Michael Malis (b. 1988) is a pianist and composer based in Detroit, MI. In July of 2015, he self-released his debut album as a leader, “Lifted from the No of All Nothing”, featuring all original music by Malis. The Detroit Free Press called it “an uncommonly mature and distinctive debut… The music is loose and spontaneous, alert to dynamics and textural variety while balancing formal detail and discipline with freedom.” It was described by Hot House Jazz Guide (NYC) as “cover[ing] a broad range of free expression. [Malis] bridges the gap between original composed, complex material and the spontaneity of improvisation.” His trio has toured in the United States and Canada in support of the album.
In December of 2015, Malis’ collaboration with drummer/sound artist Matthew Daher, Daher-Malis Duo, released “Secret of Begin” on cassette tape. The tape marked the debut release of Tool and Die records, an experimental tape label based in Detroit. Earlier in the year, Malis performed on the debut recording of rising star tenor saxophonist Marcus Elliot, “Where the City Meets the Sky”, which was released to critical acclaim. Elliot’s quartet, featuring Malis, has maintained a four year weekly residency at Detroit’ premiere jazz club, Cliff Bell’s.
As a pianist, he has shared the stage with a diverse array of musicians, including notables such as Marcus Belgrave, Tyshawn Sorey, Jaribu Shahid, Ken Filiano, Andrew Bishop, Dennis Coffey, and Marion Hayden. He has performed at the Kennedy Center, the Detroit Jazz Festival, The Stone (NYC), and the Detroit Institute of Arts, among other venues. As a leader, he has maintained a touring schedule with his trio, playing in New York, Toronto, Montreal, Chicago, Baltimore, Cleveland, and across the Midwest and East Coast.
Malis has also worked in interdisciplinary settings; in September of 2015, he collaborated with visual artist Costa Kazaleh Sirdenis and the aforementioned Matthew Daher to create an evening-length performance piece, “Warped and Wept”, which explores the intersection of masculinity and crying through text, music, sound, video, and live performance. The piece was developed at the Carr Center through their Artist Hub Residency, and premiered at the Carr Center in October 2015. Since then, the trio has performed the piece in Toronto and Montréal, and has plans to remount the piece in the coming months.
As a composer, he was awarded “Best Musical Score” in the 2011 Lightworks Film Festival for his score to the short film “Slash/Fiction.” He has continued to write music for film since then, scoring a total of three short films and one full length feature film. He began writing music for theater in 2012, writing the musical score for “The Mute Quire”, a play by the Fratellanza Theater Company, which premiered at the New Theater Project in Ypsilanti, MI, in June of 2012 to critical acclaim. “The Mute Quire” was subsequently remounted in Galway, Ireland in 2014 at the Galway Fringe Festival. His second collaboration with Fratellanza, “String Up the Moon,” premiered in Detroit to critical acclaim in September of 2013.
He started playing the piano at age five, and started writing music shortly thereafter. In high school, he began his studies in earnest with Detroit jazz piano legend Bess Bonnier. After high school, he attended the University of Michigan, where he studied with the eminent jazz pianist Geri Allen. He is currently a Master’s student at Wayne State University, studying composition.