"John's Story"
  • A printable "One-Sheet" of John's career can be found here.

  • Professional credentials, awards, etc. can be seen here.

  • A collection of photos including some of the world's finest musicians can be found here.

John Carlini is a veteran guitarist and composer whose portfolio is a fascinating journey from classical to Broadway to jazz to bluegrass. An often-cited founding member of the seventies' West Coast "New Acoustic Music" scene, he is also an acclaimed arranger, orchestrator, and conductor. His father was a violinist in the New York Philharmonic for 25 years and his mother, Phyllis Mansfield Carlini, was a nationally renowned concert pianist. As a teenager, John became mesmerized by the New York City bluegrass scene after discovering the Wheeling West Virginia Jamboree on the car radio. He had the good fortune to become friends with bluegrass fiddle great, Tex Logan. Through Tex, Carlini learned about the 'heart and soul' of bluegrass music.

Phyllis Mansfield (John's Mother), with Harold Bauer, Chairman of the Piano Department at the Manhattan School of Music, shown here with an unknown student. (Circa 1943)

A member of Mr. Bauer's Department. Phyllis Mansfield was the first female member of the faculty as well as the youngest at the time this photo was taken.


Bluegrass fiddler,

Benjamin “Tex” Logan






John (left) and guitarist, Jerry Boyd,
rehearse “at sea” with the Navy Show Band.

The U. S. Navy Show Band.

The Navy Show Band, under the direction of Col. Frank Forgione, performs in South America in 1968.



In 1965 John enlisted in the Navy. After boot camp he was assigned to the Navy School of Music in Norfolk, VA. While there he had an opportunity to audition for the U.S. Navy Show Band with which he toured for three years throughout the United States and South America. Upon completing his tour of duty, he enrolled in the Berklee College of Music in Boston, whose renowned jazz program had enticed him since high school. It was at Berklee that John gained the technical knowledge to make music his life's choice, graduating with a major in arranging and composition with guitar as his main instrument.


John Carlini (left), Stephane Grappelli (center),

 and David Grisman (right) in a still from the

 DeLaurentiis film King of the Gypsies.

John Carlini (left) and Stephane Grappelli

(right), jam backstage at The Blue Note

in NYC.

As a result of a lesson with 5-string banjo innovator, Bill Keith, Carlini met mandolinist/composer, David Grisman, “on the gig” at Gerde's Folk City in Greenwich Village, NY. Their relationship has endured for more than four decades. Among his accomplishments with Grisman, John was:

  • musical director for the groundbreaking David Grisman Quintet, featuring guitarist, Tony Rice, and fiddle player, Darol Anger

  • guitarist, replacing Jerry Garcia, in the Great American Music Band

  • arranger for the 1982 release of "Dawg Jazz," a tune featuring Grisman with Doc Severinsen's Tonight Show Band

  • arranger for Grisman’s “Mondo Mando” recorded by David with the string quartet, Kronos

  • arranger for the classic recording, “Back to Back”, featuring swing mandolin legends, Jethro Burns and Tiny Moore, with bassist, Ray Brown, and drummer, Shelly Manne

  • guitarist on the Grammy-nominated “Dawg '90 (Acoustic Disc)

  • orchestrator and composer for the Federico DeLaurentiis film, King of the Gypsies, which also found him on camera, performing on guitar with the late, legendary violinist, Stephane Grappelli.






In 1995, John collaborated with long-time friend and fellow guitarist, Tony Rice, to release River Suite for Two Guitars (Sugar Hill), an opportunity for the two to rekindle their "new acoustic music" roots and present a superb collection of contemporary acoustic compositions.



Tony Rice and John toast the release

of their recording, River Suite.              

In 2000 John established the John Carlini Quartet with John and Josh Rubin on guitars, Brian Glassman on bass and Steve Holloway on drums and percussion. This acoustic string band showcases Carlini’s own compositions and arrangements, as well as selections from the bluegrass/jazz/classic repertoire. They recorded Live at the Turning Point in Piermont NY.

The original John Carlini Quartet.

(l to r) Brian Glassman, John Carlini,

Steve Holloway, Josh Rubin


A chance meeting and jam session at the International Bluegrass Music Association trade show in Louisville, KY led to a collaboration and friendship between John and Don Stiernberg, the quintessential Chicago-based jazz mandolinist. Also at that session was 5-string banjo jazz phenomenon, Pat Cloud. John decided to record that combo which led to the CD, The Game’s Afoot!, with the John Carlini Quartet (now including Don Stiernberg) and featuring special guest, Pat Cloud.


John recording on his Martin MC-28 for By George

(L to R) Don Stiernberg, Steve Holloway, John Carlini, and Brian Glassman perform at Riverfest in New Jersey.

(L to R) Brian Glassman, Don Stiernberg, John Carlini, and Pat Cloud.

Photo by Steven Briggs Photos by Terry Carlini


Currently, John and Don Stiernberg record for Blue Night Records. They specialize in interpreting jazz and “standards” on mandolin and acoustic guitar. There are two CD’s available. “Angel Eyes” is a collection of Great American Standards, and “By George” is an acoustic celebration of the music of George Gershwin. Both recordings feature Chicago rhythm section players, Jim Cox on acoustic bass and drummer Phil Gratteau.



John teaches jazz and swing guitar and 5-string banjo. He has been on the faculty of Steve Kaufman’s Flatpicking Kamps for the past six seasons. He is a columnist for Flatpicking Guitar Magazine where he discusses myriad musical topics. John enjoys instructing at guitar seminars and performs in a variety of formats including solo guitarist, or with a duo, trio, or quartet.




by Don Stiernberg


Born in Manhattan (a Yankee fan) to Phyllis, a pianist on staff at the Manhattan School of Music, and Luigi, a violinist with the N.Y. Philharmonic.



Begins piano lessons with Phyllis.



Performs Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata (Op.27, No.2) from memory. Interest in string instruments and chord changes ignited by local priest who teaches him "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie" on ukulele.



Finds a guitar in the closet that was intended as his Christmas present. Begins lessons, mastering "The Auctioneer", later graduating to "Hound Dog".



Takes classical guitar lessons.



Hears Earl Scruggs on a WWVA broadcast. Forsakes "folk" for "real bluegrass". Asks for a banjo. His mother replies, "You can have a banjo - get a job so you can buy one."



Hears Bill Keith subbing for Earl Scruggs.



Pursues Bill Keith for a banjo lesson only to be hired as a guitarist. Meets David Grisman on that gig.



Soaks up as much as possible about bluegrass from friend, fiddler, mentor and Bell Labs scientist, Benjamin "Tex" Logan.



Enlists in the United States Navy. Tours the U.S. and South America as guitarist in The Navy Show Band.



Attends Berklee College of Music on the GI Bill, majoring in Composition and Arranging, principal instrument guitar. Berklee Dream Team at this time includes Bill Leavitt, Mick Goodrick, Gary Burton, and Herb Pomeroy.



Joins touring production of the Broadway show "Grease", manning the guitar chair. Lengthy paid vacation in San Fransisco allows him to reconnect with David Grisman. Replaces Jerry Garcia in "The Great American Music Band", precursor to The David Grisman Quintet. Quits Grease and stays on the west coast to play acoustic string band music.       



While investigating studio career in L.A., lands touring gig with classic rock singer Fabian. Comedian Don Rickles hears the band in Las Vegas and hires them for a gig back home in New Jersey.



Recruited by old Navy friend and trumpeter, Bruce Glover, to be assistant conductor with The Ice Capades for two seasons and a tour of Japan.



Dawg hires John as musical director, coach, and arranger for the original David Grisman Quintet. Lifetime friendships and musical history ensue.



Filmmaker, Federico DeLaurentiis, hires Team Grisman to add music to his movie, "King of the Gypsies". John adds orchestration, some composing and conducting, and even plays on camera alongside the likes of Ray Brown, Stephane Grappelli, and Dom Um Ramáo.



Back in NY, co-producer/orchestrator/conductor/guitarist on Andy Statman's "Flatbush Waltz" album. Also David Grisman's "Quintet '80" is released, debuting John's tune "Mugavero", now considered a standard.



Returns to The Ice Capades, this time as Musical Director. While on tour, orchestrates and arranges David Grisman's "Dawg Jazz" for The Tonight Show band and "Mondo Mando" for the Kronos Quartet.



Second tour with the DGQ, this time as guitarist. "Dawg '90" is released and Grammy-nominated, and kicks off the Acoustic Disc label.



Orchestrator/arranger/conductor for Butch Baldasari's Nashville Mandolin Ensemble recording, "Plectrasonics", garnering a Nashville Music Award for John's arrangement of Charles Mingus' "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat". Also Butch and John's CD "Reflections" is released.



Records "River Suite for Two Guitars" with Tony Rice.



Forms John Carlini Quartet. Releases include "Live at the Turning Point" on Garden Steet Music™ and "The Game's Afoot" on FGM records.

At the IBMA convention in Louisville, KY, John meets five string banjo legend Pat Cloud and stellar jazz mandolinist Don Stiernberg. Their jam session leads to Pat and Don's appearances on "The Game's Afoot" and the trio's appearance in the film "Bluegrass Journey".



Chicago-based jazz label, Blue Night Records, teams John with Don Stiernberg, releasing "Angel Eyes", a jazz quartet collection of standards.



"By George" follows up with the same personnel and all Gershwin tunes.




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