Affiliation: Evidence Jazz Group, Big Band Nouveau, Who Dat Blues Band, Orquesta Tradicion, Grupo Latin Soul, and Stone Soul Rhythm Band
Michael was born and raised in New York City. He began his musical studies in elementary and junior high school studying under Arnold Warmbrand and Hiram Colon. He started playing professionally as a student of the Talent Unlimited High School for the Performing Arts and participated in Jazz workshops in New York City. Michael's high school junior and senior year presented him great opportunities to become a member of the New York City All City High School and the McDonald's Tri-State Jazz Ensembles both under the direction of Justin DiCioccio. Michael studied at the New School University Jazz Studies program with Branford Marsalis, Dr. Donald Byrd, and David Liebman to name a few. During his early tenure in the U.S. Army Band program Michael had the opportunity to study at the Armed Forces School of Music studying saxophone under First Sergeant Stephen Mohacey who was a mentor to him in both classical and jazz genres.
Michael has performed with actress Nell Carter, Frank Foster (saxophonist formerly with the Count Basie Orchestra), Jerry McKenzie (Drummer formerly with the Stan Kenton Orchestra),, and actor Jim Nabors. He has also performed with Jaki Byard, Cecil Bridgewater, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and Milt Hilton. He has performed with the Grammy nominated Grand Rapids Symphony and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Michael also performs with the award-winning Evidence Jazz Group and Big Band Nouveau. Also, he performed with Blue Note recording artist Bill Dowdy in addition to other freelance work. As an educator, Michael has taught and lectured on both high school and college levels representing Selmer saxophones and Roberto's Winds.
Michael received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Western Michigan University majoring in music with an art history minor. He studied with Tom Knific, Dr. Robert Ricci, and Trent Kynaston. Michael received a Master of Music degree in Jazz Studies from Michigan State University studying under Rodney Whitaker, Diego Rivera, Wess "Warmdaddy" Anderson and Derrick Gardner, Etienne Charles, Randy Gelispie, Sunny Wilkinson, Dr. Ken Prouty, and Ric Roe.
Recordings with Evidence Jazz Group (CD reviews)
Jonathan Butler’s optimistic music belies a dirt-poor childhood growing up in a South Africa segregated by apartheid. Live in South Africa, a new CD and DVD package, presents a sense of the resulting inner turmoil, mixed with dogged resolve, that paved the way to his status as an icon in his country and successful musician outside of it.
Photography by Aldo Ferrarello. Bio written by Niall Fulton