Michael O’Neill, a mainstay on the San Francisco Bay Area jazz scene, began studying clarinet at age 10. One of his first influences was his neighbor, the great jazz and studio drummer John Guerin who helped Michael with his first jazz band in Junior High School. Growing up in San Diego, he also participated in school bands and orchestras. After a stint in the Air Force Band, he entered college as a biology major with a music minor, studying composition, arranging and jazz performance, all while playing jazz clubs in the evenings..
After receiving his bachelor's degree, O'Neill began a career in biology and soon went on to graduate school to pursue a Ph.D. in Insect Physiology at Texas A&M University. But music remained a powerful draw, and when he wasn't studying, he was playing gigs around town. After two years of graduate school, he finally decided to pursue his real passion and dedicate himself full-time to music. He moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and began studying with the great Joe Henderson while playing in dance and salsa bands as well as jazz gigs in local clubs.
It didn’t take long for O’Neill to make a name for himself. He signed on to several steady, high-profile gigs including a 13 year engagement at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay, a 7 year stint at Cetrella on the coast, and a 6 year steady gig at the Sofitel on the San Francisco peninsula. He has played and/or recorded with Idris Muhammad, Joe Locke, Geoffrey Keezer, Michael Wolff, Rodney Jones, Kenny Washington, Jackie Ryan, Tony Lindsay, Akira Tana, Michael Bluestein, Nicolas Bearde, Smith Dobson, and many others. He performs frequently at Yoshi’s and all the major venues in the Bay Area.
O’Neill has been composing for many years. In the mid 1980s, he started writing music for corporate and industrial films, which led to a very successful career scoring music for documentaries and television. This experience exposed O'Neill to new musical concepts across genres that broadened his musical vocabulary. The demands of composing for institutions like National Geographic and the Discovery Channel led O’Neill to study and digest a wide variety of folk and ethnic music as well as the works of the great symphonic masters. During this time, O’Neill developed the discipline to write music every day, even if he wasn’t working on a commercial project
Michael now leads several jazz groups in the Bay Area. He has always enjoyed working with great vocalists. His previous album, Pacific Standard Time, featured singer Tony Lindsay, who gained fame working with Santana from 1995 to 2015. O’Neill’s first three albums featured the world-renowned Bay Area vocalist Kenny Washington. Their partnership spans over 20 years, and the two have performed together in many notable venues including headlining the San Jose, Mid- Atlantic and Monterey Jazz Festivals.
And Then It Rained (Jazzmo Records), Michael's fifth and newest release, is a departure from his previous CDs. The Long and Short of It (2004), Still Dancin’ (2007), New Beginnings (2014), and Pacific Standard Time (2019) all featured vocalists, Kenny Washington and Tony Lindsay, performing well- known jazz standards. And Then it Rained is an instrumental portfolio of original compositions all penned by O’Neill. .