GUITARIST | COMPOSER | EDUCATOR
Co-founder of the pioneering chamber ensemble The String Trio of New York, virtuoso guitarist and composer James Emery has received international recognition for his distinctive and highly original approach to both improvisation and composition. Drawing upon a full range of musical information, his sensibility draws in nearly equal measures upon formal notions of structure and technique and a robust willingness to improvise, experiment, and follow his musical intuition – both as composer and player.
Artistic Director of the highly accomplished Sound Directions, Inc., James has been highly active as virtuoso performer, oft-commissioned composer and inspiring educator on the international jazz and contemporary music scene since 1975 with over two dozen CDs as a leader or co-leader and live performances in more than 25 countries worldwide. His recordings have been described as “innovative and imaginative” and “utterly distinctive” by the Penguin Guide to Jazz, which selected his orchestral recording, Transformations for its edition titled "The History of Jazz in the 1001 Best Albums." He has received international critical acclaim for his work leading various ensemble formations of jazz and creative music, particularly the String Trio which is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2018.
His unique artistic expression has resulted in many awards, grants, and commissions including a Guggenheim Fellowship. He has also received awards and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Cary Trust, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. His compositions have been commissioned with funding from the Cary Trust, Chamber Music America, the Meet the Composer/Rockefeller/ AT&T program, Meet the Composer’s Commissions USA program and the MTC/Lila Wallace Jazz Program.
As a distinguished sideman Emery has performed and recorded with a variety of contemporary music heavyweights, including Steve Reich, Wadada Leo Smith, Anthony Braxton, Henry Threadgill, Joe Lovano, Leroy Jenkins, and many others. A composer of great scope and depth, he has composed for chamber groups, jazz ensembles, solo guitar, chamber orchestra and symphony orchestra.
Emery has composed over 150 works, his most recent being a double concerto commissioned by the Skidmore College Orchestra. One of his proudest moments was performing the piece with his daughter, clarinetist Hannah Emery.