Hailing from Oak Park, IL, pianist, guitarist, composer and improviser Rob Clearfield grew up steeped in music. After a childhood filled with garage bands, gospel choirs, South American guitar ensembles, and everything in between, Rob moved to Chicago to study at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. During and after college, he embedded himself in the local music scene, residing in the city for fifteen years.
Over the course of his career, Rob has had the privilege of performing with artists such as John Wetton, Patricia Barber, Howard Levy, Makaya McCraven, Marquis Hill, Eighth Blackbird, Fareed Haque, Isaiah Sharkey, Adam Larson, and Greg Ward, among others. He was a founding member of the prog-rock group District 97 and the indie rock band Hood Smoke, and is the regular pianist with bassist Matt Ulery, trumpeter Itamar Borochov, and vocalist Grazyna Auguscik.
To date, Rob has released six recordings of his original music. He made his bandleading debut and his first two albums with the jazz-meets-indie-rock band Information Superhighway. After the Superhighway disbanded in 2011, Rob chose to focus his bandleading and composing on instrumental music, which yielded the albums The Long and Short of It (2013) and Islands (2016). Along the way, Rob also recorded and released two albums of (mostly) improvised solo piano music: A Thousand Words (2010) and Wherever You’re Starting From”(2018). For his next album, Rob is at work on a co-led project with New York-based saxophonist and composer Caroline Davis.
In addition to his work as a bandleader, Rob has received multiple commissions to compose on a larger scale. Since 2007, he has scored theater productions for Purdue University, a collaboration that is still ongoing. From 2008-2012, he was commissioned annually to compose a song cycle for the experimental church Grace Commons in Chicago. In 2013, he scored the short film The Lost Remake of Beau Geste. 2019 saw Rob Clearfield’s orchestral debut, composing a set of pieces for string orchestra with jazz quartet, commissioned and premiered by the Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestra in College Station, TX.
As his career continues to take him to new places, Rob has had the opportunity to connect with students all over the world. He has given masterclasses and clinics at the Conservatorio Nacional de Música (Mexico City, Mexico), the American Jazz Museum (Kansas City, MO), Bydgoszcz Conservatory of Music (Bydgoszcz, Poland), and the University of North Texas (Denton, TX). He has served on faculty at the Keith Hall Summer Drum Intensive at Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo, MI) and has been part of the ensemble-in-residence at the Guimarães Jazz Festival (Guimarães, Portugal), working with students from Escola Superior de Música e Artes do Espetáculo (Porto, Portugal)
Rob currently resides in Marseille, France.