|Born||May 30, 1978|
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
|Labels||Azica, Gut String, Harbinger, Detroit Music Factory|
|Associated acts||Freddy Cole Quartet, Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Michael Bublé, Benny Green, Rene Marie, Professors of Jazz, Eric Comstock|
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. He studied violin in the Ann Arbor schools before discovering the guitar.
One of Napoleon's formative experiences was in a big band at Ann Arbor Pioneer High School, 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. Napoleon studied at the University of Michigan School of Music. 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
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. 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.
Napoleon tours internationally with singer and pianist Freddy Cole and with singer Rene Marie. He is the guitarist on Cole's 2009 album The Dreamer in Me and performs on and arranged the music for all of Freddy Cole's albums since then. 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.
Napoleon is an assistant 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.
As leader/co-leader and arranger
- Enjoy the Moment, co-leader with Jared Gold (PKO, 2002)
- Randy Napoleon: Between Friends, (Azica, 2006)
- Bitter/Sweet, co-leader with Eric Comstock, (Harbinger, 2011)
- The Jukebox Crowd, (Gut String/CD Baby, 2012)
- Soon, (Detroit Music Factory/Mack Avenue, 2016)
With Michael Bublé
- Let It Snow (2005)
- With Love (2006)
- Caught in the Act (2006)
- A Taste of Bublé (2008)
As sideman and arranger
With Freddy Cole
- The Dreamer in Me – Live at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola, (2009)
- Sings Mr. B, (2010)
- Talk to Me, (2011)
- This and That, (2013)
- Singing the Blues, (2014)
- He Was the King, (2016)
- My Mood is You, (2018)
- Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra: Live at MCG, (2004)
- Josh Brown Quartet: The Feeling of Jazz, (2006)
- Justin Ray: Justin Ray, (2007)
- Jared Gold: Solids & Stripes, (2008)
- Melissa Morgan: Until I Met You, (2009)
- Paul Keller/Steve Richko Quintet: Swingin' the Praise, (2009)
- Josh Brown: Songbook Trio, (2012)
- Hilary Gardner: The Great City, (2014)
- Etienne Charles Creole Christmas (2015)
- Justin Ray: Evil Man Blues, (2015)
- Michael Dease: All These Hands, (2016)
- "Randy Napoleon Returns to Brooklyn Roots". All About Jazz. 1 November 2007. Retrieved 18 August 2018.
- Zan Stewart (2007). "Freddy's way". The New Jersey Star-Ledger. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
- All About Jazz (2007). "Randy Napoleon". All About Jazz. Archived from the original on January 17, 2008. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
- 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.
- "Randy Napoleon". music.msu.edu. Retrieved 19 October 2017.
- "Randy Napoleon".
- Christian Czerwinski (2006). "Jazz guitarist gets his own backing band". Lansing State Journal. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
- Richardson, Trish (6 November 2012). "Randy Napoleon: Playing for the Jukebox Crowd". All About Jazz. Retrieved 19 October 2017.
- Roger LeLeivre (2013). "Louis Smith Gets a Well Deserved Tribute from Former Students". AnnArbor.com. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
- "Randy Napoleon". Detroit Music Factory. Retrieved 19 October 2017.
- Ahlfors, Elizabeth (April 2011) Cabaret Scenes
- Kopchik, Kathryn (7 December 2011). "Cabaret Jazz Series resumes with Randy Napoleon Quartet". www.bucknell.edu. Retrieved 19 October 2017.