestley moved to London and began playing piano with bands led by Tony Faulkner and Alan Cohen. Priestley helped transcribe Duke Ellington's Black, Brown and Beige and Creole Rhapsody for Cohen, and formed his own Special Septet featuring Digby Fairweather and Don Rendell. His compositions include Blooz For Dook (published in his 1986 book Jazz Piano 4), The Whole Thing (recorded by the National Youth Jazz Orchestra in 1997) and Jamming With Jools (a 1998 examination piece for the Associated Board of Royal Schools of Music, based on a live broadcast with Jools Holland).

He is also known for broadcasting work on the BBC as well as London Jazz FM, and his weekly series for BBC Radio London influenced the renewed interest in jazz in the 1980s. Priestley taught jazz piano at Goldsmiths College from 1977 until 1993, and has taught jazz history for various other universities and conservatoires over the years. Priestley has also written biographies of Charles Mingus, John Coltrane and Charlie Parker, as well as the book Jazz on Record: A History. He co-authored The Rough Guide to Jazz, as well as contributing to several other reference books, and has compiled and/or annotated more than a hundred reissue compilations.

Since 2006 Priestley has lived in Tralee, Ireland, where he continues playing the piano and presents a show on Radio Kerry.




  1. Many sources list Priestley's year of birth as 1946, but this is inaccurate. See Priestley's entry in The Rough Guide to Jazz and this interview on his revised Charlie Parker study.
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