The late jazz critic, Leonard Feather of the Los Angeles Times, said that, “Cleveland has an engaging eclectic in Habian, everything switches around from cut to cut: the size of the band, the genre of the music, the source of Habian’s inspiration”. That was twenty years ago, and since then, Cliff has remained true to those words.
He began piano lessons at the age of nine and was composing music just a few years later with both classical and jazz music being strong influences, he decided early on to integrate the two genres into his own unique style. A multifarious pianist, Cliff can play in virtually any style and performs comfortably in group settings as well as solo performances.
Eventually, after attending the Cleveland Institute of Music, as a composition major, he accepted a position as Director of American Music and Department Head of Keyboards Studies at the Cleveland Music School Settlement, where he taught for 13 years.
He has worked with such greats as Joe Lovano, Freddie Cole, Frank Morgan, Jane Ira Bloom and many others in addition to appearing on “Good Morning America”, and opened for such jazz legends as Mel Lewis and Dave Brubeck. He has performed for many celebrities ranging from Wilt Chamberlain to Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward to Dion and Freddy Cole.
His international reputation began with a recording debut for Milestone/Fantasy Records. Two landmark recordings were produced, consisting primarily of original compositions, “Tonal Paintings” and “Manhattan Bridge”. His concert appearances have been global, including Russia, Thailand, and Panama. In addition to appearing in jazz festivals and educational clinics in the United States. In the 90’s through the present Cliff released two albums on the Azica Record label (internationally) “Havana Sunset” and “Originals” which garnered critical acclaim. The reviews of Cliff’s recordings have come from Europe, Asia South America, India and many other parts of the world.
Locally, Cliff regularly has or is performing at Nordstrom in Beachwood, Nighttown In Cleveland Heights as well as The Cabin, Johnny’s on Fulton, Johnny’s Downtown and Taza in Cleveland. He also performs for retirement community Centers such as Wiggin’s Place, Menorah Park, Stone Gardens and Meyers Place in Beachwood.
Recently Cliff became a “piano coach to the starts” when he was asked to coach Child actress/star Yara Shahidi for an upcoming piano playing part in the new “I, Alex Cross” movie (due out in 2012).