Jim Funnell

Category Names: 
Jazz Piano, Piano, Audition Prep from Berklee Alumni, Improvisation
Featured Teacher on Lessonface Since December 2016

Price per lesson

From: $35.00 / 30 Minutes
To: $90.00 / 90 Minutes

Book a Lesson with Jim Funnell



After earning a music diploma (DEM) in classical piano from the Conservatoire in Evry (France), Anglo-French pianist and composer Jim Funnell was awarded a full tuition scholarship from Berklee College of Music (Boston), where he went on to study performance and jazz composition, graduating summa cum laude in 2007. At Berklee, JoAnne Brackeen, Laszlo Gardony, Danilo Pérez, Alain Mallet, Mitch Haupers, David Fiuczynski, Greg Hopkins, Joe Lovano, Hal Crook, Dave Santoro, George Garzone (to name a few…) influenced him tremendously. As a student performer, it was an honour for him to share the stage with Russell Ferrante and Marcus Baylor from jazz fusion quartet the Yellowjackets, bassists Meshell Ndegeocello and Marcus Miller, and trumpeter/composer Dave Douglas. During his time in the United States, Jim also performed and recorded with Fiuczynski’s KiF (KiF Express, 2008) and played with a quartet lead by Japanese trumpeter and Berklee faculty member Tiger Okoshi.

Now based in New York, he leads his own jazz trio, Jim Funnell’s Word Out, with which he released two albums (Word Out in 2009 and Spirit of the Sn@il in 2015, the latter featuring French harpist Isabelle Olivier on a few tracks), won the composition prize at the “Trophées du Sunside” (Paris) in 2011, opened for Kurt Rosenwinkel and Eliane Elias at the Malta Jazz Festival (2009), and notably performed at Jazz en Touraine (France, 2011), Turbulences – jazz à Vanves (France, 2013), as well as numerous jazz clubs in Great Britain, France, Japan and New York City. The current lineup features bassists Mátyás Szandai (FR)/Takashi Sugawa (JP)/Tamir Shmerling (US) and drummers Jeff Boudreaux (FR)/Ryo Noritake (JP)/Dan Pugach (US).

Besides, he co-leads AfuriKo (West African inspired world jazz duo) with percussionist Akiko Horii. Together, they have toured France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan extensively (including performances at Kanazawa Jazz Street in 2013, 2014 and 2016) as well as Nepal (Kathmandu Jazz Festival in 2016) to promote their first two CDs, On the Far Side (2014) and Style (2016), both of which were selected to receive funding from the SACEM (“aide à l’autoproduction”). AfuriKo shot several videos at Latin Percussion founder Martin Cohen’s Congahead studio in 2015, and the duo is currently performing in New York City on a regular basis.

Finally, Jim is also active as an educator, instructing privately (jazz lessons since 2012), teaching small ensembles, and conducting workshops and master classes based on his own music (at the Euro Institute for Music and Arts in Hamrun, Malta (2009), Koyo Conservatory in Kobe, Japan (2009), in partnership with the associaton “Improphile” at the “Jazz de Mars” festival in Eure-et-Loire, France (2013) for example…)


- Funding from the SACEM (“aide à l’autoproduction”) for the album Style by AfuriKo (2016)

- Funding from the SACEM (“aide à l’autoproduction”) for the album On the Far Side by AfuriKo (2014)

- Composition prize at the “Trophées du Sunside” with Jim Funnell’s Word Out (Paris, 2011)

- Berklee College of Music Professional Writing Division Wayne Shorter Award (Boston, 2007)

- Berklee College of Music Professional Writing Division Arif Mardin Award (Boston, 2006)

- Berklee College of Music Piano Department Achievement Award (Boston, 2006)

- Berklee College of Music Piano Department Chair Award (Boston, 2005)

- Berklee College of Music Full Tuition Scholarship (American School of Modern Music, Boulogne-Billancourt, 2003)

These lessons are well suited for pianists of course, but also for all instrumentalists who wish to strengthen their fundamentals (in harmony, arranging, composition, improvisation…) as well as singers who wish to hone their piano accompaniment skills.


The goal is to bring out the student’s musicality within the realm of jazz aesthetics, through musical training based on thorough and attentive listening. The following practices will help us improve on this path:

- playing everything in all 12 keys;

- oral and written melodic/harmonic transcriptions; rendering of these transcriptions (with the voice or on the instrument);

- singing (themes, solos, guide tone lines, bass lines) along with recordings of the jazz masters and/or while playing a different part on the instrument;

- independence exercises (being able to hear and render several musical elements simultaneously) ;


Technical ability (instrumental as well as jazz technique) is thus not seen as an end, but merely as a tool, admittedly indispensable, used to serve each and everyone’s musicality. We will therefore also spend some time practicing the following:

- harmonic progressions (II-V-Is and others…) in all keys;

- “So What” and quartal voicings, upper structure triads, drop 2 block chords, …;

- study and use of the chords and modes that stem from major and minor harmonies, symmetrical scales (diminished, whole tone), pentatonic and hexatonic scales;

- practice of melodic motifs derived from various tetrachords and chord tones ;

- etc…

Finally, let’s always keep in sight the essence of jazz and its concrete application: the musician’s self-fulfillment within the jazz community (study of performance in various contexts: solo and ensemble playing, at jam sessions…). The student will thus develop the following skills:

- building a repertoire;

- interpreting and harmonizing a melody;

- accompanying a soloist;

- improvising.


The repertoire studied during the lessons can be as vast as jazz is diverse… Examples of material include:

- jazz standards (Great American Songbook), Brazilian & Latin jazz standards… Tunes composed by past and present jazz musicians;

- free improvisations;

- pieces from the AfuriKo and Word Out repertoires.

Books & Methods

- Jamey Aebersold, Charlie Parker Omnibook: for C instruments (treble clef) (Alfred Music Publishing)

- Mark Levine, The Jazz Piano Book (Sher Music Co.)

- Mark Levine, The Jazz Theory Book (Sher Music Co.)

- Mark Levine, How to Voice Standards at the Piano: the Menu (Sher Music Co.)

- Frank Mantooth, Voicings for Jazz Keyboard (Hal Leonard Corp.)

- Stephen Nachmanovitch, Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art (Tarcher/Penguin)

- Neil Olmstead, Solo Jazz Piano: The Linear Approach (Berklee Press)