Gary got the jazz bug early in high school sitting in with artists like Chet Baker and Lee Konitz. After college he joined Woody Herman’s Young Thundering Herd. With him in that band were saxophonist Joe Lovano, bassist Marc Johnson and drummer John Riley —all major names in jazz today. In 1980, he became part of the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. He also worked with the Mingus Big Band and the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra.
Gary has shared the stage and studio with luminaries like Freddie Hubbard and Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Chick Corea, Tito Puente, Ray Charles, B.B. King and Diana Ross. He currently has more than 10 CDs as a leader. He now works regularly with Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, with the Joe Lovano Nonet (with whom he appeared on the 2011 Litchfield Jazz Festival) and with the Dave Holland Octet and Big Band. He has also enjoyed stints with tenor saxophonist George Coleman and the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band.
These days Gary lives in Amherst, MA, with his wife, pianist and conductor Joan Cornachio. He is a faculty member of Amherst College and serves as the artistic director at the Berkshire Hills Music Academy in South Hadley, MA. He joined the Litchfield Jazz Camp as a teaching artist in 2011.
This year marks Gary’s second appearance on the LJF. His Salute to George Coleman features Mr. Coleman’s own arrangements with Gary on baritone sax, Mr. Coleman’s young protégé and our special guest Eric Alexander on tenor, Jeff Lederer and Don Braden also on tenors, Onaje Allen Gumbs, piano, Marcus McLaurine, bass, Matt Wilson, drums (Artist-in-Residence from 2010/2011), Dave Ballou, trumpet, and Kris Allen, alto. This ensemble debuted last season on Litchfield Jazz Camp’s series, Kent Has That Jazz and rocked the house.
Gary Smulyan appears with his Salute to George Coleman at the Litchfield Jazz Festival at Goshen Fairgrounds, Goshen, CT on August 11 at 5:15 pm. He can also be heard all weekend long leading panel discussions and clinics at the Festival. For tickets or information visit http://www.litchfieldjazzfest.com, call 860-361-6285, and find the Litchfield Jazz Festival on http://www.facebook.com/litchfieldjazzfestival and http://www.twitter.com/litchfieldjazz.