Gregory Tardy

Gregory Tardy

Fri   Mar   31   2023 - 1:00 PM Old City PAC

There’s something to the name, Tardy. Saxophonist, multi-reedist, and composer Gregory Tardy is one of the most versatile jazz musicians of his generation, but he started pursuing jazz much later than many in his generation. He was purely a classical musician into his early 20s when he heard Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane play Monk’s Mood. “As I listened to the recording, I knew I had to figure out how they were able to play what they played,” says Tardy. He returned to his birthplace, New Orleans, to try and study at the University of New Orleans with Ellis Marsalis. He had enough money for one semester and then he was out on the street playing with the brass bands and whoever he could, to keep himself in the city; practicing and learning as much about jazz as possible.

“I had so much catching up to do,” Tardy says. “There were all of these outstanding players down there many who went on to be well known, like Nicholas Payton, Brian Blade, Victor Goines, Mark Turner, Delfeayo and Jason Marsalis and far too many others to mention. It was there that I really started to get my playing together.”

Tardy moved to NYC towards the end of the “young lion” movement in jazz and landed a major label contract with Impulse Records. After Serendipity was released, he was again the victim of timing, due to the merger between Verve and Impulse; he had been one of the last artists signed, therefore he was one of the first ones dropped. At this point in his career he was also a highly sought after New York sideman. Tardy is a
veteran of bands led by Elvin Jones, Andrew Hill, Tom Harrell, Dave Douglas, Nicholas Payton, Bill Frisell, Rashied Ali, Elio Villafranca, Todd Marcus, Omer Avital, and Brian Lynch. He’s also played with many prominent jazz artists including: Wynton Marsalis, Jay McShann, Roy Hargrove, Brad Mehldau, Steve Coleman, Betty Carter, Don Byron, Ellis Marsalis, John Patitucci, and many more. He has also performed and/or recorded along with many other notable saxophonists, such as Joe Lovano, Mark Turner, Chris Potter, Dewey Redman, Ravi Coltrane, James Moody, and others. As a clarinetist, he has also been featured prominently on tours/recordings with Tom Harrell, Ohad Talmor/ Steve Swallow, Stefon Harris, Chris Potter, Elio Villafranca, Regina Carter, Andrew Hill and others. He has performed at all of the major jazz festivals and on some of the biggest stages in jazz. He has been featured prominently on several Downbeat Albums of the Year and also several Grammy nominated recordings; including a Grammy winning CD with Brian Lynch in 2006. Gregory Tardy has been voted a Rising Star in Downbeat Magazine’s Annual Critics and Readers Polls multiple times, on saxophone and clarinet. He also has recorded fifteen CDs as a leader.

Tardy got so busy as a sideman that he didn’t have the time to really focus on his own career. “There just wasn’t enough time to do everything I wanted. I was still writing lots of music, but as the major labels folded I began recording for some of the smaller labels. I was happy to get the documentation of my compositions.”

With Tardy’s latest release, Sufficient Grace, he teams up again with producer Willie Jones III on WJ3 Records. This followup recording to his critically acclaimed release, If Time Could Stand Still, brings together pianist Keith Brown, trumpeter Marcus Printup, bassist Sean Conly, and drummer Willie Jones III on eight original compositions.

Tardy is self taught in composition and often writes using recent influences or concepts. Much of this project was music that Tardy wrote with his love of swing and the tradition in mind. “I’ve played in many amazing bands over the years and people often associate what I have done as a sideman as my voice, but that is not necessarily true. In my writing, I try to explore new things, although I always keep the tradition in
the back of my head, as well. I really respect the tradition…but I try not to let it stop me from going for new stuff that I hear.” He has seven original compositions on this project many focused on the joy in swinging. “I once heard an older musician say ‘it is better to be felt than to be heard’. I never forgot that. That is my approach to writing and playing any style of music.”

All About Jazz sums up Tardy’s career so far by writing, “Tardy already has his own voice and is on track to help write the next chapter in jazz history. This is exactly what more and more potential jazz listeners should be hearing.” Even though the journey in jazz started late for Tardy, he’s working double-time because he knows that time can’t stand still.

Knoxville, TN · USA

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