J. C. Hopkins

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JC Hopkins
JC Hopkins Piano.jpg
Hopkins at the piano.

JC Hopkins (born August 9, 1964) is an American bandleader, record producer, and Grammy-nominated producer and songwriter.



JC Hopkins was born and raised in Cypress, California where he attended school and played in various bands in his youth. He plays guitar, harmonica, and piano, eventually concentrating on the latter. Upon moving to San Francisco in the early 1980s Hopkins began performing solo works as a Folk singer. His first band there, Flophouse, began as a folk rock ensemble whose debut self-titled album was produced by Peter Case. The band's second album, "Undaunted", garnered favorable reviews including ink in Spin Magazine.[1] In 1998 he debuted his first musical, "Show Biz'ness", at the legendary Cafe Du Nord in San Francisco.[2]

New York City[edit]

In 2000 Hopkins moved to Brooklyn, New York to pursue his interest in transitioning from folk and musical theater to jazz and created a big band by the name of JC Hopkins Biggish Band. Hopkins was introduced to a then fledgling singer Norah Jones through bassist Lee Alexander (musician) who played on Victoria Williams' album Water To Drink, which Hopkins co-produced. Jones began singing with the Biggish Band and they performed in venues throughout New York City. A 2008 interview with Judy Camichael delves into Hopkins creative relationship with Jones.[3]

Upon Jones signing to Blue Note Records and recording her debut album Come Away with Me on which Hopkins co-wrote "Painter Song" with Lee Alexander, singer Madeleine Peyroux took her place on the bandstand and began writing songs with Hopkins, many which would later appear on Hopkins album "Underneath A Brooklyn Moon". Peyroux continued to perform with the band along with vocalist Queen Esther who eventually became the band's mainstay singer.

JC Hopkins and Queen Esther

Legendary Country singer/songwriter Willie Nelson heard a demo of Norah Jones singing Hopkins' song "Dreams Come True" with the JC Hopkins Biggish Band and decided to record the tune as a duet with Jones. That song appears on Nelson's album "It Always Will Be" and was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Country Collaboration.

Underneath A Brooklyn Moon[edit]

In 2005 Hopkins released the full-length album "Underneath A Brooklyn Moon" consisting of nine original songs co-written by Norah Jones ("One Never Knows") and Madeleine Peyroux ("Here Comes Love", "I Still Believe In Some Kind Of Love", "I've Got My Finger On A Star", "Settle Down"). The album received positive press on a national scale, including The New Yorker, as well as on National Public Radio.[4]

Actor John Lithgow, upon hearing Hopkins in his NPR interview, inquired with Michael Krumper of Razor and Tie Records who sent Lithgow a copy of "Underneath A Brooklyn Moon". Shortly after, Lithgow asked Hopkins to produce his album of Tin Pan Alley children's songs, titled "The Sunny Side of the Street". That album was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Children's Album.

Meet Me At Minton's[edit]

A 2017 sophomore release, “Meet Me At Minton’s”, serves as a display of the diligently thought-through and perfectly arranged collaborations between a wide-ranging spectrum of jazz talents, both renowned and emerging, and has been met with great applause for its innovation, composition, and generation-spanning and acclaimed featured vocalists.[5]

The album is launched by vocalist Brianna Thomas, alongside solos by Troy Roberts and Bruce Harris on Hopkins’ original “Remember When”. On “Suddenly (In Walked Bud)”, jazz legend Jon Hendricks trades 4’s with Charles Turner and Brianna Thomas, in a generational hopping scat. Andy Bey’s evocative vocal on the Hendricks/Monk tune, “Looking Back (Reflections)” features revered harpist Brandee Younger. Alicia Olatuja’s lends her vocals to Hopkins' beautiful composition “Dreams Come True”, which was previously covered by Norah Jones and Willie Nelson.

Vocalists Charles Turner and Queen Esther perform the title track “Meet Me at Minton’s” and the Billie Holiday classic “Spreadin’ Rhythm Around.” Young guitar phenom Solomon Hicks, who was made lead guitarist for the Cotton Club Orchestra at the age of thirteen, is featured on "Alright Okay You Win". The album is then drawn to a close by Jazzmeia Horn and Jon Hendricks as they perform a duet of the Hendricks/Monk ballad “How I Wish (Ask Me Now)”. The recording also features saxophonist Claire Daly, drummer Charles Goold, bassist Noah Jackson, trombonist Corey Wallace, saxophonist Christopher McBride and vibraphonist Joseph Doubleday. Concord recording artist, Jazzmeia Horn was the 2016 winner of the Thelonious Monk Prize has two features on the album, Hopkins' original "What is Love" and the duet with Hendricks. Horn's relationship with Hendricks is evident despite a seventy-year age difference. Alicia Olatuja, who joined Gregory Porter on his recent Grammy winning album, performs Hopkins' Grammy nominated ballad, “Dreams Come True”.

Album photography features images of the band by Grayson Dantzic, son of photographer Jerry Dantzic, whose new book “Billie Holiday at Sugar Hill” was released in 2017 with Thames and Hudson and features never before seen photographs of Billie Holiday.[6]

It's a Sad and Beautiful World[edit]

Recorded in 2004, this collection of original songs finally sees the light of day in July 2018. The album features an impressive lineup of musicians from both the jazz and rock world. Levon Helm and Garth Hudson in a rare appearance recording together in post The Band period and Martha Wainwright are featured on notable tracks from the record. From the jazz world Victor Lewis, Vincent Chancey, Doug Wieselman also provide accompaniment, giving the sound of the record a genre crossing baroque-pop feel.

Live Performances[edit]

In addition to concerts and events throughout the country, JC Hopkins Biggish Band notably played two tribute shows honoring—and featuring—seminal jazz songwriter Mose Allison. The first, in 2001, was held at Joe's Pub in Manhattan and included Hopkins' longtime friend and collaborator, singer Martha Wainwright, Norah Jones, Madeline Peyroux and Queen Esther. One decade later, in 2011, the band held its second tribute to Allison, again featuring the jazz great, as well as his daughter Amy Allison. The performance featured longtime Hopkins hero and legendary vocalist Elvis Costello performing Allison's songs with the Biggish Band as well as guest appearances by Orange Is the New Black star Lea DeLaria, folk singer Jolie Holland, Verve recording artist Lucy Woodward, and jazz singer Sasha Dobson.[7]

JC Hopkins and Elvis Costello at City Winery, NYC

The Biggish Band has also been featured at Lincoln Center's "Midsummer Night's Swing"[8] and has included songwriter and performance artist Justin Vivian Bond, Joey Arias, Lea DeLaria, as well as jazz pianist and singer Champian Fulton. The band regularly collaborates with various established venues and producers including humorist and writer Kiki Valentine at The Player's Club with Justin Bond, Martha Wainwright, Jolie Holland, The Minsky Sisters, and has appeared at the Blue Note Jazz Festival[9]

JC Hopkins Biggish Band and Queen Esther at Minton's Harlem

In 2014, vocalist Charles Turner joined the ensemble just as JC Hopkins Biggish Band began its Wednesday night residency the legendary Harlem jazz venue formerly known as Minton's Playhouse (now called "Minton's Harlem").[10]


The Biggish Band was also given the honor of celebrating the 100 year centennial for Frank Sinatra with the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival. Bandleader Hopkins created updated arrangements for classic Sinatra songs crooned by actress and singer Lea DeLaria, artist Ne-Yo, singer Alice Smith, and The Killers frontman Brandon Flowers.[12]

Minton's Harlem[edit]

In addition to his residency at the famed jazz institution Minton's Harlem, in 2014 Hopkins took over as music programmer, elevating the club's reputation as the genre's birthplace of bebop and is said to be responsible in part for the resurgence of jazz vocalists returning to Harlem clubs due to his selection of artists performing at Minton's. His latest release, "Meet Me At Minton's", is a nod to this moment and features Jazzmeia Horn.[13] [14]


Writing, Poetry and Photography[edit]

Hopkins wrote the screenplay for the indie film "Poets Are The Destroyers", to be released in late 2018. He has two books of poetry on Impossible Books: "From Far Rockaway to Windsor Terrace" and "Summer of Blue Humidity". JC Hopkins photography appears on Martha Wainwright's Sans Fusils, Ni Souliers, à Paris: Martha Wainwright's Piaf Record and inside the 2012 album Come Home to Mama.

Affiliated Albums[edit]

As Producer[edit]

Songwriting Credits[edit]


JC Hopkins Biggish Band[edit]

  • "Meet Me At Minton's", Harlem Jazz Records, (2017)[16]
  • "Underneath A Brooklyn Moon", Tigerlily Records (2005)

JC Hopkins[edit]

  • "Athens By Night", Stickshift Records (1997)
  • "It's a Sad and Beautiful World", Baroque Rock Records (2018)


  • "Flophouse", Heyday Records, (1990)
  • "Undaunted", Heyday Records, (1993)
  • "Upside Down", EP, Brinkman Records (1994)
  • "Tulips and Chimneys", Brinkman Records, (1995)


  1. ^ SPIN. SPIN Media LLC. p. 75. ISSN 0886-3032. Retrieved 2014-10-24.
  2. ^ "JC Hopkins Makes Musical Theater His ‘Biz’ness’ - MTV". mtv.com. Retrieved 2014-10-24.
  3. ^ "PRX » Playlists » jazz inspired JC Hopkins". prx.org. Retrieved 2014-10-24.
  4. ^ "J.C. Hopkins Biggish Band : NPR". npr.org. Retrieved 2014-10-24.
  5. ^ https://www.allaboutjazz.com/meet-me-at-mintons-jc-hopkins-biggish-band-harlem-jazz-records-review-by-james-nadal.php
  6. ^ https://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2017/03/14/backstage-with-billie-holiday-jerry-dantzic/
  7. ^ "JC Hopkins Biggish Band with Elvis Costello on Vimeo". vimeo.com. Retrieved 2014-10-24.
  8. ^ "JC Hopkins Biggish Band with special guests". midsummernightswing.org. Retrieved 2014-10-24.
  9. ^ "Summer Swing with JC Hopkins Biggish Band featuring Svetlana Shmulyian (vocal) | Blue Note Jazz Festival". bluenotejazzfestival.com. Retrieved 2014-10-24.
  10. ^ "Broadway Star's Nightclub Debut - WSJ.com". online.wsj.com. Retrieved 2014-10-24.
  11. ^ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-kompanek/on-the-culture-front-mint_b_6852418.html
  12. ^ https://tribecafilm.com/press-center/press-releases/2015-tribeca-film-festival-and-the-lincoln-motor-company-to-honor-frank-sinatra-with-centennial-tribute-april-21-2
  13. ^ https://www.allaboutjazz.com/meet-me-at-mintons-jc-hopkins-biggish-band-harlem-jazz-records-review-by-james-nadal.php
  14. ^ http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/0e589906-f316-11e4-a979-00144feab7de.html
  15. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/17/arts/music/jazz-listings-for-april-17-22.html
  16. ^ https://www.allaboutjazz.com/meet-me-at-mintons-jc-hopkins-biggish-band-harlem-jazz-records-review-by-james-nadal.php