John D'earth

Senior Lecturer, Director of Jazz Performance


John D’earth plays trumpet with a striking, original sound and a technique that he mobilizes for spitfire improvisation and gripping melodies. A consummate jazz artist, composer, and gifted educator, he draws inspiration from collaborators on the bandstand, from students, and from nature. Internationally known for his contributions in straight-ahead jazz (D’earth served as foil to guitarist Emily Remler, added brawn to the George Gruntz Big Band, and played on Bob Moses’ early recordings) he exhibits omnivorous musical tastes including free improvisation, mainstream rock, and modern classical music. Since he joined the musicians union at age fourteen this wildly eclectic musician has performed across the globe. He appears on over 100 recordings on vinyl, CDs, film, and video in a career that spans the analogue and digital eras. Despite a commanding musical presence he possesses an uncanny ability to bring out the best in musicians with whom he shares the bandstand. All of this is evident on his newly released album, Coin Of The Realm, (Cosmology Records 2023). This song cycle of originals, recorded  with his long-standing quintet, reveals  a musician who, in his seventies, is still evolving and very much in his creative prime. 


D'earth’s recordings as a leader for Vanguard Records, ENJA Records, DoubleTime Jazz, and his own Cosmology label reflect an eclectic, searching nature, rooted in the entirety of the jazz tradition and a trumpet sensibility that owes as much to Louis Armstrong as to Lee Morgan and Miles Davis. The list of top-flight musicians he has played with presents it’s own syllabus of jazz genealogies; they include Buddy Rich, Lionel Hampton, Gunter Hampel’s Galaxie Dream Band, Miles Davis/Quincy Jones at Montreaux, Tito Puente, Emily Remler, Bennie Wallace, Eddie Gomez, The George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band (European and China tours), Bob Moses, Pat Metheny, Joe Henderson, Clark Terry, John Abercrombie, and John Scofield,  as well as pop stars Bruce Hornsby, Bonnie Raitt, and Dave Matthews.

A prolific composer and arranger with hundreds of compositions to his credit including full-length works for orchestra and other large ensembles, D’earth has written music for the Kronos String Quartet, the Kandinsky Trio, Bruce Hornsby, the Dave Matthews Band, the San Diego, Atlanta, Richmond and Roanoke Symphony Orchestras, the Charlottesville Chamber Music Festival, the University of Virginia Jazz Ensemble, Doug Richards’ Great American Music Ensemble, and the Charlottesville-Albemarle Youth Orchestra. 

D’earth has a reputation as an extraordinary teacher. He shines jamming with fifth grade bucket drummers at a Charlottesville public school, busking with middle school kids,  instructing highlighly skilled undergraduate and graduate students, and coaching emerging professional artists. He is the Director of Jazz Performance at the University of Virginia where he teaches improvisation, jazz trumpet, jazz composition, and directs the UVA Jazz Ensemble. His teaching practice centers improvisation as a way of learning music, making music, and moving through the world; this allows him to work effectively with very young children, with beginners, and with non-musicians in contexts that range from co-operative primary schools to corporate leadership retreats.

D’earth’s mother bought him his first horn for $15 when he was eight after he saw Louis Armstrong play trumpet in a movie. He studied, as a teenager, with saxophonist Boots Mussulli, (Stan Kenton, Charlie Ventura, Teddy Wilson) with John Coffey (principal trombonist in the Boston Symphony) and arranging with Thad Jones. He attended Harvard University for five semesters. Drawn to the vibrant jazz and loft scene, in NYC, and after interacting with many of the great musicians creating it, he left school and moved to Manhattan. There he studied with Carmine Caruso, Vince Penzarella and Richie Beirach. 

D'earth relocated to Charlottesville, Virginia in the mid-eighties and has been a major influence in building a vibrant local music culture including a thirty year residency at Miller’s, an iconic restaurant and live music venue on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall. He is a co-founder of the Free Bridge Quintet, was the music director for Cosmology (which became the Thompson D'earth Band) with his late wife, vocalist/songwriter Dawn Thompson, leads the Charlottesville Swing Orchestra, Thursday Night at Miller’s, and his own quartet/quintet/sextet. 

John D'earth's career in music is documented in the Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz, (Oxford Press) by Leonard Feather and Ira Gitler. 

Go to Dearthworks.com to learn more about John D’earth and to the John D’earth Band Camp page https://johndearth.bandcamp.com/ to hear current and archival music.



UVA Department of Music
112 Old Cabell Hall
P.O. Box 400176 Charlottesville, VA 22904-4176

Email: music@virginia.edu