Kash Killion is a San Francisco based cellist, bassist, sarangist, vocalist, and composer, who began his professional music career at age ten. Kash is a visionary musician who stretches the boundaries of what one would expect from string instruments. He hears the cello as a bass, a violin, a guitar, a saxophone, and a piano, and he seeks to share that with his listeners. He strives to put the string instruments in unusual situations and play any style of music and make it sound authentic. His focus is to create something unique, and from that his music and CDs have wide appeal, as there is something for everyone to enjoy. Kash records and performs with various ethnic music ensembles and chamber orchestras ranging from the Sun Ra Arkestra to Cuban/Salsa bands such as Roberto Borrell y Orquesta La Moderna Tradición to classical music and Indian classical music, and has over a hundred recordings to his credit. He also performed as a singer on the movie The General’s Daughter and numerous other movie and commercial projects. Kash has played extensively with musical icons such as B.B. King, Cecil Taylor, John Zorn, Julius Hemphill, Reggie Workman, Sun Ra, Butch Morris, Paul Murphy, Glen Spearman, George Lewis, Alvin Baptiste, Chocolate Armenteros, Richard Egues, Larry Willis, Steve Berrios, and Francisco Aquabella.
Kash also has a deep interest in world music. He studied sarangi and cello with the great Indian musician, Ali Akbar Khan, and recorded with his orchestra. He has also studied sarangi with the great masters Sultan Khan and Rhamish Mishra. He has recorded Afro-Cuban music with several salsa groups. He composes and performs for both dance troupes and poets. Major poets he has accompanied including Amiri Baraka, Alice Walker, Quincy Troupe, Shirley Le Flore and Jessica Hagdorm.
Born in Alton, Illinois (Miles Davis’ home town), Kash was raised listening to jazz—his brother was a jazz trumpeter—in the very fertile music scene in and around East St. Louis. Drawn first to clarinet, then voice, flute, electric guitar and electric bass, Kash started performing at age ten.
Through high school he was working in doo-wop, funk, soul, rock and church groups. In college he studied classical contrabass, violin, and cello. He attended L.A. City College and holds a B.A. in Performance and Musical Composition from Antioch University. Piano giant Horace Tapscott became his mentor and Kash played bass in Tapscott’s Ark Orchestra; drummer Billy Higgins was part of that scene, too. This rekindled his interest in straightahead jazz. On the straightahead jazz front, Kash has played with great players like Donald Byrd, George Cables, Billy Higgins, Bobby Hutcherson, James Newton, and Billy Bang.
Kash’s interest in avant garde jazz was ignited by Sun Ra in 1978—and further heightened by meeting and playing with Pharoah Sanders. In L.A. Kash was playing bass as his primary instrument, but getting more and more interested in cello. When he moved to the Bay Area in 1984, he switched almost entirely to cello, mainly because it provided him with the freedom to play in a variety of groups because of the versatiltity of the instrument.
In addition to recordings and live performances Kash’s contribution to music extends to educating others. He has taught string instuments, music theory, and performance arts to students from ages three to adult. Teaching venues range from elementary schools to Rutgers University, North Carolina University, and Duke University. He teaches masters classes in cello and sarangi. He’s also an accomplished luthier and repairs all string instruments.
His passion for world music has kept him exploring different possibilities of combinations of the right vibrations.