Image: Scott Mitchell
GRAMMY-NOMINATED PIANIST / COMPOSER / ARRANGER / MUSIC DIRECTOR / PRODUCER
Los Angeles Times
Multi-Grammy® and Emmy Award-nominated
John Beasley, Multi-GRAMMY® and Emmy Award-nominated pianist, composer, arranger, producer, music director
An uncommonly versatile pianist, he has backed such jazz icons as Miles Davis and Freddie Hubbard – playing in the bands of both these trumpet greats while still in his 20s. Since then, Beasley has performed with a wide range of artists from Dianne Reeves, Ivan Lins, John Patitucci, Chaka Khan, Christian McBride, Carly Simon, Steely Dan, Lee Ritenour, Somi, A.R. Rahman, and James Brown’s last concert at the Hollywood Bowl.
His extensive work as a composer-arranger extends beyond jazz, with many credits in television such as Star Trek:TNG, Cheers, and Fame; and in films scored by 15-time Oscar nominee Thomas Newman 1917, James Bond’s Spectre and Skyfall, Finding Dory, He Named Me Malala, and Shawshank Redemption.
While on tour with Miles Davis, Beasley was inspired to record his first album Cauldron, which was produced by Steely Dan’s Walter Becker. A dozen albums later, Beasley has earned ten GRAMMY nominations, six for his project called MONK’estra.
MONK’estra is a smashing 15-piece big band that captures the spirit of Thelonious Monk’s singular music in fresh arrangements flavored with contemporary sounds that range from Afro-Cuban rhythms to hip-hop. Critics have given it a 5 star and called it “some of the most mesmerizing big band music of recent memory.” His latest album “MONK’estra plays John Beasley” showcases his compositions and more unique arrangements of Monk, Ellington, and Bird songs. His big band MONK’estra recorded the Thomas Newman score in a Steven Soderberg film “Let Them All Talk” with Meryl Streep on HBO (Dec 2020) which Beasley orchestrated, arranged and conducted. His MONK’estra Quintet will be on screen in the popular BOSCH Amazon series, Episode 1 of Season 7 (March 2021). He wrote a jazz piece for Director Damon Lindelof’s The Watchmen’s winning episode 6 “The Extraordinary Being”.
Beasley took his MONK’estra charts to various schools and rehearsed and conducted student big bands in the US and Europe, including Rutgers, Frost, Julliard, Manhattan School of Music, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, and Maastrich conservatories in Holland.
As a producer, Beasley worked on Weather Report’s drummer Peter Erskine on his recent albums and several for Lee Ritenour, including producing projects for Dianne Reeves. His most recent production was with Portuguese singer Maria Mendes and the Metropole Orkest on her album “Close to Me”, which earned Beasley and Mendes a 2020 Latin and a 2021 American GRAMMY nomination for Best Arrangement. The album is nominated for the Dutch Grammy “The Edison” for Best Jazz Vocal album. Beasley not only produced the album but was arranger, conductor, orchestrator, and played piano. He also earned a 2021 GRAMMY nomination for conducting and arranging vocalist Somi’s new album “Holy Room. He produced other global artists including Japanese singer Chie Ayado, Cuban saxophonist Yosvany Terry.
When Herbie Hancock championed UNESCO in 2012 to appoint a day to celebrate jazz every year, Beasley was hand-selected as the Music Director for the Herbie Hancock Institute’s, which produces the global gala concert. He has since directed 30+ global all stars in concerts that have been held in Paris, Havana, St Petersburg, Istanbul, Osaka, Melbourne, New Orleans, and the notable 2016 gala at the White House, hosted by President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. The ABC broadcast earned Beasley an Emmy nomination.
Beasley first experience as a music director (MD) was with Sergio Mendes at the start of his career in his 20s. Since then, he has directed tours for Queen Latifah, Steely Dan (Art Crimes), A.R. Rahman (Jai Ho), along with tribute concerts for Kenny Burrell, Billy Higgins, and for the Hancock Institute’s competition gala tributes to Quincy Jones, Bill Clinton, Aretha Franklin, Terrence Blanchard, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Wayne Shorter. He worked as MD for TV specials/series, including Sports Illustrated 50 Years of Beautiful and musical competitions Duets with John Legend, and Sing Your Face Off. Beasley was Lead Arranger for ten years on the American Idol show with his first year as Associate MD ushering Carrie Underwood’s victory.
Recently, Beasley has been working with youth and professional big bands. He was commissioned by Carnegie Hall’s National Youth Orchestra to write a song for its 2020 program. He wrote another a commission for the Youth Orchestra Los Angeles called “A History of Jazz”. Presently, he is working with both Frankfurt’s and Stuttgart’s Big Bands on programs featuring the music of Chick Corea, Duke Elllington, Thelonious Monk, and Charlie Parker.