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RealTracks Artist Bio: Gary Smulyan

Baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan has been called the standard bearer of his generation, which is supported by his consistent (and current) "Player of the Year" selections in critics and reader's polls such as Downbeat, Jazz Times, the Jazz Journalists Association, and others, both in the USA and abroad.

The Long Island, NY native was introduced to jazz through Ed Beach's "Just Jazz" radio show on WRVR-FM in New York. He started playing alto sax in his high school stage band, and by the time he was 16 he was sitting in at Sonny's Place, a jazz club in Seaford, NY, with the likes of Zoot Sims, Lee Konitz, Jimmy Knepper, Ray Nance, and Chet Baker. After high school, Smulyan studied at the State University of New York - Potsdam and Hofstra University before embarking on his professional career with Woody Herman's Young Thundering Herd and touring the world. He made the permanent transition from alto sax to baritone with Herman (but never lost the bebop influence of Charlie Parker and Phil Woods).

The following years saw him playing with several noted leaders and big bands including the Mingus Big Band, Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, Louie Bellson, George Coleman, Benny Green, Lionel Hampton, Tom Harrell, Gene Harris, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Mel Lewis, Machito, Kevin Mahogany, the Philip Morris Superband, Tito Puente, Red Rodney, Don Sickler and Clark Terry. He also performed on the stage and in the studio with such leading artists as Freddie Hubbard, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Chick Corea, Ray Charles, B.B. King, and Diana Ross. Along the way he has earned no fewer than seven Grammies for his work with B.B. King, Joe Lovano, Dave Holland, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and others.

His 10 CDs as leader include tributes to Pepper Adams and Frankie Laine plus recordings with a quartet, nonet and strings. His favorite configuration is actually a trio of baritone saxophone, bass, and drums, which, he says, gives the greatest freedom. A complete discography is available at

Gary Smulyan is one of today's most in-demand jazz performers, educators, and recording artists. He performs with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, the Joe Lovano Nonet, the Dave Holland Octet and Big Band, The Three Baritone Saxophone Band, the Dizzy Gillespie All Star Big Band and the Tom Harrell Octet, as well as his own projects. His deep commitment to jazz education is expressed in his work on the faculty of Amherst College (MA) and his constant travel to clinics, workshops and festivals such as the Amherst Jazz Fest, NCCU Jazz Festival, Jazz Port Townsend, Litchefield Jazz Festival (Artist-in-Residence), and many others.

For more information and current news about Gary Smulyan, please visit his web site at

Gary Smulyan plays these RealTracks:

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