Kirk Lightsey was born in Detroit, Michigan, and currently lives in Paris. His main influences are piano masters Hank Jones and Tommy Flannagan. He defines himself as Detroit pianist incorporating «a Bud Powell awareness, an Art Tatum styling, a bebop feeling, and a pianistic approach». The association with Dexter Gordon's group from 1979 to 1982 gave Lightsey's talent the exposure it deserved and he became known to a wider audience. In 1988 he was voted among the top pianists in the world by the «Downbeat International Critic's Poll». Currently he performs the major European festivals with his sextet The Leaders, he leads a quartet, and performs in duos, trios and as a soloist.