Gary Bartz Biography

26 September 1940, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Bartz, whose father ran a jazz club, began playing alto saxophone at the age of 11. He played in the Alabama State Teachers College band, at his father’s club, and studied at the Juilliard School of Music, New York, and the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. He worked with Lee Morgan and Grachan Moncur III, but his first regular professional engagement was with the Max Roach / Abbey Lincoln band in 1964. From 1965-66 he was one of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, then had a second stint with Roach and periods with Charles Tolliver, Blue Mitchell and McCoy Tyner (in what Tyner once described as the happiest and most integrated band he had ever led). For 18 months beginning in August 1970 he was with Miles Davis (Live-Evil), in 1972 formed Nu Troop, and during the 70s moved further into the funk fusion field. In recent years he has returned to the hard bop fold, a genre that shows off his assertive and agile improvising to best advantage.

Originally inspired to take up the saxophone by hearing Charlie Parker, Bartz has helped to keep the succession alive, and his playing is in the tradition of Phil Woods and, especially, Jackie McLean, with whom he has made some fine music (Ode To Super). There Goes The Neighborhood is an exceptional album. Recorded live at New York’s famous Birdland Club in November 1990, it is a vivid record from one of modern jazz’s most intense and exciting living saxophonists, playing at his peak. Pianist Kenny Barron, bass player Ray Drummond and drummer Ben Riley offer firm support for Bartz’s powerful, plaintive alto, as he powers his way through a well-chosen programme of standards and original tunes. Bartz, by this time, had overcome his bland jazz pop flirtation, and was playing a strong combination of neo-bop and heavy, John Coltrane -influenced shapes. The inspired version of ‘Impressions’ is not to be missed. In 1998, Bartz was recruited into the ranks of the Thelonious Monk tribute band Sphere, as a replacement for the late Charlie Rouse. At the same time, he launched his own OYO record label.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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