In the course of three decades, Mack Avenue recording artist John Beasley has carved an enviable reputation – or actually, two reputations. First and foremost, he is an uncommonly versatile, unerringly exciting pianist who has worked with such music icons as Miles Davis and Freddie Hubbard – playing in the bands of both these trumpet legends while still in his 20s – as well as with Herbie Hancock Steely Dan, Al Jarreau, Chaka Khan, Christian McBride, Chaka Khan (and even, for one night, with James Brown). But Beasley is also an accomplished composer, and a distinctive arranger who works regularly with in film and television, earning five GRAMMY nominations and an Emmy nod along the way. And he has worked extensively on soundtracks, primarily those of famed film scorer Thomas Newman, including the James Bond hits Spectre and Skyfall.
Beasley’s arranging skills find no better showcase than on the albums MONK’estra (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2), each of which received two GRAMMY nominations. 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 called it “some of the most mesmerizing big band music of recent memory.”
MONK’estra began its global tour in 2017 kicking off in Pyeongchang, South Korea and finishing the year with the HR Big Band in Frankfurt, Germany. This year, MONK’estra got the show on the road at the Chicago Symphony Center in January and will have a world premiere of a cinematic concert “MONK+MONK’estra at the Walt Disney Concert Hall where Monk will ‘perform’ on stage with MONK’estra through rare film footage.
Beasley continues to balance a multi-faceted career that includes co-producing albums with former Weather Report drummer Peter Erskine; legendary guitarist Lee Ritenour; and oft-awarded vocalist Dianne Reeves. Every year, Beasley resumes his role as Music Director for the Thelonious Monk Institute’s globally heard International Jazz Day concerts, collaborating with the Institute’s Chairman Herbie Hancock. In 2017, this all-star concert was held in Cuba and broadcast throughout the country and on BET TV in America. The 2016 event was hosted by President Obama at the White House and was broadcast on ABC-TV, gaining Beasley an Emmy nomination for Best Musical Direction. This year, Beasley heads to St Petersburg to direct the Jazz Day concert which will be streamed worldwide on April 30th.