It’s a soulful, gospel sound tempered with a southern rock growl polished with a hot Chicago brass section and sweet vocal harmony. Norman’s voice reflects The Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson, and his honest, rock and soul music compliments his blue collar roots and disarming sense of humor. His band is a hand-picked all-star group of some of the finest players from the best groups in Chicago and around the country. His latest albums “Take it in Stride” and “Traveling Light” were among the top albums in Chicagoland (Tom Lounges, The Times).
S. Joel Norman began playing music at age four at the piano. “Mom probably got sick of me pounding on her antique piano as a toddler, so she put me in lessons,” he says. Hailing from the south suburbs of Chicago, Norman got his musical start playing and composing gospel music in the church. “Some of the guys who played there were also working musicians, and after playing a couple Sunday mornings with them they asked me to come play on Saturday nights with them. I was in junior high.”
He went on to study at Wheaton Conservatory of Music, where he began composing and arranging pieces for orchestra, chorus, and jazz ensemble. He was also commissioned by Arena Theater, Northern Illinois University, and Workout Theater for scores to their theatrical productions including “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “The Madwoman of Chaillot.” He also has won multiple awards at the Elmhurst Jazz Festival, was a tenor in the Northwest Indiana Symphony, played Chicago’s largest independent music festival at the late Congress Theater, directed music at the largest RCA church in the world, and holds the all-time Wheaton College high score in the original Nintendo game Duck Hunt.
S. Joel Norman has also played alongside jazz greats Ira Sullivan and Marquis Hill, as well as rock and roll heroes Billy Ozzello (Survivor) and Chip Znuff (Enuff Znuff), and went on the road playing keyboards with Eddie Money.
He also enjoys cooking, learning how to speak pointless languages, and accepting any challengers in NES Tetris.