Drummer Gerald Cleaver, born May 4, 1963 and raised in Detroit, is a product of the cityâ€™s rich music tradition. Inspired by his father, drummer John Cleaver, he began playing the drums at an early age. He also played violin in elementary school and trumpet in junior high school and high school. He gained early invaluable experience with Detroit jazz masters Ali Muhammad Jackson, Lamont Hamilton, Earl Van Riper, and Pancho Hagood.
While attending the University of Michigan as a music education major, he was awarded a Jazz Study Grant, from the National Endowment for the Arts, to study with drummer Victor Lewis. He graduated in 1992 and began teaching in Detroit where he worked with Rodney Whitaker, A. Spencer Barefield, Marcus Belgrave, Donald Walden, Wendell Harrison, and with visiting musicians Hank Jones, Tommy Flanagan, Barry Harris, Kenny Burrell, Frank Foster, Cecil Bridgewater, Ray Bryant, Eddie Harris, Dennis Rowland, Howard Johnson, Diana Krall, and Don Byron.
In 1995 he accepted an appointment as assistant professor of Jazz Studies at the University of Michigan, and in 1998 also joined the jazz faculty at Michigan State University. He moved to New York in 2002.
He has toured and/or recorded with Henry Threadgill, Roscoe Mitchell, Lotte Anker, Matt Shipp, William Parker, Craig Taborn, Kevin Mahogany, Charles Gayle, Mario Pavone, Ralph Alessi, Jacky Terrasson, Muhal Richard Abrams, Tim Berne, Jeremy Pelt, Ellery Eskelin, David Torn, Miroslav Vitous, Terje Rypdal, Michael Formanek, Tomasz Stanko, Charles Lloyd, and Bill Frisell, among others.