John D'earth

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John D'earth
Performing Casco, Maine 2008
Performing Casco, Maine 2008
Background information
Birth nameJohn Edward Dearth II
Born (1950-03-30) March 30, 1950 (age 71)
Framingham, Massachusetts United States
OriginHolliston, Massachusetts United States
GenresJazz, hard bop, post-bop
Years active1967–present
LabelsVanguard, Double-Time
Associated actsBruce Hornsby
Dave Matthews Band
Jae Sinnett

John D'earth (born March 30, 1950) is an American post-bop/hard bop jazz trumpeter born in Framingham, Massachusetts who has appeared on recordings by Dave Matthews and Bruce Hornsby as well as recording a number of CDs on his own. He currently resides in Charlottesville, Virginia.


John Edward Dearth II was born in 1950 in Framingham, Massachusetts, growing up in nearby Holliston. His father had survived the Pacific theater of World War II and was "obsessed" with jazz. As D'earth says, "He was a maniac for music and for jazz music. He was my first teacher. He revealed to me mysteries of art and music that are priceless."[1]

His father would blast his records throughout the night, driving the family crazy. He would also sit with his two-year-old son, teaching him to play drum brushes on a metal tray. His father was "drawn to the complexities of be-bop" with its raw rhythms and stylings. "He hated white bands that were corny and tight," D'earth states. "Those were prejudices too, and I learned some of those prejudices early on."[1]

The Dearth family lived in a house from the 1690s that had been The Littlefield Tavern during the Colonial era. D'earth's parents divorced when he was eight, around the time he got his first trumpet. He immediately walked out into the yard and played it to the trees, discovering scales on his own.[1]

Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five were D'earth's favorite band, but he also appreciated classical music. Jazz instruction wasn't so easy to find in the early 1960s, but D'earth crossed paths with Henry "Boots" Mussulli, who was a veteran of the big band days.[1]

This Sicilian alto saxophone player and arranger had opened the Sons of Italy Crystal Room, a speakeasy that presented acts like Count Basie and Roy Eldridge in nearby Milford. He was part of a group of jazz instructors who helped form Berklee College of Music.[1]

One day Mussulli sat a young D'earth next to him and called a friend and simply said, "Listen." He and D'earth began improvising on the Charlie Parker be-pop classic "Confirmation". When done, Mussulli picked the receiver and said, "Fourteen" — then hung up. That experience changed D'earth's life, confirming his musical gift. As a teenager, DownBeat said of his performance at the Newport Jazz Festival that he played "like a young Freddie Hubbard."[1]

On Mussulli's impact D'earth says:[1]

What he taught me about professionalism and what it is to really know your stuff ... to be uncompromising with yourself about it ... I learned that from him, and everything unfolds from there. You've got to know two things in jazz: Tell your story and don't copy people.

D'earth met Robert Jospé, a jazz drummer who would later relocate to Charlottesville and become a UVA music instructor, in 1967 at The Cambridge School of Weston, a preparatory high school near Boston. They started a group named Fire and Ice, and "began a collaboration that continues today."[1]

D'earth added the apostrophe to his name later in life.[1]


D'earth attended Harvard University briefly only to drop out and pursue his musical career. In his early years he played in Bob Moses' innovative bands. He co-founded the group Cosmology (Vanguard Records) with bandmates drummer Robert Jospe and singer Dawn Thompson — whom D'earth later married. Jospé, D'earth, and Thompson, whom he met in New York, came to Charlottesville in 1981 for a summer and have all lived there ever since.[1] Before heading for The Big Apple, Thompson had helped found the famed Prism Coffeehouse musical venue in Charlottesville.[2]

D'earth is the Director of Jazz Performance at the University of Virginia as well as the artist in residence at Virginia Commonwealth University. D`earth was music teacher at The Tandem School in Charlottesville from the early- to mid-1980s. He influenced many of his students while also teaching them to step out of their comfort zones and experience many musical styles they wouldn't have otherwise.[3]

He plays Thursday nights in downtown Charlottesville at Miller's with other musicians including: JC Kuhl, Pete Spaar, Jamal Millner, Devonne Harris, Pureum Jin, Brian Caputo, Wells Hanley, Adam Larrabee, Brian Jones, and many others. He plays at Fellini's No. 9 first Saturdays monthly with Devonne Harris (drums), Bob Hallahan (Piano), and Pete Spaar (Upright Bass).

In addition to being a prominent jazz figure in Charlottesville, John can be found making frequent appearances with younger up-and-coming players as well as older mainstay musicians alike in the Richmond, Virginia area. D'earth is known for his work with musicians such as Miles Davis, Buddy Rich, Dave Matthews Band, and Emily Remler.[4]


On (2013)

  • Yo, Susannah
  • What Woody Do (Adam's Vamp)
  • Prelude II
  • Outside Insight
  • Market
  • Goodbye Secret King (for LeRoi Moore)
  • Lady on a Train
  • We Shall See
  • Water Is The Blood of Earth

When the Serpent Flies (2006)

Mercury (2001)

Restoration Comedy (2000)

  • Howard Curtis - drums
  • Mike Richmond - upright bass
  • Mulgrew Miller - piano
  • Jerry Bergonzi - sax

Thursday Night Live at Millers (1998)

  • Dawn Thompson - vocals
  • Jeff Decker and Bobby Read - saxophones
  • Wells Hanley - piano
  • Jamal Millner - guitar
  • Pete Spaar - upright bass
  • Robert Jospé - drums
  • guest Doug Bethel trombone
  • produced by Greg Howard

As sideman[edit]

With Ray Anderson

With Emily Remler

Honors, awards, distinctions[edit]

  • D'earth appears in The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz on pages 175-76.[1]


D'earth appeared regularly with his vocalist wife Dawn Thompson, who died August 31, 2017 after surviving nine years with brain cancer. She was born in Alexandria, Virginia on October 9, 1946.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Morris, Giles (2013-06-11). "John D'earth is ready to release a new album, but the music is only part of the story". C-VILLE Weekly. Retrieved 2018-03-17.
  2. ^ a b "Dawn Lee Thompson Obituary - CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA". Dignity Memorial. Retrieved 2018-03-17.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Carr, Ian; Digby Fairweather; Brian Priestley (1995). Jazz: The Rough Guide. The Rough Guides. pp. 165. ISBN 1-85828-137-7.

External links[edit]