Photo by Hans Speekenbrink
Gary Smulyan, baritone saxophonist and bebop master, is one of the major voices on his instrument today. His latest honors include winner of the 2009 and 2010 Jazz Journalist Award for Baritone Saxophonist of the Year, the 2009 Down Beat Critics Poll for Baritone Saxophone, and the 2010 Down Beat reader’s Poll. He has also won six Grammy Awards.
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 appears 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. Gary joins Litchfield Jazz Camp as a teaching artist in 2011.