Jonathan Crayford is an award winning pianist, multi-instrumentalist and critically-acclaimed composer from New Zealand. As a musician in New York he has worked with Kurt Rosenwinkel, David Binney, Mambo Macoco, Groove Collective and in Europe with David Murray, Tony Allen, Questlove, Macy Gray, Bobby Carcasses (Cuba) and many others internationally. As a film composer he has scored numerous feature films, winning industry awards. His latest trio of albums gained critical acclaim with East West Moon receiving the 2017 Tui Award for Best Jazz album.
Jazz writer John Fenton adds: “I have seen [Jonathan] perform on a number occasions but there’s no second guessing what will materialise on any given night. His experiences in music lead him in many directions and all of them interesting. While some describe him as genre busting, I think the descriptor is overly simplistic. I have heard him perform a killing version of, I Pity the Poor Immigrant (Bob Dylan). Yes, he appropriates the sounds about him and often performs with artists from outside of the Jazz spectrum, but at heart he’s an improvising musician. No matter what notes he plays you can feel the integrity; the perpetual questioning of a deep level interpreter.
Jonathan began playing the piano at age 3 studying classical music with Sister Henry of Sacred Heart convent in Lower Hutt, NZ. He played in nightclubs at the age of 14 with his father Terry Crayford the celebrated pianist and arranger/composer. At 17 he left school and worked briefly as crew on films before being offered the job of composing for one. What followed was a career in scoring films and playing in bands whilst working on compositional commissions for Radio New Zealand for several years. He played in several bands with actor/musician Bruno Lawrence who introduced him to numerous other musicians outside of NZ. At the age of 26 he moved to New York to immerse himself in the jazz scene and following a short while studying at the Julliard school of music began playing with notable musicians on the scene including Kurt Rosenwinkel, David Binney, Groove Collective, Mambo Macoco, Jay Rodriguez, Bill Ware and many others in the genres of jazz, Latin jazz, funk and in some cases classical. “I'm not a classical player but I love playing this music and have found a way to do it that suits me,” says Jonathan.
In 2009 he moved to Paris to work on his own 2 year project concerning the life of Évariste Galois – the genius French mathematician for which he received the Edwin Carr Scholarship. Whilst there he assisted US Jazz musician David Murray in the creation of several projects involving the Afrobeat music of Fela Kuti with Tony Allen, Questlove, Macy Gray, Amp Fiddler, Mamani Keita (Mali) and other world music artists. He returned to New York in 2013 to record Dark Light with Ben Street and Dan Weiss, which has won great critical acclaim: “It's a towering composition on an album that clocks in at a perfect 45 minutes and leaves you gasping at its beauty, richness and assuredness,” wrote music reviewer Mike Alexander: “Crayford has always threatened to record something special to match his obvious talents as a composer. Dark Light is it and is as good a jazz album you're likely to hear this year.”
Simon Sweetman says: “Dark Light is to my ears a masterpiece. The best piano-trio album I’ve heard in an age. The finest playing from all three players; it’s all you could hope for – and then some… I’ll listen to Jonathan Crayford play anything – any instrument, any line-up, any context – because he’s a seriously good musician. But my favourite way to hear him is at the piano in charge of a trio.”
In 2016 he was commissioned to write orchestral music for a project in Cadaqués, Spain under the direction of Francesc Llongueres and performed solo piano concerts throughout Europe.
He continues to work as film composer, concert pianist, multi-instrumentalist and jazz artist. His solo piano work involves improvisation, jazz and classical music. This year, he will be touring NZ playing a wide variety of musical genres on a Steinway D Grand piano which he will be taking to venues that might otherwise miss out on a truly magical piano experience.