Summers met Sting and Stewart Copeland in 1977 while playing with a band called Strontium 90. The two asked Summers to join their full-time project, the Police; together, the trio gradually developed a style centered around jazz- and reggae-influenced pop/rock, and Sting's strong bass lines allowed Summers to supply subtle sonic textures and colors on his guitar, and to experiment with various effects. Summers first stepped out on his own in 1982, teaming with King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp on the jazz- and Eastern-tinged I Advance Masked. It was followed in 1984 with Bewitched, another Summers/Fripp collaboration, around the same time the Police officially disbanded.
Eager to establish himself in musical realms outside of rock & roll, Summers did a bit of movie soundtrack work (Down and Out in Beverly Hills, 2010, etc.) before returning to recording, this time on his own. His first solo effort, 1987's harmonically intricate yet pop-oriented XYZ, met with poor critical response. Its follow-up, 1988's Mysterious Barricades, was more successful, emphasizing Summers' textural sensibilities on its jazzy, new age-influenced compositions. A string of albums in this style followed through the '90s, notably The Golden Wire (1989), Charming Snakes (1991), World Gone Strange (1991), Invisible Thread (1993), and The Last Dance of Mr. X (1997). For 1998's Strings of Desire, he teamed with South American guitar virtuoso Victor Biglione; 1999's Green Chimneys: Music of Thelonious Monk found Summers working with a larger ensemble than usual for him, as well as his first collaboration with Sting since the Police (on a version of "'Round Midnight"). Following the success of his Monk-themed album, the guitarist put together an album of interpretations of compositions by Charles Mingus called Peggy's Blue Skylight, released in late 2000. Earth + Sky appeared four years later. Summers continued to record thereafter, releasing First You Build a Cloud in 2007. He also participated in the Police reunion tour that same year. ~ Steve Huey