Born in San Francisco, California, Ortiz began his mastery of the trumpet at age 10. While in school he was first chair trumpet in the San Francisco All-City Band, and by his mid-teens he was playing at local dances and clubs with a number of R&B and jazz groups, giving him an early and varied start to his professional career. His horizons were broadened even further during his college years with his first exposure to electronic and Latin music.
Shortly after school, he joined the highly acclaimed OrchestraBatachanga, an afro-Cuban group under the direction of percussionist/musicologist JohnSantos. This led to important tenures with PeteEscovedo, John Santos' Machete Ensemble, and stints with other leading Latin bands in the Bay Area, including performances with Cuban bass innovator Israel "Cachao"Lopez.
It was during these formative years that Bill began to establish himself as a leading figure on the San Francisco scene, known for his creative solos and strong lead performances. This period included a stay with BabatundeLea and his Latin jazz band, as well as a brief stint with AirtoMoreira and FloraPurim that included performances at the Monterey and Concord Jazz Festivals. It was also around this time that Bill performed numerous times with TitoPuente on his west coast dates and on four recordings.
From here Ortiz began a long and artistically rewarding tenure with PeterApfelbaum and "The Hieroglyphics Ensemble" which included such members as Blue Note recording artist WillBernard, JaiUttal, and future Santana band mate trombonist JeffCressman. The band recorded 2 releases for Antilles/Polygram Records and won Downbeats Critics Poll Award for "Big Band Deserving Wider Recognition." In addition, the Hieroglyphics Ensemble backed up the legendary jazz trumpeter DonCherry, recording a CD with him on A&M as well as performing with him for five years in various festivals and club appearances.
Toward the end of his tenure with Afelbaum, Ortiz began working with R&B/Hip Hop group Tony Toni Tone as a touring band member and featured soloist. He performed on five releases from the multi-platinum selling group, as well as toured the US, Canada and Europe. He accompanied Tony Toni Tone when they joined Janet Jackson on her "Alive" tour and made numerous TV appearances with them. This exposure led Ortiz to recording with En Vogue, SoulsofMischief, SheilaE,TLC and Johnny"Guitar" Watson, among others.
Following his stay with Tony Toni Tone, Bill Ortiz toured and recorded with the legendary BozScaggs, and began a long and fruitful association with highly acclaimed jazz vocalist LavaySmith (with whom he still works), recording two CDs and touring the US and Europe yet again.
In 1999, Ortiz recorded on the Carlos Santana's smash single "Smooth", joining his touring band in 2000. His performances as band member and featured soloist have taken him around the world from Europe to Japan, China, South and Central America, Australia, and South East Asia. Some recent highlights with the Santana band include a tour with music giants Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, both joining on the "Emissaries of Peace" tour. In the last decade, Bill has performed with HancockandShorteras well as ChickCorea, JohnMcLaughlin, TajMahal, EagleEyeCherry, and AngeliqueKidjo at the Montreux Jazz Festival. The Santana Band has also made several television appearances with Anthony Hamilton, MichelleBranch, and many other artists.
While busy as a sideman, Ortiz has also worked as a bandleader, including being featured soloist at the North Beach Jazz Festival for the "75th Annual Tribute to Miles Davis." Along with Bill Ortiz, performers included former Miles sideman BennyMaupin and jazz vibist BobbyHutcherson. Bill also recently presented a "New Perspectives of The Music of James Brown" performance at The Jazz School in Berkeley, California.
In 2009, Bill Ortiz released his debut solo album "From Where I Stand," which charted on Billboard and garnered huge success among critics and fans alike in the USA and around the world. With his 2012 follow up, the "Winter in America" EP, Ortiz plans to spread his broad musical vision even further.
Bill spends a good amount of his time and energy getting involved in music education, both as a clinician and private instructor. He enjoys mentoring younger musicians and spreading the experiences and diversity of his musical background, which he tries to bring to all of his own playing and recordings.