KJ Liss began playing piano at the age of seven, and has never looked back. As is the case with most young players, his instruction began with the study of classical piano and technique. At twelve, interested in exploring new sounds and styles, he received instruction from Chicago Blues legend Erwin Helfer. After two summers of lessons with Erwin, KJ’s ear was captured by the magic of jazz music. The in-the-moment creation was something that had always inspired him, so he began to study improvisation and jazz theory with Chicago’s Jason Patera. Now head of school of the Chicago Academy for the Arts, Jason inspired KJ to dig deep into his craft and improve his rhythmic conception, knowledge of harmony, and overall mastery of his instrument.
Soon after, at the age of 16, KJ established his first group, Lissin’. This jazz quartet featured many of his early original compositions, and was the perfect vehicle for him to begin to get live performance experience. As manager of the band, KJ sought gigs for the group in their hometown of Oak Park and across the city of Chicago. They played fundraisers, corporate events, restaurants, and anywhere else they could share their love of music. The group recorded 3 albums in its 2 year life before the members set off for University.
KJ attended the Chicago College of Performing Arts and received a BA in Jazz Studies. During this time he co-founded the band IndigoSun with his long time friend and drummer Steve Florian. This band was to be his main creative outlet for many years, serving as the vehicle through which he would study production, mixing, and sound design. From 2010 through 2015 the group toured extensively in the Midwest, also reaching Colorado, the Northeast, and Southeast. The band recorded several studio projects–including a still to be released album titled The Medicine–and has played some of the premier venues in Chicago.
Since taking a hiatus from touring in late 2015, KJ has continued to hone his skills through a variety of new endeavors. He recently relocated to the Denver area, and now holds the role of Collaborative Pianist at Frederick High School and Fort Lupton Middle School. He is also a private piano teacher throughout the Denver area. His immersion into the world of acoustic choir accompaniment helped spur his renewed exploration of solo piano. Having recorded Dreamscapes in December 2017, he has already begun work on a new album of piano compositions.