A versatile instrumentalist, bandleader, recording artist, composer and arranger, MIKE CROTTY and his music can be heard in a great variety of forums. After graduating from the Berklee College of Music, he joined the Airmen of Note, the U.S. Air Force’s premiere jazz ensemble. From 1972-1998, while serving as their writer/arranger, Crotty became widely recognized as one of the top composer/arrangers in the jazz field. A National Endowment for the Arts grant recipient, he has composed and arranged music for hundreds of albums, CDs and performances for jazz artists, such as Clark Terry, Billy Taylor, Mel Lewis, Dizzy Gillespie, Stanley Turrentine, Bunky Green, Ernie Watts, Randy Brecker, Ronnie Cuber, Claudio Roditi, Phil Wilson, Bob Berg, Jerry Bergonzi, James Williams, Bill Watrous, Sheila Jordan and Diane Schuur and pop artists, including Melba Moore, Kenny Rankin and the Four Freshman. Crotty has also orchestrated music for the nationally syndicated television show, National Geographic Explorer.
Appearing as bandleader, instrumentalist and composer/arranger, he showcased his music for many years with his 18-piece Sunday Morning Jazz Band, an ensemble applauded for its compelling innovation, musical superiority and artistic integrity. Their weekly concerts became a mainstay of the Washington, D.C. area jazz scene and culminated in the recording, In Search of the Phoenix. Both Clark Terry and Dizzy Gillespie commissioned Crotty to arrange music for special symphony performances: Dizzy for the London Philharmonic Orchestra (later recorded as The Symphony Sessions) and Clark Terry for the Denver Symphony. Crotty’s piece, Journey Inward, commissioned by The Commission Project, featured the Prism Brass Quintet and saxophone soloist, Chris Vadala, and was premiered at the Eastman School of Music. The Smithsonian Collection, Big Band Renaissance: The Evolution of the Jazz Orchestra, includes Crotty’s arrangement of the Christmas classic, “Noel”. He continues to showcase his original compositions and arrangements of the music of America’s jazz legends. Two of his groups are: The Mike Crotty Octet, featuring five horns and rhythm, and Floote Prints, featuring rhythm section, Joe Corrall, long-time flautist with the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra, and Crotty on C flute, alto and bass flutes and piccolo.
A prolific writer, Crotty’s library of arrangements numbers in the thousands, encompassing almost every standard American popular song and jazz tune performed today. They are written for instrumental jazz ensembles, from duo to 19-piece jazz ensemble to symphony orchestra, or vocal soloist and/or vocal ensembles with various ensembles. His music is published through Alfred Publishing, Walrus Music and University of Northern Colorado Press.
A multi-instrumentalist, Crotty plays trumpet, flugelhorn, saxophones, woodwinds and keyboards. Since 1965, he has been a mainstay in recording studios across the country, having written, produced and performed on thousands of recording sessions for film, television and commercial recordings. During his Air Force career, he performed on the Airmen of Note, playing all five saxophone chairs, three trumpet chairs and later appearing as guest soloist. During the 1980s, the Smithsonian Institute presented Crotty and his Sunday Morning Jazz Band in three distinct, feature concerts, each showcasing the music of different composers: Duke Ellington (1983), Boyd Raeburn (1982) and the third a “Salute to the Big Bands” (1984). In a later Smithsonian concert featuring singer, Deater O’Neill, Crotty (performing on saxophones, flutes and trumpet) and their quintet, the group presented the music recorded by the singers of the 1920s, 30s and 40s for the series, “Three Faces of Swing,” with Crotty adapting the music from the original recordings. In a special Wolftrap Center for the Performing Arts concert recorded for television, celebrating Dizzy Gillespie’s 70th birthday with an all-star cast of legendary jazz musicians, Gillespie’s Big Band was led by Crotty playing lead alto sax. He and his music were recently featured in a guest artist concert at Western Michigan University. He also performed at the LA Jazz Institute’s 2012 Festival “Jivin’ in BeBop: A Celebration of Big Band BeBop and Progressive Jazz,” where he directed the Boyd Raeburn Concert and played trumpet for the Stan Kenton concert and sax on the Charlie Barnett concert.
His musical career, which spans more than 40 years, has been highlighted by performances with great jazz stars, such as Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, Sonny Stitt, Mel Lewis, Randy Brecker, Ernie Watts, Bob Berg, Joe Lovano, Phil Wilson, Tom Harrell, Rufus Reid, Jerry Bergonzi, Pete Christlieb, Claudio Roditi, Louie Bellson, Billy Taylor, Mike Abene, Cy Johnson, Bob Mintzer, Lee Konitz, as well as legendary entertainers like Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, Sarah Vaughan, Diana Ross, Ray Charles, Joe Williams, Cleo Laine and John Dankworth, Natalie Cole, Maureen McGovern, Mary Chapin Carpenter, the Temptations, the Four Tops, George Burns, Milton Berle, Bob Hope, Rich Little, Steve Allen, Johnny Desmond, Tex Beneke, The Modernaires, plus saxophone in the National Symphony’s Pops Orchestra from 1985-2001.
Since 1984 he has toured the country with singer, Deater O’Neill and jazz trio, appearing in nightclubs, jazz festivals and concerts with symphony orchestras, wind ensembles and jazz bands. Performance highlights include concerts at the Kool Jazz Festival, the Monterey Jazz Festival, the Montreaux/Detroit Jazz Festival, the Ella Fitzgerald Music Festival, the Smithsonian Institute, the Corcoran Gallery of Art Jazz Series, Washington, D.C.’s National Press Club, the Jazz Times Convention in New York City; a Sister Cities International concert series in Bangkok, Thailand, representing the nation’s capital; a four-concert series as artist-in-residence at the J. F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; 25 years of concerts at D.C.’s famed jazz club, Blues Alley; concerts at Scottsdale’s Kerr Cultural Center; and a 27-concert tour throughout Arizona for the National Performing Arts Group.
Crotty also continues to be in demand as an educator and adjudicator, having presented clinics and concerts and adjudicated hundreds of band festivals at high schools, colleges and universities throughout the country for over 30 years. He has presented seminars for the Smithsonian Institution and numerous clinics for the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE) at annual and regional conventions. He directed jazz ensembles and taught jazz composition and brass at Towson University and Bowie State College and served as full-time jazz faculty in jazz composition and brass at Arizona State University from 2001-2008. He currently teaches composition, arranging, improvisation and jazz stylings for brass and woodwinds in his private studio.