Born: May 30, 1978 Primary Instrument: Guitar
In 1999, on the last day of Randy Napoleon’s last class at the University of Michigan, the phone rang. Jeff Hamilton was on the other end, inviting the young guitarist to do a series of performances at the Hollywood Bowl with the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra (CHJ0).
Then that fall, just weeks after Napoleon moved to New York City, Benny Green asked him to join his trio. “Playing with Benny was a learning experience every day,” says Napoleon, who toured with the pianist nationally and internationally for a year. “We would practice one song for hours without stopping, just to internalize a tempo. He opened my ears to how much I didn’t know.”
Napoleon soon had a chance to put what he learned to good use��on a tour with CHJO. This was also a chance to learn from the major artists in the orchestra and the Who’s Who list of luminaries who joined them on occasion��George Benson, Michael Brecker, Frank Foster, Kenny Garrett, Shirley Horn, Al Jarreau, Diana Krall, Joe Lavano, Christian McBride, Lewis Nash, Nicholas Payton, John Pizzarelli, Dianne Reeves, Frank Wess, Nancy Wilson and others. During this tour, CHJO recorded Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra: Live at MCG Jazz.
Currently, Napoleon tours with the legendary singer/pianist, Freddy Cole, and is featured on Cole's 2009 album, Live at Dizzy's Club: The Dreamer in Me. He did most of the arrangements on Freddy Cole Sings Mr. B, an August 2010 release from High Note that features songs from the Billy Eckstine song book.
Napoleon has appeared on television in Tokyo with CHJO, in several European countries and on the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Marathon with Cole, and throughout the world with crooner Michael Bublé, with whom he toured for three years. These appearances include Letterman, Leno, The View, Today, Regis and Kelly, Ellen DeGeneres, a PBS special, The Radio Music Awards, and Dancing with the Stars.
He has played with other major jazz bands, including the Bill Charlap Trio, and with top cabaret performers Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano. And he works with some of the finest musicians of his own generation, among them Melissa Morgan, Gerald Clayton, Hilary Gardner, and Sachal Vasandani.
Today, Napoleon is one of the most sought after guitarists in New York, where he is known as a forward-thinking musician with a passion for the jazz guitar tradition. In addition to backing the best, he leads his own bands, an organ trio (with Jared Gold and Quincy Davis), a trombone trio (with Josh Brown and Elias Bailey), and a three-horn sextet that includes organ (Gold), drums (Davis), baritone saxophone (Frank Basile), trumpet (Justin Walter) and trombone (Brown).
Napoleon writes and arranges for his own bands as well as for other performers. His CDs, Enjoy the Moment (organ trio) and Between Friends (organ trio on half the tracks, piano quartet with Benny Green on piano, David Wong on bass on the other half) drew praise from all quarters.
In the instrumental interludes, the [Freddy Cole] quartet plays swinging mainstream jazz that is always accessible and interesting. Napoleon has been with the group only a few months, but has already become an important part of what they provide musically...Cole stepped away from the piano for Luiz Bonfá's Morning of the Carnival, with some superb guitar work from Napoleon, who was simply sensational throughout the evening... Joe Lang, Jazz Improv NY
Napoleon plays with a gentle, purring tone that makes you lean in close to hear its range of color and articulation, and his improvisations are true narratives, a collection of shapely melodies rather than a series of prepackaged licks. Mark Stryker, Detroit Free Press
Napoleon at times searches, not for the big fat notes, but the tiniest, trim, lean and bittersweet ones. His heaviness lies not in volume or weight, but in depth of spirit. Michael G. Nastos, WEMU radio host
Napoleon’s sound can be likened to the classic elegance of jazz great Wes Montgomery. Lawrence Cosentino, Lansing City Pulse
Napoleon must be considered in the first rank of modern jazz guitarists. Piotr Michalowski, Southeast Michigan Jazz Association
Possessed of a technique informed by greats like Wes Montgomery and Joe Pass, Napoleon favors subtlety over flash, accenting his improvised solos with a languid swing and patient flourishes that are technically flawless, yet full of soul and feeling Will Stewart, Ann Arbor News
His melodic lines are clean and uncomplicated. He shows a sensitivity for song rather than a desire to show off. Bob Karlovits, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Keep an eye on this talented guitarist, as he is destined to make a name for himself. Ken Dryden, All Music Guide
The guitar sound is huge, the playing is radiant, David Adler
Randy Napoleon is the most exciting guitarist of our generation. Michael Bublé, Warner Brothers recording artist
His guitar lines are soulful and smart. Marc S. Taras, Current Magazine
He's terrific! Bridget Apps, Senior Music Producer, BBC Radio
The Jukebox Crowd
Tracks: Everybody Has Soul; God Only Knows;Hopeful and Free; Fools Rush In; We're a Work in Progress; Street Corner Love Song; Make Me Rainbows; I'm in the Mood for Love; Wild is the Wind; Road Warrior; Walk Like Vince; Against the Grain; You Make Me Feel So Young; Our First Dance.
Personnel: Randy Napoleon, guitar; Justin Walter, trumpet; Josh Brown, trombone; Ben Jansen, tenor; Duncan McMillan, organ; Quincy Davis, drums.
Tracks: Face the Truth; No Moon at All; These Foolish Things; These are the Things We Throw Away; Moon and Sand; Remember; Today is Tomorrow; You're My Everything; With a Song in My Heart; A Time for Love; In Good Spirits.
Personnel: Randy Napoleon, guitar; Quincy Davis, drums; Benny Green, piano; Jared Gold, organ; David Wong, bass.
Enjoy the Moment
Tracks: The nest; Enjoy the Moment; Never Let Me Go; This End Up; To Have, To Lose; I Wish I Knew; Taking a Chance on Love; In My Life
Personnel: Randy Napoleon, guitar; Jared Gold, organ; Quincy Davis, drums.
As A Side Musician
This and That: Freddy Cole
Tracks: Everybody's Talkin'; Where Are You?; You and Me Against the World; Nothin's Wrong with Nothin'; Sometimes I'm Happy; Never, Never, Never; I Saw Stars; What Color is Love?; I Get Sentimental Over Nothing; Who (Will Take My Place?); Bang Bang Boogie; Drifting on a Memory
Personnel: Freddy Cole, vocals; Randy Napoleon, arranger, guitar; John Di Martino, piano; Bootsie Barnes, tenor saxophone; Josh Brown, trombone; Elias Bailey, bass; Curtis Boyd, drums
Talk to Me: Freddy Cole
Tracks: Mam’selle; Lovely Day; You Just Can’t Smile It Away; I Was Telling Her About You; Can We Pretend?; Talk to me; Speak To Me of You; My Imagination; My First Impression of You; Come Home; After all These Years
Personnel: Freddy Cole, vocals; Randy Napoleon, arranger, guitar; John Di Martino, piano, arranger; Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Terell Stafford, trumpet, flugelhorn; Elias Bailey, bass; Curtis Boyd, drums
Freddy Cole Sings Mr. B
Tracks: Tender Is the Night, Cottage for Sale, Portrait, I Apologize, Jelly Jelly, Somehow, To Be Or Not To Be in Love, Pretty One, Ma, She's Makin' Eyes at Me, The High and the Mighty, No Orchids for My Lady, Mister, You've Gone and Got the Blues,
Personnel: Freddy Cole, voice/piano; John DiMartino, piano; Houston Person, tenor sax; Randy Napoleon, guitar/arranger; Curtis Boyd, drums; Elias Bailey, bass
The Dreamer in Me: Live at Dizzy's
Tracks: I Will Wait For You, I Was Wrong, Send For Me, I'm Making Believe, You're Sensational, Where Can I Go Without You?, More Than Likely, It's the Dreamer In Me, On the South Side Of Chicago, What Are You Afraid Of?, What Now My Love?
Personnel: Freddy Cole, voice/piano; Randy Napoleon, guitar; Curtis Boyd, drums; Elias Bailey, bass; John DiMartino, piano; Jerry Weldon, tenor sax.
Eric Comstock, Randy Napoleon
Tracks: I Have Dreamed; If I Had You; Somewhere in the Night; Goodbye; Living on Dreams; Gone with the Wind; Two for the Road; Too Late Now; This Can’t Be Love; A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square; Goodbye is a Lonesome Sound; Bittersweet; Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams
Personnel: Eric Comstock, vocals; Randy Napoleon, guitar; with Barbara Fasano, vocals, on Two for the Road.
The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra: Live at MCG
John Clayton, Jeff Hamilton
Tracks: Georgia; Jody Grind; Nature Boy; Lullaby of the Leaves; Silver Celebration; Mood Indigao; Evidence; Like a Lover; Eternal Triangle; Squatty Roo.
Personnel: John Clayton, conductor, bass; Jeff Clayton, lead alto saxaphone, soprano saxaphone, alto flute, flute; Jeff Hamilton, drums; Keith Fiddmont, alto saxaphone, clarinet; Rickey Woodward, tenor saxaphone, clarinet; Charles Owens, tenor saxaphone; Lee Callet, baritone saxaphone, bass clarinet; Bijon Watson, lead trumpet; Sal Cracchiolo, trumpet; Eugene "Snooky" Young, trumpet; Clay Jenkins, trumpet; Gilbert Castellanos, trumpet; Ira Nepus, lead trombone; George Bohanon, trombone; Ryan Porter, trombone, Maurice Spears, bass trombone; Tamir Handelman, piano; Randy Napoleon, guitar; Christoph Luty, bass.
Caught in the Act
Tracks: DVD: Feeling Good. Sway, Try a Little Tenderness, Fever, Come Fly with Me, Moondance, You Don't Know Me, That's All, For Once in My Life, Youu'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine, This Love, I've Got You Under My Skin, Home, The More I See You, Save the Last Dance for Me, How Sweet it Is, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Song for You, backstage extras.
CD: Feeling Good, Summer Wind, Home, You And I, The More I See You, You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine, Can't Buy Me Love, Smile.
Personnel: Michael Buble, vocals; Randy Napoleon, guitar; Mark Small, alto saxaphone; Robert Wilkerson, alto saxophone; Frank Basile, baritone saxophone; Jumaane Smith, trumpet; Bryan Lipps, trumpet; Justin Ray, trumpet; Joshua Brown, trombone; Nick Vagenas, trombone; Craig Polasko, bass; Robert Perkins, drums.
Solids & Stripes
Tracks: Black, O-o-h Child, The Nest, On The Cusp, Angela (Theme from Taxi), Queen's Gambit, Isn't It Romantic?, Splat, It Ain't Necessarily So, Moonstone
Personnel: Jared Gold, organ; Randy Napoleon, guitar; Mark Ferber, drums; Seamus Blake, tenor sax.
Until I Met You
Tracks:Save Your Love For Me, Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby, Until I Met You (Corner Pocket), He Loves Me I Think, The Lamp Is Low, Cool Cool Daddy, A Sleepin' Bee, Yes, I Know When I've Had It, I Wonder, I Just Dropped By To Say Hello, The More I See You
Personnel: Melissa Morgan, vocals; Gerald Clayton, piano; Randy Napoleon, guitar; Kevin Kanner, drums; Joe Sanders, bass; Christian Scott,trumpet; Tim Green, alto saxophone; Ben Wendel, tenor saxophone; Francisco Torres, trombone
The Feeling of Jazz
Tracks: The Feeling of Jazz; Blue Room; Day Dream; Street Stream; Moon and Sand; You Don't Know What Love Is; Nica's Tempo; The Lake Louise Waltz; I'll Be Seeing You.
Personnel: Josh Brown, trombone; Randy Napoleon, guitar; Clovis Nicolas, bass; Philip Stewart, drums.
Let it Snow
Tracks: Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow; The Christmas Song; I'll be Home for Christmas; Grown-Up Christmas List; White Christmas; Let it Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow (Live).
Personnel: Michael Buble, vocals; Randy Napoleon, guitar; John Chiodini, guitar; Alan Chang, piano; David Foster, keyboards; Randy Waldman, keyboards; Brian Bromberg, bass; Craig Polasko, bass; Dave Tull, drums; Robert Perkins, drums; Joshua Brown, trombone; Nick Vagenas, trombone; Frank Basile,baritone saxophone; Jumaane Smith, guiro; Justin Ray, trumpet; Robert Wilkerson, alto saxophone; Bryan Lipps,trumpet; Mark Small,alto saxaphone.
Tracks: Fever, Try a Little Tenderness, You and I, I've Got a Crush on You, Can't Help Falling in Love, My Funny Valentine, These Foolish Things, That's All.
Personnel: Michael Buble, vocals; Randy Napoleon, guitar; John Pisano, guitar; Michael Thompson, guitar; Dean Parks, electric guitar; Brian Green, acoustic guitar; Alan Chang, piano; David Foster, piano; Michael Melvoin, piano; Randy Waldman, piano; Brian Bromberg, bass; Craig Polasko, bass; Frank Capp, drums; Vinnie Colaiuta, drums; Robert Perkins, drums; Dave Tull, drums; Rafael Padilla, percussion; Don Higgens, saxaphone; Pam Sixfin, violin; Conni Ellisor, violin; Alam Umstead, violin; Mary Kathryn Vanonsdale,violin; Cathy Umstead, violin; Gerald Creer,violin; Bruce Wethey, violin; Kris Wilkinson, violia; Cary Vanosdale, viola; Jim Crosjean, viola; Anthony LaMarchina, cello; Carole Rabinowitz, cello.
J Ray Music
Tracks: It's How You Use It; Braidy; Dubdawg in the Pocket; Try Harder; Embraceable You; Psychic Ping Pong; Goodnight Mom; It's How You Use It (take two).
Personnel: Justin Ray, trumpet; Randy Napoleon, guitar; Jared Gold, organ; Quincy Davis, drums.
Just For You:Michael Camacho
New Found Records
Tracks: Just for You; I'm Old Fashioned; Blue Room; My Friend; I Should Care; Hey You; Norwegian Wood; How Can We Be Sure; Skylark; Here's to the Blues; This is Always; Spanish Harlem.
Personnel: Michael Camacho, vocals; Tim Regusis, piano; Fracois Moutin, bass; Randy Napoleon, guitar; Darryl Pellegrini, drums; Marcello Pelliteri, drums, Norman Hedman, percussion; Dan Block, tenor and soprano sax.
Personnel: Ben Jansson, tenor sax; Randy Napoleon, guitar; Rick Roe, piano; Paul Keller, bass; Pete Siers, drums.
Don't Go to Strangers
Jack Patton Quintet
Soul Conscious Records
Personnel: Jack Patton, vibes; Manuel Valera, piano; Randy Napoleon, guitar; Alan Hampton, bass; Mike Weyhing, drums; Nicole Guiland, vocals
Jazz Meets Hymns 2: Youngjoo Song
Tracks: It is So Sweet to Trust in Jesus; Nearer, Still Nearer; Beautiful Words; Leaning on the Ever Lasting Arms; Abide with Me; At the Cross; God’s Great Grace it has brought us; Since Christ My Soul; Jesus Loves me; Great is Thy Faithfulness; You are There
Personnel: Youngjoo Song, piano; Quincy Davis, drums, co-producer; Richie Goods, bass; Randy Napoleon, guitar; Shayna Steel, vocals; Monty Arnold, vocals
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NEW YORK, NY
Randy Napoleon studied at the University of Michigan School of Music and has learned from mentors including Freddy Cole, Benny Green, John Clayton, and Jeff Hamilton. He gives private lessons and offers clinics for colleges and conservatories. Hours and location vary, since he is on the road most of the time. Check Randy Napoleon's website to see when he will be performing in your city and drop him an e-mail to schedule a lesson.