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Randy Napoleon

Randy Napoleon (born 1977) is a jazz guitarist, composer, and arranger who is a member of The Freddy Cole Quartet and the leader of the Randy Napoleon Trio.[1][2] He has toured with Benny Green, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra (CHJO), led by John Clayton, Jeff Clayton and Jeff Hamilton, and with Michael Bublé.[1][3][4]


Early life

Napoleon was born in Brooklyn, New York, but his family moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, when Napoleon was young.[5]

One of Napoleon's formative experiences was in a big band at Ann Arbor Pioneer High School, led by the trumpeter Louis Smith. He also played at the jazz clubs in Ann Arbor and learned from jam sessions at the now defunct Bird of Paradise Club, where he also heard master jazz artists play. Early opportunities at at the Del Rio, a local bar, and at events sponsored by WEMU, a local NPR jazz radio station, helped launch his career. [5] Napoleon went on to study at the University of Michigan School of Music.[3] He moved to New York City after graduating in 1999.


Napoleon performs as sideman and leader. He also arranges and produces for his own recordings and for other artists. He has led an organ trio with Quincy Davis on drums, and Jared Gold on Hammond B3 organ.[3] They have toured throughout the United States and the United Kingdom, where they did a concert for BBC radio and played several clubs. He has also led a sextet, with Gold, Davis, Josh Brown on trombone, Frank Basile on baritone sax, and Justin Walter on trumpet.

He also tours internationally with singer/pianist Freddy Cole.[1][2] and appears on Cole's 2009 release The Dreamer in Me. He has appeared on TV with Cole, on a 2007 PBS special and on the 2009 Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon.

The Randy Napoleon Trio appears on two CDs, Enjoy the Moment and Randy Napoleon: Between Friends. Both feature organist Jared Gold, and drummer Quincy Davis. They have been compared to Wes Montgomery's organ trio.[1] Between Friends, a 2006 release from Azica Records, features the trio on half the tracks and a quartet on the other, with Davis, bassist David Wong, and Benny Green on piano.[3][4]

Napoleon has also toured with Benny Green(2000-2001), Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, CHJO (2003-2004) and Michael Bublé (2004-2007). He has appeared on TV in Japan with CHJO and throughout Europe and the United States with Bublé.

His U.S. TV appearances with Bublé include David Letterman, Jay Leno, The View, The Today Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Regis and Kelly, Dancing with the Stars, the Radio Music Awards, Entertainment Tonight, and a PBS special, Caught in the Act, which is available on DVD/CD from Reprise Records.[3][4][5] He has also appeared on TV with Sachal Vasandani and others.

Napoleon has also performed with jazz artists including The Bill Charlap Trio and Rodney Whitaker. [3] He has appeared with cabaret artists including Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano, and has worked with musicians from his own generation, such as Josh Brown (trombone), Gerald Clayton (piano), Justin Ray (trumpet), Julius Tolentino (saxophone), and vocalists Melissa Morgan and Sachal Vasandani. [3]

Napoleon has played in venues across the United States, including Lincoln Center, The Hollywood Bowl, The Kennedy Center, Radio City Music Hall and throughout the world, such as Royal Albert Hall in London, and the Sydney Opera House in Australia.[1][4] He has mentioned in interviews that he particular likes playing in intimate spaces.

There are always going to be people that seek out music that's heartfelt. The hardest part is doing the music justice and playing it as well as it can be played. The blessing we have is these old recordings of past jazz masters.[5]


As a member of other bands:

  • Freddy Cole The Dreamer in Me: Live at Dizzy's Club (performer)
  • The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra: Live at MCG (performer)
  • Michael Bublé: Caught in The Act (performer)
  • Jared Gold: Solids & Stripes (performer)
  • The Josh Brown Quartet: The Feeling of Jazz (performer, composer of Street Steam)
  • Melissa Morgan: Until I Met You (performer)
  • Paul Keller/Steve Richko: Swingin' the Praise (performer)
  • Charles Darden: Coming Back to Me (arranger, performer)
  • Justin Ray (performer, composer of Psychic Ping Pong)
  • Ben Jansson: Sweetie Pie (performer, arranger of Young at Heart)
  • Michael Bublé: With Love (performer)
  • Michael Bublé: Let It Snow (performer)
  • Michael Bublé: A Taste of Bublé (performer)
  • Michael Camacho: Just for You (performer)
  • Don't Go to Strangers (performer)

Responses & Reviews

  • In a review of the Freddy Cole Quartet, August 2, 2008: "Cole occasionally sang without accompanying himself, relying instead on guitarist Randy Napoleon's resourcefulness....Napoleon, a young, swing-centric guitarist...was accorded plenty of solo space, revealing an exceptionally nimble finger-style technique." Mike Joyce, The Washington Post[6]
  • In a review of the Freddy Cole Quartet, August 12, 2009,"Napoleon’s unhurried, light touches lace perfectly with Cole’s, whether he’s answering the pianist’s melodies in short phrases or taking the stage with longer improvisations." Lois Kapila, The Washington City Paper [7]
  • In a review of The Freddy Cole Quartet at the Umbria Jazz Festival: "Napoleon's light touch got caught up in a whirl of lightning-fast technique. His solos then became the ones to watch for: golden lyricism on “If I Love Again”; sweet, happy variations on “Getting Some Fun Out of Life”; plainspoken, chromatic nostalgia on “Funny How I've Stopped Loving You” (on which his bandmates also took some bows, Boyd with beautiful brushwork and Bailey with imaginative eighth-note accents). He outdid himself during the set's encore with a concise but brilliant submission on “I Was Wrong.” Michael J. West, All About Jazz. [8]
  • In a review of Between Friends: "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, The Detroit Free Press [9]
  • In a review of the Dec 15, 2007 performance of the Freddy Cole Quartet in South Orange NJ: "In the instrumental interludes, the Freddy Cole quartet plays swinging mainstream jazz that is always accessible and interesting...with some superb guitar work from Napoleon, who was simply sensational throughout the evening...Napoleon has been with the group only a few months, but has already become an important part of what they provide musically..." Joe Lang, Jazz Improv NY, Jan. 2008 issue. [10]
  • In a review of the Jan 22, 2009 performance of the Freddy Cole Quartet at St. Cecilia's in Grand Rapids, MI: "His quartet includes three fabulous players...who play with no unnecessary gestures, no wasted notes...Guitarist Randy Napoleon, a finger-style player with a soft, smooth touch, meshed perfectly with Cole's piano, whether trading fills or sharing the melody in octaves. When Cole stepped away from the keyboard, Napoleon filled in all the space without missing a trick, delivering thick, chord-rich solos on tunes such as 'I Will Wait For You.'" Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk, The Grand Rapids Press. [11]
Randy Napoleon with Michael Bublé
  • Randy Napoleon performed with Warner Brothers recording artist Michael Bublé for three years, during which Napoleon put out the album Between Friends Upon hearing it, Bublé commented for the liner notes: " Randy Napoleon is the most exciting guitarist of our generation." [12]
  • In a preview of a 2007 appearance of the Randy Napoleon Trio in Pittsburgh, a reviewer commented on Napoleon's recent album: "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 [13]
  • Between Friends received attention in several countries: "Napoleon ha un suono generoso, brillante e corposo allo stesso temp, che sa di Nebbiolo d'annata." Matteo Brancaleoni, Jazz Magazine (Italian publication).
  • "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 [14]
  • "Napoleon must be considered in the first rank of modern jazz guitarists." Piotr Michalowski, Southeast Michigan Jazz Association [15]
  • "Napoleon consistently shows that he is in full command of his instrument without resorting to overindulgent solos like many young players...Napoleon's tasty, spacious interpretation of the magical ballad "A Time For Love" is yet another highlight...The subtle opener, "Face the Truth," is a conversational piece that might appeal to a singer if it only had a lyric." Ken Dryden, Allmusic [16]
  • "Each note hangs, suspended with raindrop clarity from its bough of melody, on up-tempo tunes as well as ballads." Lawrence Cosentino, Lansing Michigan's City Pulse.[17]
  • "His guitar lines are soulful and smart." Marc S. Taras, Current Magazine
  • "Randy Napoleon an der Gitarre ergibt sich ein voller Klang, der sich vom ersten Lied bis zur letzten der zahlreichen Zugaben, einem Lied von Louis Armstrong, ebenmäßig durchzieht." LitGes (Review of Freddy Cole Quartet)


  • "In seiner Band tummeln sich in Gestalt von Randy Napoleon ein geschmeidiger Gitarrist, mit Elias Bailey ein stoisch walkender Bassist und mit Curtis Boyd ein swingender Drummer" (In review of Freddy Cole Quartet at Birdland in Neuberg, Germany )Donaukurier
  • "Freedy tryskał energią i jak na prawie 80-cio letniego człowieka pokazał naprawdę niezłą formę. Bardzo eksponowanym muzykiem był gitarzysta, Randy Napoleon, który grał bardzo poprawne harmonijne, ciekawe melodyjnie solówki. Praktycznie w każdym kawałku. Pod koniec koncertu dawało się odczuć lekkie znużenie przewidywalnością jego kolejnych fraz" (review of Freddy Cole Quartet in Poland)[19]
  • "Vagy én nem oldódtam fel rendesen az elején (valószínűbb), vagy nekik kellett egy kis idő, amíg igazán megtalálták egymást (nem valószínű), mert mintha az első számban a Cole által sokat éltetett Randy Napoleon gitárjátékával nem találta volna az összhangot a zongorával, vagy legalábbis nem volt teljesen világos a szerepük. Később teljesen visszahúzódott a törtető Napoleon, és csak akkor játszotta magát az előtérbe, mikor Cole otthagyta hangszerét, és sinatrás pózban énekelt, de akkor viszont zenekarvezetői szerepben gitározott."



  1. ^ a b c d e All About Jazz (2007). "Randy Napoleon Returns to Brooklyn Roots". All About Jazz. Retrieved November 26, 2007.  
  2. ^ a b Zan Stewart (2007). "Freddy's way". The New Jersey Star-Ledger. Retrieved November 26, 2007.  
  3. ^ a b c d e f g All About Jazz (2007). "Randy Napoleon". All About Jazz. Retrieved November 26, 2007.  
  4. ^ a b c d All About Jazz (2006). "Jazz Guitarist Randy Napoleon Unites Top Artists for New Release". All About Jazz. Retrieved November 26, 2007.  
  5. ^ a b c d Christian Czerwinski (2006). "Jazz guitarist gets his own backing band". Lansing State Journal. Retrieved November 26, 2007.  
  6. ^ Washington Post review
  7. ^ Washington City Paper review
  8. ^ All About Jazz, scroll down to Freddy Cole review.
  9. ^ Detroit Free Press review
  10. ^ Jazz Improv NY Review Scroll to page 6
  11. ^ Grand Rapids Press review of Freddy Cole Quartet
  12. ^ [Quotation is found on the album cover]
  13. ^ Pittsburgh Tribune Review on Randy Napoleon Trio
  14. ^ Michael G. Nastos on Randy Napoleon
  15. ^ South East Michigan Jazz Association on Randy Napoleon: Between Friends
  16. ^ All Music on Randy Napoleon: Between Friends
  17. ^ Lansing City Pulse on Randy Napoleon
  18. ^ [1]
  19. ^ [2]
  20. ^ Márk Linczényi (7 November 2008). "Én nem a testvérem vagyok! Freddy Cole a Millenárison ("I am not my brother'" Freddy Cole at the Millenium Theatre)". Retrieved 16 December 2009.  

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