Primarily recognized as an award-winning, jazz vibraphonist, Mike Mainieri’s equally remarkable talents as producer, arranger, and composer have contributed to shaping the cutting-edge in music. Throughout his fruitful career--now spanning almost five decades--Mike has collaborated with the world’s most formidable jazz player’s produced numerous albums, and discovered a host of innovative, young talent.
Raised in a family of performers and musicians, Mike’s training began early. At the age of 14, his own jazz trio was touring with the PAUL WHITEMAN ORCHESTRA, and by 17 he was playing and arranging for Buddy Rich’s sextet --a tenure that continued up until 1962. During this period, he also played with such legendary artists as Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins and Wes Montgomery, and at the age of 19 he won the International Jazz Critic’s Award.
As a solo artist, Mike has created and contributed to countless, visionary artistic endeavors. In 1962, he joined the groundbreaking jazz/rock group JEREMY & THE SATYRS led by flutist Jeremy Steig. Along with Warren Bernhardt, Donald MacDonald, Adrian Guilery, and Eddie Gomez, THE SATYRS jammed at New York’s Club A Go Go, and performed with such monumental figures as Frank Zappa, Richie Havens and Jimi Hendrix. During the late 60’s, this small circle of performers grew into what became known as the WHITE ELEPHANT ORCHESTRA, a 20-piece, all-star, experimental ensemble. The group featured Saxophonists: George Young, Frank Vacari, Michael Brecker, and Ronny Cuber; Trumpeters: Jon Faddis, Lew Soloff, and Randy Brecker, Bassist: Tony Levin, Drummers: Steve Gadd & Donald MacDonald, Pianist: Warren Bernhardt, Guitarists: Joe Beck, David Spinozza, and Hugh McCraken. Under Mike’s direction, this jazz/rock big band evolved into a laboratory for experimentation with various musical forms, ideas, and philosophies. From 1969-1972, the WHITE ELEPHANT clan of New York’s finest musicians jammed, and recorded at studios throughout the city, and its energy spawned many musical directions for the decades to follow, including DREAMS, ARS NOVA, BRECKER BROTHERS, L’IMAGES and eventually the group STEPS, later to be renamed STEPS AHEAD.
During the late 70’s, Mike founded the pioneering jazz/ fusion groups STEPS AHEAD, which included previous cohorts Michael Brecker, Eddie Gomez, Steve Gadd and Don Grolnick. Delving into contemporary sounds while maintaining experimentation and compositional integrity, STEPS AHEAD was, and is, a launching pad for young talent and new musical ideas. STEPS ‘alumni’ include Saxophonists: Michael Brecker, Bendik Hofseth, Bob Mintzer, Bob Berg, Pianists: Don Grolnick, Warren Bernhardt, Eliane Elias, Dave Kikoski, Joey Calderazzo, Guitarists: Chuck Loeb, Mike Stern, Jim Tunnell, Bassists: Eddie Gomez, Marc Johnson, Ed Howard, Larry Grenadier, Scott Colley, Victor Bailey, Daryl Jones, Tony Levin, Jeff Andrews, Drummers: Steve Gadd, Peter Erskine, Billy Kilson, Clarance Penn, Steve Smith, Jeff 'Tain' Watts and Rachel Z. Other noteworthy collaborations have included recordings with Joe Henderson, Marcus Miller, Joe Lovano, and Jim Hall, just to name a few.
As a composer, arranger, and performer, Mike has contributed to over 100 gold and platinum albums. An active participant in the rock and pop scenes, he’s worked with Paul Simon, Linda Ronstadt, Aerosmith, Billy Joel, Janis Ian, James Taylor, Dire Staits, and Bonnie Raitt. He’s produced albums for George Benson, Carly Simon, Ben Sidran and Andy Summers, and STEPS AHEAD.
In 1992, Mike brought to bear his vast experience with the creation of NYC RECORDS. An extension of himself, the independent label is a vehicle for exposing new ideas grounded in the jazz idiom. With the hip, fresh sounds of Zachary Breaux and Rachel Z; saxophonists George Garzone and Myron Walden; the eclectic, musical cacophony of Philip DeGruy’s solo guitar; and Mike’s own projects Mike Mainieri, AN AMERICAN DIARY series--featuring Joe Lovano, George Garzone, Eddie Gomez, and Peter Erskine--and the ever evolving STEPS AHEAD. Mike has also recorded a second album in “DIARY” series that features George Garzone, Marc Johnson, Peter Erskine, and guest artists, Eric Friedlander, Arto Tuncboyan, Noa, Gil Dor, David Tronzo and Dee Carstensen.