Randy Napoleon

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Randy Napoleon
Randy Napoleon
Randy Napoleon
Background information
Born (1978-05-30) May 30, 1978 (age 42)
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
LabelsAzica, Gut String, Harbinger, Detroit Music Factory
Associated actsFreddy Cole Quartet, Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Michael Bublé, Benny Green, Rene Marie, Professors of Jazz, Eric Comstock

Randy Napoleon (born 30 May 1978) is an American jazz guitarist, composer, and arranger who tours nationally and internationally. He has also toured with the Freddy Cole Quartet, Benny Green (pianist), the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra led by John Clayton, Jeff Clayton, and Jeff Hamilton, Rene Marie, and with Michael Bublé.[1][2][3][1][4]

He is an associate professor in the College of Music at Michigan State University[5] and has done master classes at universities and music schools throughout the country and Canada.[6]

Early life[edit]

Napoleon was born in Brooklyn, New York, on May 30, 1978. He is the son of Greg Napoleon, a software engineer, and Davi Napoleon, a theater historian and arts journalist, and the grandson of Jack Skurnick, a musicologist and founder of EMS Recordings, and Fay Kleinman, a painter. He has one younger brother, Brian Napoleon. His family moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, when he was two years old.[7] He studied violin in the Ann Arbor schools before discovering the guitar.[8]

One of Napoleon's formative experiences was in a big band at Ann Arbor Pioneer High School,[9] led by trumpeter Louis Smith. Napoleon also played at the jazz clubs in Ann Arbor and learned from jam sessions at the Bird of Paradise Club. Early opportunities at the Del Rio, a local bar, and at events sponsored by WEMU, a local NPR jazz radio station, helped start his career.[7] When he was in high school, the Ann Arbor News covered his developing talent. <ref((https://aadl.org/aa_news_19930820-jazz_passion_sets_teenagers_tempo_1of2))</ref> Napoleon studied at the University of Michigan School of Music.[2] He moved to New York City after graduating in 1999 and back to Michigan after his appointment to Michigan State University's College of Music in the fall of 2014.

Later life and career[edit]

The Michigan State University Professors of Jazz, Diego Rivera, Randy Napoleon, Michael Dease, Xavier Davis, Etienne Charles, Rodney Whitaker, Randy Gelispie

Napoleon has led an organ trio which has toured the United States and United Kingdom and which did a concert for BBC radio. The trio appears on Enjoy the Moment and Randy Napoleon: Between Friends, both featuring Jared Gold (organist) and drummer Quincy Davis. 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.[2][3] The Randy Napoleon three-horn sextet appears on his 2012 album The Jukebox Crowd. A trio with Rodney Whitaker on bass and Gregory Hutchinson on drums appears on his album for the Detroit Music Factory, Soon.[10]

Napoleon has performed and arranged on all of Freddy Cole's albums since 2009. He has appeared on TV with Cole, on a 2007 PBS special, and on the 2009 Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon. Napoleon has appeared on Grammy-nominated albums, including Michael Buble: Caught in the Act, Freddy Cole Sings Mr. B, and Freddy Cole: My Mood is You. He arranged music for the two Cole albums.

Napoleon has also toured with Benny Green (2000–2001), Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra (2003–2004), and Michael Bublé (2004–2007). He has appeared on TV in Japan with CHJO and throughout Europe, Asia and America 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.[2][3][7]

Napoleon has performed with Monty Alexander, Bill Charlap, Michael Dease, Rene Marie, and Rodney Whitaker. He has appeared with cabaret performers Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano.[11]

Napoleon has performed at Lincoln Center, Hollywood Bowl, The Kennedy Center, Radio City Music Hall, Royal Albert Hall in London, and the Sydney Opera House in Australia.[1][3]

Napoleon is an associate professor at Michigan State University in the College of Music and performs with the MSU Professors of Jazz. He was on the faculty of the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance from 2013 to 2014, where he taught jazz guitar. He has taught master classes and clinics at many colleges including Bucknell University, Temple University, Humber College, and Oakland University.[12] He married Alison Rogers Napoleon in 2010. They have two children, Jack Lawrence (2013) and Juliet Claire (2017).


The Freddy Cole Quartet with Curtis Boyd drums, Elias Bailey bass, and Randy Napoleon guitar

As leader[edit]

  • Enjoy the Moment (PKO 2002)
  • Between Friends (Azica, 2006)
  • Bitter/Sweet with Eric Comstock (Harbindger, 2010)
  • The Jukebox Crowd (Gut String, 2011)
  • Soon (Detroit Music Factory, 2016)
  • Common Tones (Detroit Music Factory, 2019)

As sideman[edit]

With Freddy Cole

  • Era Jazzu (2007)
  • The Dreamer in Me (HighNote, 2009)
  • Freddy Cole Sings Mr. B (HighNote, 2010)
  • Talk to Me (HighNote, 2011)
  • Singing the Blues (HighNote, 2014)
  • My Mood Is You (HighNote, 2018)

With others


  1. ^ a b c "Randy Napoleon Returns to Brooklyn Roots". All About Jazz. 1 November 2007. Retrieved 18 August 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d All About Jazz (2007). "Randy Napoleon". All About Jazz. Archived from the original on January 17, 2008. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  3. ^ a b c d All About Jazz (2006). "Jazz Guitarist Randy Napoleon Unites Top Artists for New Release". All About Jazz. Archived from the original on December 11, 2006. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  4. ^ Zan Stewart (2007). "Freddy's way". The New Jersey Star-Ledger. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  5. ^ "Randy Napoleon". music.msu.edu. Retrieved 19 October 2017.
  6. ^ "Randy Napoleon".
  7. ^ a b c Christian Czerwinski (2006). "Jazz guitarist gets his own backing band". Lansing State Journal. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
  8. ^ Richardson, Trish (6 November 2012). "Randy Napoleon: Playing for the Jukebox Crowd". All About Jazz. Retrieved 19 October 2017.
  9. ^ Roger LeLeivre (2013). "Louis Smith Gets a Well Deserved Tribute from Former Students". AnnArbor.com. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
  10. ^ "Randy Napoleon". Detroit Music Factory. Retrieved 19 October 2017.
  11. ^ Ahlfors, Elizabeth (April 2011) Cabaret Scenes
  12. ^ Kopchik, Kathryn (7 December 2011). "Cabaret Jazz Series resumes with Randy Napoleon Quartet". www.bucknell.edu. Retrieved 19 October 2017.

External links[edit]