John Carlini is a veteran guitarist and composer whose portfolio is a fascinating journey from classical to Broadway to jazz to bluegrass. An often-cited founding member of the seventies' West Coast "New Acoustic Music" scene, he is also an acclaimed arranger, orchestrator, and conductor. His father was a violinist in the New York Philharmonic for 25 years and his mother, Phyllis Mansfield Carlini, was a nationally renowned concert pianist. As a teenager, John became mesmerized by the New York City bluegrass scene after discovering the Wheeling West Virginia Jamboree on the car radio. He had the good fortune to become friends with bluegrass fiddle great, Tex Logan. Through Tex, Carlini learned about the 'heart and soul' of bluegrass music.
In 1965 John enlisted in the Navy. After boot camp he was assigned to the Navy School of Music in Norfolk, VA. While there he had an opportunity to audition for the U.S. Navy Show Band with which he toured for three years throughout the United States and South America. Upon completing his tour of duty, he enrolled in the Berklee College of Music in Boston, whose renowned jazz program had enticed him since high school. It was at Berklee that John gained the technical knowledge to make music his life's choice, graduating with a major in arranging and composition with guitar as his main instrument.
As a result of a lesson with 5-string banjo innovator, Bill Keith, Carlini met mandolinist/composer, David Grisman, “on the gig” at Gerde's Folk City in Greenwich Village, NY. Their relationship has endured for more than four decades. Among his accomplishments with Grisman, John was: musical director for the groundbreaking David Grisman Quintet, featuring guitarist, Tony Rice, and fiddle player, Darol Anger guitarist, replacing Jerry Garcia, in the Great American Music Band arranger for the 1982 release of "Dawg Jazz," a tune featuring Grisman with Doc Severinsen's Tonight Show Band arranger for Grisman’s “Mondo Mando” recorded by David with the string quartet, Kronos arranger for the classic recording, “Back to Back”, featuring swing mandolin legends, Jethro Burns and Tiny Moore, with bassist, Ray Brown, and drummer, Shelly Manne guitarist on the Grammy-nominated “Dawg '90” (Acoustic Disc) orchestrator and composer for the Federico DeLaurentiis film, King of the Gypsies, which also found him on camera, performing on guitar with the late, legendary violinist, Stephane Grappelli.
In 1995, John collaborated with long-time friend and fellow guitarist, Tony Rice, to release River Suite for Two Guitars (Sugar Hill), an opportunity for the two to rekindle their "new acoustic music" roots and present a superb collection of contemporary acoustic compositions.
In 2000 John established the John Carlini Quartet with John and Josh Rubin on guitars, Brian Glassman on bass and Steve Holloway on drums and percussion. This acoustic string band showcases Carlini’s own compositions and arrangements, as well as selections from the bluegrass/jazz/classic repertoire. They recorded Live at the Turning Point in Piermont NY.
A chance meeting and jam session at the International Bluegrass Music Association trade show in Louisville, KY led to a collaboration and friendship between John and Don Stiernberg, the quintessential Chicago-based jazz mandolinist. Also at that session was 5-string banjo jazz phenomenon, Pat Cloud. John decided to record that combo which led to the CD, The Game’s Afoot!, with the John Carlini Quartet (now including Don Stiernberg) and featuring special guest, Pat Cloud.
John teaches jazz and swing guitar and 5-string banjo. He has been on the faculty of Steve Kaufman’s Flatpicking Kamps for the past six seasons. He is a columnist for Flatpicking Guitar Magazine where he discusses myriad musical topics. John enjoys instructing at guitar seminars and performs in a variety of formats including solo guitarist, or with a duo, trio, or quartet.