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… an extraordinary guitarist/composer, whose striking use of classical sympathetic and 12 string instruments owes as great a debt to Segovia as it does to any jazz antecedent … He melds the techniques of Segovia and Jimi Hendrix into a startling jazz lexicon.
— Bill Shoemaker, JazzTimes

A widely acclaimed guitarist, soloist, composer and ensemble leader, A. Spencer Barefield has performed, toured and recorded extensively for nearly four decades as a ensemble leader, soloist, and with many jazz legends, such as Roscoe Mitchell, Lester Bowie, Oliver Lake, Richard Davis, Andrew Cyrille and Reggie Workman. He has played at hundreds of festivals and concerts in Austria, Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Holland, and throughout the US and Canada, including Alaska and the Yukon.  

A. Spencer Barefield is included in Detroit Jazz City. Produced by one of Detroit’s native sons, Blue Note Records president Don Was, who assembled the album by selecting catalog tracks by Detroit-born jazz legends from the Blue Note vaults, and alternating them with new recordings that he produced featuring many of the city’s current jazz elite including vocalist Sheila Jordan, guitarist Spencer Barefield, bassist Marion Hayden, saxophonist James Carter, and the recently departed trumpeter Marcus Belgrave.

Detroit Jazz City is a compilation album that simultaneously spotlights the past and present of one of America’s great jazz cities while also serving as a benefit album for the organization Focus: HOPE. All proceeds from the album will be donated to Focus: HOPE to aid its work to combathunger, economic disparity, inadequate education, and racial divisiveness in Southeastern Michigan.

Barefield has received numerous grants and honors, including the prestigious 2010  Kresge Artist Fellowship.

His compositions have been commissioned by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Meet-the-Composer/ Readers Digest/Lila Wallace Fund, Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, Arts Foundation of Michigan, Meet-the-Composer/ Commission USA, Arts International and others.

His works have been debuted and performed at the Detroit Institute of Arts, Montreux-Detroit Jazz Festival and the Art X Festival with members of the Detroit Symphony, New Music America Festival in New York and San Francisco, Nickelsdorf and Leverkusener Jazz Festivals, and at other venues worldwide.

A. Spencer Barefield Quintet at the Detroit Institute of Arts with, left to right, A. Spencer Barefield, Dave McMurray, Djallo Keita, Dave Young and Hamiet Bluiett. Photo by ©Barbara Barefield

A. Spencer Barefield Quartet at the Detroit Institute of Arts with, left to right, Dave Young, A. Spencer Barefield, Djallo Keita, and Chris Collins. Photo by ©Barbara Barefield

Creative Arts Collective

In 1978, Barefield and legendary saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell co-founded the trailblazing nonprofit, Creative Arts Collective (CAC). Barefield has since served as CAC’s Artistic-Executive Director and has produced countless concerts, recordings, educational programs and tours. From 1979-1992, Creative Music at the DIA, a concert series produced by Barefield and CAC, graced the stages of the esteemed Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). More than a hundred performances featured cutting-edge jazz composers and musicians from around the US collaborating with Detroit-based artists. Described by writer Larry Gabriel as “the beacon of the jazz avant garde in Detroit,” concerts from the CAC series were broadcast worldwide on National Public Radio; select performances have been released on recordings in the US and Europe. Excellence was rewarded in 1992 when CAC received the highly coveted Governor’s Arts Award for most valuable arts organization. In more recent years, Barefield has presented concerts at the DIA with ensembles featuring the late pianist Cedar Walton, the late saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett, bassists Richard Davis and Dave Young, and other luminaries. 

Internationally respected recording artist, A. Spencer Barefield, plays music that is at once contemporary, traditional, diverse, distinctive, avant-garde and mesmerizing,
— Detroit News


Recordings by Barefield and his ensembles have received ardent reviews and honors, including JazzTimes, Cadence, Coda and Downbeat’s Critics’ Polls, MetroTimes Music Awards Hall of Fame and others. Barefield can also be heard on numerous Roscoe Mitchell recordings; on his own Xenogenesis label; on the new Geodesic Disques recordings Beneath Detroit, a trilogy of CDs from the historic DIA concert series; and on the Blue Note recording, Detroit Jazz City.

In demand as an educator, Barefield has worked as guitar professor at the University of Michigan, serves as artist-in-residence at schools and universities around the country, and often presents lecture-demonstrations to students of all ages. 

Other artistic highlights include the “Day of Discovery” concerts Barefield co-produced with the Montreux Detroit Jazz Festival (1992-1999); and Palmer Woods Music in Homes concert series (2007-present), which he co-produces and created with his wife Barbara. This innovative series of jazz, classical and world music features internationally-acclaimed musicians with Metro-Detroit roots who perform in architectural treasures — mansions and unique homes in Detroit’s historic Palmer Woods.

In 2011, Barefield’s Music and the Cosmos concerts for the Kresge Art X Festival showcased his compositions performed by his nine-piece Super String Symphonica — members of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) and Michigan Opera Theatre, including violinists DSO Concertmaster Emmanuelle Boisvert and Jannina Barefield Norpoth. 

… a treasure to Detroit and to the world of music and art … [Barefield is] a gifted and innovative ­ musician, as well as a profoundly creative composer.
— Legendary saxophonist/composer Roscoe Mitchell