Jeff Massanari

Jazz Guitarist

Bio & reviews

Jeff was born in the small town of Goshen, Indiana surrounded by the beautiful Amish countryside and most certainly would have followed his families path to academia when an unexpected move to Washington DC at age 9 changed everything.

Exposed to the vibrant music scene of Washington, DC, Jeff sought out the guitar and began playing at age 13. First focusing on blues and rock but that was all to change when a friend brought over a recording of John McLaughlin’s “Inner Mounting Flame”. From the first note he was hooked on jazz.

By the time Jeff was 17 he was performing and teaching jazz and blues in the Washington DC area when his love of jazz took him from DC to Boston’s Berklee School of Music. After studying performance and composition Jeff moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and quickly became one of the most in-demand guitarists.

Jeff wears many stylistic hats including straight-ahead jazz, fusion, blues, rock and even has some serious country chops. He is at home playing complex jazz solo guitar arrangements as well as tearing up a plate full of blues on his Strat! He is often called on to accompany visiting artists such as Seth MacFarlane, Mark Inouye and the San Francisco Symphony at Davies Hall, Stern Grove, and even including Bejing, China.

Jeff keeps a busy performance schedule including venues such as Yoshi’s, The Umbria Jazz Festival in Italy, The Monterey Jazz Festival, San Jose Jazz Fest and tours the North and South West with various groups.

In addition to his busy performance schedule Jeff has a waiting list for private instruction through UC Berkeley, The California Jazz Conservatory and private referrals. A chance meeting with John Mattern the well respected music director and talented musician in his own right at Redwood High led Jeff to not only a treasured friendship, but a long term commitment to bringing jazz to high school students. Jeff has begun his 8th year teaching at Redwood High this year.


“The guitar trio led by Massanari mixes standards with a few originals, and they do it with plenty of pizzazz. Massanari is an energized guitarist who fills the uptempo tunes with gelling improvisations that provide a continual kick. On the slower ballads, he exhibits similar zeal to keep the pace moving along briskly. His playing has a buoyant character and is filled with ringing clarity as he moves quickly from the themes onto a solid improvisational platform. Bassist chambers and drummer Schnalle appear to be in a constant state of motion, propelling Massanari to spew out his rapid-fire improvised lines. It is not just the speed of execution that makes the tunes burn, although there certainly is no lack of velocity in Massanari’s playing. It is his ability to take off from the melodies with waves of original ideas that gives the music its appeal. The music is devoid of angularity. It comes together in unitized fashion through the cohesive contributions of Chambers and Schnalle. They insert a definitive spark into the proceedings as they intertwine seamlessly with Massanari. While Massanari is scurrying all over his instrument, Chambers and Schnalle are filing every nook and cranny with the rhythmic base. They lay down the bedrock from which Massanari springs. The solo of Chambers on “Alone Together” is an excellent example of the fire he breathes into the session. Schnalle is incessant throughout in his drive to inspire. It all results in a fine trio album that cooks from the inside until the surface is charred. Massanari proves with this session you can stay inbounds and still produce appealing music..”

- Cadence Magazine 


I have worked with Jeff Massanari for 22 years and he has been an exemplary musician and colleague. We have collaborated for performances in the bay area’s finest jazz clubs, such as to a sold out Yoshi’s in San Francisco in 2010. We have also performed many original compositions of mine on other stages such as Davies Symphony Hall, in the San Francisco Symphony’s Chamber Music Series. Our first collaboration during the 2001 Concert Series, was the first time in the San Francisco Symphony’s history that a jazz ensemble performed. Jeff is joining me this November in a very special jazz performance at the Beijing Conservatory of Music. He is always professional, prepared, inspiring, and an absolute joy to play with.

-Mark Inouye, Principal Trumpet of San Francisco Symphony


“With the opening of the first tune, I was impressed with Massanari’s guitar playing. Each track is a gem.”

- Dan Pollack, Sound Choice 


“Massanari excels at sophisticated comp figures and exhibits a smart chromatic sensibility in his fluid sixteenth-note runs.”

- Guitar Player Magazine