Grammy-nominated recording artist John Beasley’s music career spans three decades. LA Times jazz critic Bill Kohlhaasee describes Beasley’s music and playing as “a variety of generational influences, incorporating the emphatic chordal clusters of Herbie Hancock, the rhythmic quirkiness of Monk and the lush intelligence of Art Tatum into a highly refined personal voice.”
His credits cross the spectrum of the entertainment world: performing, recording, and touring with major jazz, pop, and world artists; composing for hit-TV series; arranging for ensembles and orchestras; working on award-winning films and commercials. With the popularity of reality singing TV shows, Beasley has taken the helm as Music Director for major studio shows.
Highlights of Beasley’s multi-track career include:
- Pianist/Keyboardist for Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Chaka Khan, Carly Simon, Christian McBride, Dianne Reeves, Kenny Garrett, Stanley Clarke, Lee Ritenour, even a stint with James Brown, Barbra Streisand, Destiny’s Child, Spice Girls, and Baaba Maal
- Music Director for reality singing shows:
– Sing Your Face Off (ABC, 2013)
– Duets with Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, Jennifer Nettles, Robin Thicke (ABC, 2012)
– American Idol – Carrie Underwood’s victory, (FOX, 2005)
– Search for the Next Pussycat Doll (CW, 2007)
- Music Director for tours:
– Steely Dan Art Crimes world tour
– Queen Latifah’s Travelin’ Lite 40-city US Tour
– AR Rahman Jai Ho world tour
- Music Director for concert events
– International Jazz Day gala concerts (Istanbul, 2013 and Paris, 2012)
– Los Angeles Philharmonic Jazz and the Orchestra 5-concert series
- TV composer: Fame, Cheers, Family Ties, Star Trek: Next Gen, Touchstone TV logo
- Pianist and Programmer for films: James Bond Skyfall, Exotic Marigold Hotel, Finding Nemo, Wall-E, Shawshank Redemption, Godfather III
- Record Producer EWE Japan artists Yosvany Terry, Chie Ayado – 3 albums
- 11 recordings, including Grammy-nominated Positootly! (Best Instrumental Jazz Album)
- Arranger for Luckman Jazz Orchestra, The Tonight Show, VHI Divas special, American Idol (2005-2010), The Winner Is, America’s Got Talent, Singing Bee
- Educator/Clinician: Guest Lecturer Rotterdam Conservatory (2013); ASCAP I Create Music, Grammy Camp, jazz camps in Guatemala, Taiwan, Guadalajara, Netherlands
Born in Louisiana, the cradle of jazz, Beasley is a third generation musician. His grandfather was a trombonist for territory bands. His father taught at jazz composition and improvisation and was also a pianist, bassoonist, and composer. Beasley’s mother directed bands and orchestras and was a brass instrumentalist. Beasley became a convenient stand-in for her bands as a trumpet, oboe, drums, saxophone, and flute player. By the time he was in middle school, Beasley was writing arrangements, one for the University of North Texas Jazz Band which caught the attention of Jimmy Lyons, founder of the Monterey Jazz Festival. Lyons recommended teenage Beasley for a scholarship at the Stan Kenton Summer Jazz Camp. The song was then added to The Stan Kenton Orchestra’s repertoire that year.
At 17, Beasley declined an oboe scholarship from Julliard. He took up the musician’s life, playing in clubs before he was of legal drinking age. Soon after, he went on his first world tour with Brazilian artist Sergio Mendes gaining solid bandstand experience as his young Music Director. Jazz icon Freddie Hubbard brought him into his fold for about eight years, while Beasley formed a band Vinnie Colauita, John Patitucci and Steve Taviglione called Audio Mind.
At the young age of 24, Beasley started writing music for Paramount, Disney, and MGM shows, including Cheers, Family Ties, Star Trek, and Fame and the Touchstone TV logo which is still in use today. As a studio musician, he has worked with film composer luminaries such as Thomas Newman, Dave Gruisin, Alan Silvestri, and Carmine Coppola. He became a part of Thomas Newman’s core team playing and programming sounds for James Bond Skyfall,Exotic Marigold Hotel, Finding Nemo, and Wall-E, to name a few. His work in commercials includes award winning work in both the US and Germany.
John Beasley also composes pro-bono for films and podcasts with groups like the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize winning Doctors Without Borders.
MILES DAVIS AND RECORDING CAREER
At 28, Beasley got the phone call of a lifetime from Miles Davis to join his band. Beasley toured worldwide with Miles Davis as a keyboardist. While on tour with Miles, he was inspired to release his debut CD, Cauldron, produced by Walter Becker (Steely Dan). He has gone on to record 11 albums.
John Beasley’s Positootly! album earned a 2011 Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Instrumental Record. In 2012, he joined forces with two other Miles Davis alumni, Darryl Jones (Rolling Stones bassist) and the signature drummer for Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, Ndugu Chancler to record 3 Brave Souls. This triumvirate, as one reviewer Nick DeRiso wrote, is some “tangy, ass-wiggling funk.”
In 2005, Beasley was enlisted to work on the juggernaut American Idol as Associate Director to Rickey Minor. Beasley coached and rehearsed the 12 female finalists, selecting and arranging songs, and mixing the shows. In the finale, his contestant Carrie Underwood took the title and became a global music star, earning multiple Grammys. Over the next 6 years (2005-2010) he served as American Idol’s Lead Arranger and substituted for Music Director Rickey Minor on the recordings for iTunes releases.
When ABC TV, was seeking a Music Director for their reality show Duets with Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, Robin Thicke, and Jennifer Nettles, they handpicked John Beasley. This year, ABC invited Beasley to reprise his role as Music Director for a new show Sing Your Face Off, airing in 2014.
PRESENT and BEYOND
Beasley keeps a high profile in jazz as the Music Director for The Thelonious Monk Institute’s gala concerts, along with being appointed Guest Artist Lecturer for the Rotterdam Conservatory of Music (CodArts).
This year, Beasley realized a long-held dream, forming MONK’estra, a 17-piece big band called. MONK’estra captures the spirit of Monk’s unique quirkiness, offbeat accents, punchy dissonances, in fresh arrangements. Veteran jazz critic Don Heckman described Beasley’s big band and his talent as “extraordinary orchestrating abilities, imaginative soloing from players: a net result of some of the most mesmerizing big band music of recent memory.”