I’ve been a Gary Bartz fan since the late ’60s, when he started recording for Orrin Keepnews’ second label, Milestone Records. Then came gigs and recordings with Max Roach, McCoy Tyner, and Miles Davis. I was lucky enough to hear Gary live with Miles a number of times, when the band also included Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette.
Gary and I became friends in the late ’70s, when we collaborated on a theatre project, Jazz Theatre Workshop, which produced an off-Broadway hit, Bebop, in 1979. I can report that in addition to being a very strong alto player, Mr. Bartz has a great sense of humor, and given the opportunity, he can really act.
Today, Gary is still playing with McCoy Tyner, as well as leading his own groups, and teaching at Oberlin College.
We sat down for an extended conversation recently, in anticipation of a new recording he’s about to release on his own label, Coltrane Rules. I’ve started posting clips from that interview. Here’s the first: