Ilja De Neve started learning classical piano at the age of 5, but by the age of 9 became interested in boogie-woogie piano, especially Jerry Lee Lewis.

 

Encouraged by his uncle, Patrick Smet, he began to experiment with it, often surprising his piano teacher with spontaneous rock 'n' roll improvisations.  

 

At the age of 16, with his first band Milk, Cream & Alcohol, he started honing his singing skills, playing a lot of Chicago style blues with fellow musicians guitarist Bart De Mulder and drummer Eric Heirman.

At the age of 17, as the youngest musician ever to play at this major blues festival, he appeared with Dirty Dogs at the Peer Belgian Rhythm & Bluesfest (2001). 

 

Over the years, he gained a lot of experience participating in  jam sessions,  developing an interest in the many forms of modern and traditional jazz, swing, funk and soul.

Some of these genres featured a distinctive ‘dirty’ Hammond sound which fascinated him, and which still features prominently in his playing today.

 

Ilja graduated as a music teacher and nowadays teaches high-school students. For ten years he worked at the Jazz Centrum Vlaanderen, promoting traditional jazz and blues and holding educational workshops, eventually becoming custodian of their music archive. At present Ilja is a staff member of the jazz centre and an active member at the Honky Tonk Jazz Club in Dendermonde.

His band Scotch, No Soda! is currently one of the house bands at Honky Tonk, which famously has a 65-year international association with traditional jazz and blues.

Ilja is also active as a private piano teacher, and performs as a free-lance musician in several bands.

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