About Gary


Winner of the 2019 Downbeat Reader’s poll for Baritone Saxophonist of the Year!
Winner of the 2019 JJA Jazz Awards for Baritone Saxophonist of the Year!

Winner of the 2018 Jazz Times Readers and Expanded Critics Poll for Baritone Saxophone!
Winner of the 2018 Downbeat Reader’s Poll for Baritone Saxophonist of the Year!
Winner of the 2017 Jazz Times Expanded Critics Poll for Baritone Saxophone!
Winner of the 2016 Downbeat Critics poll for Baritone Saxophonist of the Year!
Winner of the 2016 Jazz Times Critics poll for Baritone Saxophonist of the Year!
Winner of the 2016 Jazz Times Readers poll for Baritone Saxophonist of the Year!
Winner of the 2016 JazzIt Magazine Award for Baritone Saxophonist of the Year!
Winner of the 2015 Downbeat Reader’s Poll for Baritone Saxophonist of the Year!
Winner of the 2015 Downbeat Critics poll for Baritone Saxophonist of the Year!
Winner of the 2014 Downbeat Reader’s Poll for Baritone Saxophonist of the Year!
Winner of the 2014 Jazz Times Expanded Critics Poll for Baritone Saxophone
Winner of the 2009 and 2011 Downbeat Critics Poll for Baritone Saxophone!
Winner of the 2011 Jazz Times Readers and Critics Polls for Baritone Saxophonist of the Year!
Winner of the 2009 and 2010 Jazz Journalist Award for Baritone Saxophonist of the Year!

Baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan was born April 4, 1956, in Bethpage, New York. The gifted multi-instrumentalist started his music career by first learning alto saxophone during his teenage years on Long Island. Today he is critically acclaimed across-the-board and recognized as the major voice on the baritone saxophone. His playing is marked by an aggressive rhythmic sense, an intelligent and creative harmonic approach — and perhaps most importantly – a strong and incisive wit.

While still in high school, he had the chance to sit in with major jazz artists such as legendary trumpeter Chet Baker, saxophonist Lee Konitz, trombonist Jimmy Knepper and violinist Ray Nance.

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Gary's Latest Recording
Our Contrafacts

A contrafact is a method of composing a new melody and arrangement on a pre-existing musical composition using its chord progression. In jazz, one of the most famous examples is “Hot House” (Tadd Dameron) based on “What Is This Thing Called Love?” (Cole Porter). Baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan has been intrigued by this particular way of composition for a number of years. His first album on SteepleChase last year SCCD 31844 “Alternative Contrafacts” is a superlative example of his interest. Here on this new release “Our Contrafacts” is a collection of new contrafacts by contributed by each member of the trio.

“Last time Gary Smulyan led a trio on a set of contrafacts (the name for new melodies built on chord progressions of well-known compositions), the bari sax master drew from existing pieces written 60 years ago or so. That was then, on 2018’s Alternative Contrafacts. This time, Smulyan again brings bassist David Wong and drummer Rodney Green along, but all the tunes are new and penned by the disc’s players. It’s an invigorating jaunt through familiar-feeling music opened up with inventive themes and uniformly superb playing … The music throughout benefits from an open, airy feel, and the lack of chordal instruments lets listeners savor Smulyan’s big, gritty tone and agile improvisations. A real treat.”
— Philip Booth – JazzTimes


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Performances


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News and Updates

Arts Westchester Preview — “August 29 – Bird’s 99th Birthday Bash! Featuring Gary Smulyan”

Lyndhurst Estate 635 South Broadway Tarrytown, NY The grounds open at 4:30 pm, music begins at 6:30 pm. There is a $5 per person parking fee. The site is also accessible by walking the Old Croton Aqueduct trail. Dogs are allowed on-leash. Concerts are on the west lawn overlooking the Hudson River. Rain call made by 3 pm the day of and announced on this page, on Facebook, and our Instagram stories. Attendees are encouraged to bring blankets or low-profile lawn chairs and may bring or purchase a…
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Hot House Jazz Guide

Hot House Jazz Guide Preview of Gary Smulyan presents Re-Encounter! at the Jazz Forum on May 3-4

'At the Jazz Forum, Gary will pay homage to one of his primary influences, the incomparable Pepper Adams. With a performance titled “Re-Encounter!” he revisits Pepper’s landmark 1968 album Encounter! recorded with Zoot Sims, Tommy Flanagan, Ron Carter and Elvin Jones. For Gary’s show, Eric Alexander, Renee Rosnes, Sean Smith and Carl Allen will step into the shoes of the album’s luminaries. “This is one of my favorite records,” Gary notes. “The playing is great and the tunes Pepper chose are great. So much of Encounter! is outside the…
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Winner of the 2018 Jazz Times Expanded Critics Poll for Baritone Saxophone!

Gary was the Winner of the 2018 Jazz Times Expanded Critics Poll for Baritone Saxophone! For this annual companion poll to our January/February issue’s Top 50 Critics’ Picks, our regular contributors and critics participated in this survey based on our yearly Readers’ Poll. Voters in the Expanded Critics’ Poll were asked to focus on artists’ achievements during 2018 rather than assessing entire careers.
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New CD “Alternative Contrafacts” to be released February 15, 2018

Baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan brings here his trademark “contrafacts” (a music making method that shares the chord progressions with other compositions) approach to this first SteepleChase leader outing challenging us (maybe?) to guess the tunes he is employing. Smulyan whose professional career took shape by joining Woody Herman’s Young Thundering Herds at age 22 (1978) has won Critics’ and Readers’ Poll awards numerous times by Downbeat and JazzTimes, among others. GARY SMULYAN baritone saxophone DAVID WONG bass RODNEY GREEN drums Recorded April 2017 1 VODKA…
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Gary's Music

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