Trombonist/composer/conductor JC Sanford is a musician of rare breadth, deeply rooted in the traditions of Jazz and Classical music, yet constantly pushing at their boundaries. Equally at home in many roles, Sanford works regularly as a composer, trombonist, arranger, and conductor. JC’s original works often defy typical genre labels. While he originally built a reputation through big band writing, JC has forayed into many other areas – composing for solo piano, wind and brass formations, and various mixed chamber ensembles. A founding member of the composers’ federation Pulse (with Darcy James Argue & Joseph C. Phillips, Jr.), JC was a member of the BMI Jazz Composers’ Workshop led by Jim McNeely and Mike Abene for 5 years. His 2014 debut CD with the JC Sanford Orchestra entitled Views from the Inside yielded international acclaim and was awarded a 2014 Aaron Copland Fund Recording Grant alongside organizations and ensembles such as the Seattle Symphony, Nonesuch Records, and American Composers Forum.
JC is also the leader of two small groups, the jazz quartet JC4, and the chamber jazz trio Triocracy, both of which released new CDs in 2019. He has regularly been recognized as a “Rising Star” as a trombonist, arranger, and big band in DownBeat Magazine’s Critic’s Polls over the past several years. He has been a member of several diverse NYC-based ensembles including the Andrew Rathbun Large Ensemble, the Asuka Kakitani Jazz Orchestra, Nathan Parker Smith’s prog-rock big band, Andrew Green’s film noir tribute Narrow Margin, singer-songwriter Joy Askew’s New York Brass, and Joseph C. Phillips, Jr.’s jazz/new music hybrid Numinous. He has performed as a trombonist with the likes of Danilo Pérez, Matt Wilson, Anthony Cox, and Bill Stewart.
JC is in high demand as a conductor of new original music. He conducts the thrice-Grammy-nominated John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble, Joel Harrison’s Infinite Possibility, the Alan Ferber Nonet with Strings, the Frank Carlberg Large Ensemble, and the Alice Coltrane Orchestra featuring Ravi Coltrane, Jack DeJohnette, and Charlie Haden. He was the curator the “Size Matters” large ensemble series Brooklyn for 4 1/2 years.
JC is the recipient of a D.M.A. in Jazz Studies from New England Conservatory of Music. At NEC, he studied with Bob Brookmeyer, John Mosca, Danilo Pérez, and John McNeil, while also directing the NEC Little Big Band. A Minnesota native, Sanford’s undergraduate years were spent at the University of Northern Iowa where he was mentored by reputed jazz pedagogue Bob Washut.
Since returning to MN with his family in 2016, JC has performed as a trombonist in the Twin Cities area with JT and Chris Bates, Davu Seru, Anthony Cox, Zacc Harris, Dave Hagedorn, and Laura Caviani. In 2017 he co-founded the Twin Cities Jazz Composers’ Workshop alongside his wife Asuka Kakitani, trumpeter Adam Meckler, trombonist Dave Stamps, and saxophonists Aaron Hedenstrom and Kari Musil. He is currently adjunct professor of jazz at Gustavus Adolphus College and works for Lotus Lights. He recently received a 2018 McKnight Composer Fellowship and a 2019 MN State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant to record his quartet. As of May 1, 2019, he is the artistic/musical director of the JazzMN Orchestra.