The point is to strip down, get protestant, then even more naked. Walk over scorched bricks to find your own soul. Your heart a searching dog in the rubble.

-Barry Hannah

George Cartwright   Biography


"Incandescent saxophone playing "- The New York Times

George Cartwright is a Minnesota-based composer, performer, bandleader, producer and musical collaborator, with a prolific career spanning over 30 years. His career began in his home state of Mississippi, shaped by a childhood woven through with early memories of singing in church and learning songs at his grandfather’s knee. He grew up on rock-n-roll and fell in love with jazz after hearing Charles Lloyd’s iconic “Forest Flower,” and like the British bands that he listened to in high school, he was also heavily influenced by the blues being played literally in his own backyard of the Mississippi Delta.  

Musical instrument exploration naturally followed, beginning with piano lessons and later guitar, learning to play by ear. During this phase, George began his initial foray into composing, writing lyrical pieces, as well as instrumental pieces in the manner of Mississippi John Hurt and John Fahey. He bought his first sax on his 2 birthday from a secondhand thrift store for $65—a gift from his grandmother. Irresistibly drawn to the beauty and passion of jazz saxophone – not to mention experiencing a musical epiphany after hearing Ornette Coleman’s “Dancing in Your Head” – George began to purposefully channel his energy into composing. 

Post-college, he studied at the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, NY, where he was exposed to the music and concepts of Dave Holland, Anthony Braxton, Karl Berger, Frederic Rzewski, Kalaparusha, Ursula Oppens, Leo Smith, Oliver Lake, and many other major jazz innovators of the time.  

The late 70’s involved a move to New York City, where George formed a trio with Michael Lytle and David Moss, known as Meltable Snaps It, performing at such venues as The Kitchen, The Franklin Furnace, Phil Niblock’s Experimental Intermedia Foundation, and Inroads. In 1979, he also formed his band Curlew with bassist Bill Laswell, which went on to record 12 CDs and LPs under the Cuneiform Records label, among others. The band included such notables as Tom Cora, Fred Frith, Wayne Horwitz, Davey Williams and Ann Rupel, and performed at high-profile jazz festivals and venues in North America and Europe. 

In 1993, George returned to his Southern roots, relocating to Memphis, Tennessee. Over the next six years, he continued to collaborate with fellow musicians, compose, perform and produce recordings with Curlew. During this time, he also produced a solo CD 'The Memphis Years”. 

George moved to his current home base in the Twin Cities in 1999, where he found a tremendous wealth of like-minded musicians, with whom he continues to collaborate and record to this day. George has worked with a wide range of artists both domestically and abroad. In addition to composing, George continues to perform locally in the Twin Cities.  Performances include The Cedar Cultural Center, numerous events at The Walker Art Center, Studio Z, The Black Dog. Jazz Central and others. 

Professional Recognition:

 Awards and Grants 2017 - Inclusion in The Mississippi Encyclopedia , published by The Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, and launched at an event at the Library of Congress. In this mammoth collaboration celebrating all things notable about the state, George’s entry in this grand tome stands alongside the likes of other noteworthy Mississippians such as Robert Johnson and BB King.   2017

The Jerome Foundation, Composers Commissioning Program- 2008
Jazz Musician of the Year, Minneapolis City Pages- 2005

Additional Education :

Mississippi State University, Bachelor of Arts
Jackson State University, Dedicated Studies, 1975
The Creative Music Studio, Private studies with Jimmy Giuffre, Byard Lancaster, Kalaparusha and Wilber Moreland
Proficiency in Cubase SX, Pro Tools, Plogue Bidule, Ableton Live

Collaborations :

  • Alex Chilton (Featured on Darn It! by Paul Haines)  

  • Amy Denio (Vocals featured on Beautiful Western Saddle and he Memphis Year)

  • Ann Rupel (Featured on multiple Curlew recordings)

  • Bill Laswell (Original bassist for Curlew)

  • Butch Morris (Featured on cornet on North America by Curlew)

  • Chris Cochrane (Featured on multiple Curlew recordings)

  • Davey Williams (Featured on multiple Curlew recordings)

  • David Thomas (European tour of The Wooden Birds)

  • Fred Frith (Featured on North America by Curlew)

  • Mark Dresser

  • Michael Lytle

  • Michelle Kinney

  • Ornette Coleman

  • Paul Haines (Lyrics featured on Beautiful Western Saddle and The Memphis Year)

  • Samm Bennett (Featured on drums on Paradis, by Curlew)

  • Sonny Sharrock (Live performance, London)

  • The Box Tops (Live performance, also featuring Alex Chilton)

Selected Discography:

The Kitchen - The Kitchen Improvises: 1976—1983 (curated by George Lewis), Orange Mountain Music, 2011.
George Cartwright -Send Help, Innova Recordings, 2011.
Curlew - A Beautiful Western Saddle with songs made from the poems of Paul Haines and sung by Amy Denio Cuneiform      Records, 1989 (reissued 2010) -Buy this recording
GeorgeCartwright - The Ghostly Bee - Innova Recordings, 2008.
Curlew - Curlew. Down Town Music Gallery, 2008.
George Cartwright- The Ghostly Bee. Innova
Curlew. Gussie - Roaratorio Record 2006
Curlew - Live at Gus Lucky’s. Roaratorio Records, 2003.
Curlew -  Mercury. Cuneiform Records, 2003.- Buy this recording
George Cartwright - Black Ants Crawling. Innova recordings 2004
Performed with GloryLand PonyCat. Innova Recordings, 2003.
Curlew -  Meet the Curlews! Cuneiform Records, 2002. -Buy this recording
Curlew -  North America. Cuneiform Records, 2002. -Buy this recording
George Cartwright - The Memphis Years. Cuneiform Records, 2000. -Buy this recording
Curlew - Fabulous Drop: Cuneiform Records, 1998. -Buy this recording
Curlew -  Paradise: Cuneiform Records, 1998. -Buy this recording
Cartwright, Red Rope. Performed with Michael Lytle. CIMP Records, 1998. 
Curlew - Bee: Cuneiform Records -Buy this recording
Curlew - The Hardwood: Cuneiform Records, 1992. -Buy this recording
Curlew -  Cuneiform Records, 1987.-Buy this recording
Meltable Snaps It (featuring Michael Lytle and David Moss). Meltable Snaps It. RecRec Germany, 1986.
Curlew -  Live in Berlin: Cuneiform Records, 1986. -Buy this recording

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