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Rising Artists: 'It's all jazz' for impressive Billings Senior pianist

Adam Bach
Posted at 2:33 PM, Oct 29, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-01 12:21:45-04

BILLINGS — How does an 18-year-old high school student come to be one of the best jazz pianists in Billings? It could be that he started in music classes before he could walk.

"I did MusikGarten," Adam Bach said, "so I was like six months old probably."

Or it could be the fact that he shares a last name with the father of classical music.

"It’s a little funny," Bach said with a chuckle. "I’m definitely not as good as Bach, but I could hope."

Adam Bach closeup
Adam Bach has been playing piano since he was five years old, but started concentrating on jazz music starting in the 6th grade.

The problem is Adam doesn’t really like classical music. No offense to Johann Sebastian, but Adam’s world changed in 6th grade when a new teacher opened his eyes.

"My teacher put me in a jazz combo group with high school students," Bach said. "He thought I was going into high school - there was a misunderstanding. I looked old for my age."

The rest is history. Now, compared to classical piano, jazz is downright futuristic, but most Gen Z’ers think it’s a dead art. Adam is here to convert them one chord progression at a time.

"I think jazz is the least-dead music genre," Bach argued. "Video game music is jazz. A lot of new pop songs - people will ask me, 'Oh, have you heard this great beat in this pop song?' That’s all jazz.”

"You’ve got me into a corner, now I don’t know what to say," Landon Gainan laughed when hearing Bach's categorization. "I would agree with you on that, but I'm trying to play devil's advocate!"

Landon Gainan
Landon Gainan is the drummer in Kickstand: The Tricycle Trio, a jazz group made up of three Billings Senior students.

Gainan never paid any attention to jazz. Now, he’s the drummer in a professional jazz trio, with Bach and bassist Keatin Hertz.

"I wasn’t a huge jazz guy. I wanted to start a rock band," Hertz admitted. "I love (jazz) now. I listen to it all the time now. My friends make fun of me for it, especially my girlfriend when I put it on in the car."

Kickstand: The Tricycle Trio - made up of the three Billings Senior students - has been gigging for nearly a year, after building rapport in Gainan’s house.

"I'm glad it seems that way, because we definitely put a lot of effort into it," Gainan said. "We've spent way too many hours in my basement, learning, practicing songs."

"We have little signals for each other," added Hertz. "Like if we pat our head, that means go to the top of the piece."

Keatin Hertz
Adam Bach plays piano while Keatin Hertz plays bass during a Kickstand: The Tricycle Trio rehearsal.

Bach will never forget the feeling after their first show.

"That was my first paycheck for working in music, and that was a big deal to me," he said. "You feel like you’re held to a bit of a higher standard than a band concert - don’t tell my band teacher that though."

Bach hopes the paychecks keep coming for a long time. He has his eyes set on a career in music tech during the day and playing clubs at night. One glance at his room and you wouldn’t bet against him.

"I don't own a real piano, which is really funny, but I have a keyboard wall," he said. "I have one on the bottom, a Nord above that, a synth coming down from the top and then I have an organ to the left of it. I saw a video a guy who said if you want to save space, just start hanging stuff on your wall.

"I thought, 'That's a great idea. Now I can start buying more stuff.'"

A jazz musician's dream.

Adam Bach room
Billings pianist Adam Bach doesn't have an actual piano in his room, but he has plenty of percussion options in an impressive DIY setup.