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A graduate from the Manhattan School of Music in 2006, Craig also studied at the New School in New York City and at the Hartt School in Hartford, CT, receiving scholarships at all three universities. Craig studied under such jazz greats as Jackie Mclean, Joe Chambers, Steve Davis, Gary Dial, and Andy Laverne. The range of musicians Craig has played with shows his versatility. From straight-ahead to free jazz, Hartley's music fully encompasses all aspects of the jazz idiom.
Craig Hartley records and performs regularly with artists that have shaped contemporary jazz. He was a member of the Steve Davis Quintet from 2002 through 2004. In 2003 Craig's distinctive compositional style was showcased at the Numazu Festival for International Design, held in Numazu, Japan. He was commissioned to perform a concert and showcase an original composition specifically for the event. Craig's compositional skill and vivid performance were met with enthusiastic acclamation. Craig is a member of the New Jazz Workshop, a musician's collective led by Dezron Douglas and Lummie Span, with which he performed an opening set for Wynton Marsalis' group at "Beyond the Storm," a benefit for victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In 2006, Craig performed a remarkable solo set at the Hartford International Jazz Festival. That same year, Hartley toured Italy with the Matteo Sabbatini Quartet. More recently, Hartley has been performing and recording with jazz legend Anthony Braxton. Hartley is also currently a member of Grammy Award Nominee Fabio Morgera's Quartet. Other jazz greats Craig has performed with include Eddie Henderson, Slide Hampton, Nat Reeves, Ralph Peterson, Ugonna Okegwo, Jim Rotondi, Jimmy Greene, Steve Slagle, Kevin O'Neil, John Benitez, Mark Gross, Bob Mover, and Claudio Roditi.
From his experiences working with preeminent artists such as these and his explorations of contemporary ideas, Craig has developed a unique and unmistakable musical voice. As well as continuing to work with the above mentioned artists, Hartley is currently working on a vast array of projects, including composing original vocal works, creating film soundtracks, and leading multiple jazz ensembles. Craig Hartley continues to perform at well-established venues and festivals worldwide.