Bassist Christian Dillingham is equally at home in two musical worlds. His parents spun jazz records around the house, while his mother was an avid pianist who loved to play Chopin and Debussy. These childhood experiences left a deep impression and ended up as the foundational philosophy of his career in music. Dillingham is that rare musician who excels in an orchestral setting, yet has an intuitive feel for nuance and the improvisational skills necessary to play jazz.
A native of Brookfield, Ohio, Dillingham played in rock and jazz bands throughout high school. He became serious about music as a career while at Youngstown State University, studying under the instruction of Tony Leonardi. After graduating with a Bachelor’s of Music degree in Music Performance with an Emphasis on Jazz, Dillingham’s education continued at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, where he worked with Jeffrey Turner, principal bass of the Pittsburgh Symphony, and subsequently received a Master’s of Music degree in Music Performance. He also attended the National Repertory Orchestra Festival in Breckenridge, Colorado and the School for Improvisational Music in New York.
Upon graduation, Dillingham was invited to play in the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, and moved to the city to perform with them for the next two seasons. Since then, he has made frequent appearances in Chicago’s vibrant classical scene, playing with the Lyric Opera, the Grant Park Symphony, Fulcrum Point New Music Project and the Chicago Opera Theatre. Dillingham is also a member of the Chicago Sinfonietta and the Chicago Philharmonic. He appears on albums by the Chicago Sinfonietta and Camerata Chicago.
At the same time, he became a regular presence in Chicago’s rich jazz community, performing at Fred Anderson’s iconic Velvet Lounge, the Green Mill, the Jazz Showcase, Constellation Chicago, Andy’s Jazz Club, Elastic Arts and other Chicago venues as well as at the Chicago Jazz Festival. Dillingham has played and recorded with dozens of musicians, including Melvin Butler, Kevin Mahogany, the late piano master Willie Pickens, Dee Alexander, Victor Goines, Bobby Broom, Sean Jones, Jim Gailloreto, Nick Mazzarella, Greg Ward and Mike Reed. He is a collaborator with violinist James Sanders in the Dark Matter String Band.
He’s no stranger to country and bluegrass either, appearing on “Whiskey Halo” by singer Jodee Lewis, which won the Independent Music Award for Best Album: Country.
He currently performs with a number of diverse projects crossing genres from jazz, classical and roots to the avant-garde. He leads the Christian Dillingham Quintet, which draws from all of his experiences to explore Western classical music and American folk traditions in an improvised jazz context.