“Spontaneity is key; to take a familiar song, improvise a fresh groove and adapt it, moment-by-moment, to the energy of a particular audience, with particular musicians, on a particular night—that is bliss.”


Jake Smolowe is a Bay Area pianist, composer, music educator, arranger and film scorer, currently based in San Francisco. He specializes in jazz improvisation but his work explores many genres, including funk, rock, blues, latin, folk, gospel, classical, electronic and experimental music.


Jake fell in love with jazz at a young age while attending the Stanford Jazz Workshop, and graduated from Stanford University in 2006 with a B.A. in Music with Honors in Composition. After graduating he moved a few miles north to join the vibrant San Francisco jazz community, and has been making music in the City ever since.


Jake has toured throughout the U.S. and Canada with several bands, including rock/Americana band Sioux City Kid, soul/R&B band Quinn Deveaux and the Blue Beat Revue, and internationally renowned blues harpist and vocalist John Németh. He appeared as a contributing artist on Németh’s 2010 release, “Name The Day,” playing organ on gospel-tinged ballad “Why Not Me.” In 2020, Jake appeared on Bay Area saxophonist Jeff Derby’s debut original jazz album, “Finding Balance” (released April 2020), performing on 8 of 10 tracks.

Jake has released numerous solo tracks and EPs, including “Long Form Live I” (July 2020), a continuous, 29-minute fully-improvised solo jazz performance, and “Christmas Solo: Informal, Improvised,” a solo piano collection of four reimagined Christmas classics. He also performs solo jazz piano concerts of his own work via YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.


Jake values music education, and has been teaching private piano lessons throughout the Bay Area since 2005. His lessons focus on jazz and other popular styles, technique, fundamentals, theory and harmony, and composition. Recently, he began teaching piano tutorials online via YouTube and Patreon.

Jake is also involved in the greater Bay Area music education community, including the Stanford Jazz Workshop and other organizations. He currently works as a piano coach with SJW through their Giant Steps Big Band program (2015-2017). Additionally, he has assisted SJW director Jim Nadel with his Stanford Continuing Studies jazz listening class since 2003.


Jake is a versatile composer and arranger. He has scored music for documentaries, animated short films and webcomics, and has also written for big band, small jazz ensembles and solo piano. He composes and arranges for his own bands, his YouTube and Patreon videos, and by commission.


(partial list, no particular order)

  • Brad Mehldau
  • Geoffrey Keezer
  • Art Blakey
  • Chopin
  • Robert Glasper
  • Bill Evans
  • Herbie Hancock
  • J.S. Bach
  • The Bad Plus
  • Terence Blanchard
  • Jacob Collier
  • Maria Schneider
  • Peter Apfelbaum
  • Arvo Pärt
  • Michael Brecker
  • Joshua Redman
  • McCoy Tyner
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