With his lyrical, harmonically rich style and warm sense for group interplay, pianist Richie Beirach emerged in the 1970s as a highly respected jazz artist. Schooled in classical and jazz, Beirach spent several early years with Stan Getz before joining saxophonist David Liebman on albums like 1973's Lookout Farm and 1978's Omerta. From there, he also toured and recorded with such luminaries as Chet Baker, Lee Konitz, John Abercrombie, and others. He also issued his own highly regarded albums for ECM, including 1976's Eon and 1979's Elm. His ongoing creative partnership with Liebman also led to the formation of the forward-thinking Quest ensemble, as well as continued pairings on albums like 1991's Chant and 2016's Balladscapes.
Born Richard Alan Beirach on May 23, 1947 in Brooklyn, New York, Beirach became interested in music at a young age and first started taking piano lessons at age five. Studying classical music with noted pianist and composer James Palmieri, he developed a strong technique and ear for harmony. However, it wasn't until his teens that he discovered jazz after hearing Red Garland's version of "Billy Boy." By the early '60s, he was splitting his time between classical lessons with Palmieri, working as a longshoreman, and playing in jazz jam sessions alongside artists like Lee Konitz and Freddie Hubbard. Hoping to expand his jazz studies, he enrolled at Boston's Berklee College of Music, where he stayed for a year before transferring to the Manhattan School of Music to study composition with Ludmila Ulehla.
During the '80s, Beirach found himself continuing to balance his own work as a leader with further work alongside Baker, trumpeter John McNeil, and others. In 1981, he paid homage to one of his major influences with Elegy for Bill Evans, with bassist George Mraz and drummer Al Foster. He also formed the stylistically expansive post-bop outfit Quest with Liebman, bringing on board at various times drummers Foster and Billy Hart and bassists Mraz and Ron McClure. Together they issued a series of adventurous albums including 1986's Quest II, 1988's Natural Selection, and 1990's Of One Mind. Away from the band, Beirach devoted increasing time to his solo piano work, releasing 1985's ambitious Antarctica, 1987's Common Heart, and 1989's Some Other Time: A Tribute to Chet Baker.
He returned to more collaborative work in the '90s, including albums with saxophonist George Coleman, bassist McClure, and Liebman. In 1997, he delivered the trio album Trust with Holland and DeJohnette. Snow Leopard, also a trio date, followed a year later. There also were sessions with Conrad Herwig, Michel Graillier, Jamie Baum, Steve Davis, and more. He next issued the standards albums What Is This Thing Called Love? and Romantic Rhapsody in 2002 and 2003, followed by the 2003 classical-themed effort No Borders. Also around this time, Beirach relocated to Germany, where he accepted a position as professor of jazz piano at the University of Music and Theatre "Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy" Leipzig.