May 1998

Greg Tardy

Taking a page from Trane’s book is 30-year-old Greg Tardy, whose new recording on Impulse! is entitled Serendipity.

Lewis Porter’s new book, John Coltrane, His Life and Music, details Trane’s practice regime, a course that Greg Tardy is set to follow: “I practice a lot,” Tardy admits, “but I’m not the only one. Trane set the standard with the work that he put in and where he got.”

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Greg Tardy

Another link to Trane is the two and one-half years that Tardy spent with Elvin Jones. Fellow New Orleans resident Nicholas Payton, then Elvin’s Musical Director, recommended him for the gig. “I learned a lot from working with Elvin,” Tardy explains. “Before I played with him, I wasn’t that into a big sound but after being in his band for a while, I really focused on trying to get a big sound because he plays with so much power that if you don’t have a big sound, you’re not going to be heard.”

Tardy started as a classical clarinet player but, between friends trying to get him to double on tenor, his mother, an opera singer turned jazz vocalist, and a trumpet playing brother, he eventually turned to the tenor and jazz full time. “I took a year off from the clarinet and classical music,” he recalls, “to learn the fundamentals of the saxophone and start learning about jazz and the deeper I got into it, the more I got hooked. Before you know it, my clarinet was gathering dust and I was diving headlong into jazz.”

Eight years later, he’s made remarkable progress. Serendipity features six of his originals played by a group that includes Mulgrew Miller and Tom Harrell. Tardy is also part of Harrell’s working group. It’s all part of the process: “I try and bring the absolute best out of myself and try and grow as much as I can.”

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