Born Michael Gregory Jackson in New Haven, Connecticut in 1953, Michael began to play guitar at the age of seven. In his teens he often performed his own material during solo gigs and band appearances. Among Michael’s early influences were Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Son House, Joni Mitchell and Igor Stravinsky. His father exposed him to Wes Montgomery, Mahalia Jackson, Les Paul, Mary Ford, and early George Benson, and Michael's musical destiny began to take shape.
Progressive improvised music composer and trumpeter, Wadada Leo Smith, influenced Gregory to look beyond the boundaries of rock, folk and mainstream jazz, and soon Michael was playing avant-garde music with Smith and such other notables as pianist Anthony Davis, saxophonists Julius Hemphill, David Murray and Oliver Lake. During this period, Gregory notes, "I learned that it was ok to try different things, to experiment. If I had a song that was going this way, it was all right to make it go in another direction or to add diverse elements. I've allowed myself to be creatively and stylistically liberated." Gregory produced a series of stand out jazz recordings, including "Clarity, Circle, Triangle, Square", "Karmonic Suite", "Gifts" and "Heart and Center". Rolling Stone magazine raved, "By the time (Gregory) was twenty-one he was already one of the most original jazz guitarists to emerge since the Sixties."
As had David Bowie and others before him, Michael changed his name in 1982, to Michael Gregory, to avoid confusion with another artist who shared his name. It was during this period that Michael's career began to take off. Living in New York, he soon became known as a master guitarist who could transcend musical genres with ease, and who could also sing and write songs. Gregory worked with Mick Jagger, Steve Winwood, Walter Becker, Nona Hendryx, and in 1983, recorded his first pop/rock album "Situation X" with master-producer and Chic guitarist, Nile Rogers. Singer, Al Jarreau, quickly picked up and recorded one of Michael's songs from the album, "No Ordinary Romance".
Gregory went on to record and produce more crisp, pop recordings, including "What To Where" (RCA Records), however all of his music remained firmly rooted in jazz sensibilities and a fertile stylistic amalgam. By the early 1990's, Gregory had grown tired of the rigidity of the commercial music business and moved to Northampton, Massachusetts to spend more time with his family.
In his life, Michael, has wrestled with the difficult emotional issues that many of us face, including child abuse, divorce, loss, depression, and illness. And through these trials he has channeled his intense creative energies into music, resulting in some of the most poignant musical moments ever recorded. Michael also has the uncanny ability to express life's joys - to celebrate the power of love to transform - with beauty and grace.
Michael's new CD "Towards the Sun" is, in a very real sense, a rebirth, a distillation and also a transcendence of his rich and complicated history. "Towards the Sun" takes the listener on a beautiful and evocative emotional journey through the mind of a talented and spiritual artist. On this CD, Michael displays his ability to sculpt into lyrical poetry a variety of human emotions that most people feel but are rarely able to express. Michael's alluring vocals together with his unsurpassed guitar virtuosity and production expertise blend into an entirely satisfying experience with the kind of musical depth that keeps you coming back to hear more.
Appeared on MTV, PBS and other video networks, “Can’t Carry You” from “Situation-X” on Island Records. “Adventures in Success” w/Will Powers and Meatloaf for Island Records.Cabarets and theater performances with Ntozake Shange, Jessica Hagedorn, and Thulani Davis-Jarmon (Joseph Papp’s Shakespeare Public Theater) NYC Appeared in “Moving Beyond the Madness” curated by playwright, George Wolfe (New York Public Theater). Various venues USA, Canada, Japan, Europe, too numerous to list.
Performed and/or Recorded With
Mick Jagger, Carlos Santana, Nile Rodgers, Julius Hemphill, David Murray, Pheeroan aKLaff,
Jack Dejohnette, Bernard Edwards, Jabali Billy Hart, Buster Williams, Wadada Leo Smith, Steve Winwood, Walter Becker, Anthony Davis, Anton Fig, Melle Mel, Omar Hakim, Jerome Harris, Eddie Henderson, David Sancious, Marcus Miller, Willie Croes, Elisa Rego, Jerry Marotta, Jay Hoggard, Nona Hendryx, Ed Blackwell, Steve Thorton, Anthony Jackson, Gary Bartz, Tony Thompson, Sammy Figueroa, Marty Ehrlich, Karl Berger, Ingrid Berger, Oliver Lake, Henry Threadgill, Baikida Carroll, Vernon Reid, Anthony Braxton and many others.
“Michael Gregory's high tenor voice calls to mind Smokey Robinson, Sting or Ben Harper as it flows with his guitar riffs...He doesn't back away from the difficult and sometimes raw themes connected with love and loss. Lays bare the sinews of human emotion. Gregory's honesty and hypnotic sound mixes are unabashedly mellow.”
“A highly distinctive and beautiful CD of originals...his own unique style that synthesizes jazz, pop and soul...filled with romantic longing and smoldering passion...he creates a new musical genre that could be called New Age R&B.”
“One of the most lyrical musicians working today...singularly personal and arresting and one of contemporary music's few genuine poets... Gregory's daring, darting vocal is so serene yet intense that one is hard-put naming a contemporary vocalist of similar grace and power.”
“Take Bowie's sophistication, add Prince's flamboyance, and mix with plenty of originality. Michael Gregory writes crisp, vibrant songs, and sings them like it's a matter of life and death.”
“Gregory's voice recalls vintage Prince, Curtis Mayfield and Aaron Neville...There's little doubt that Gregory remains a stringman supreme.”
“At a certain point Gregory comes spinning out of an emotional wringer, and takes a beautifully berserk guitar solo. The dynamics are unbeatably exhilarating.”
“Gregory has that rare combination of virtuosity and versatility, able to play the guitar whiz...then slip easily into hugely commercial cuts. Michael Gregory is, quite simply, the business.”
“By the time he was twenty-one he was already one of the most original jazz guitarist to emerge since the Sixties.”
“Gregory may be a songwriter first - but he's a songwriter with a guitar in his hand !"
“The songs...realize Michael Gregory's own theoretical musings about the fertile musical possibilities created when applying blues and jazz sensibilities to rock.”