“Music is an expression of the soul and I always try to speak through my horn,” says Gregory Tardy. “I once heard an older musician say ‘it is better to be felt than to be heard’. I never forgot that. That is my approach to playing any style of music.”
Born into a musical family, Gregory Tardy began his musical career studying classical clarinet. In high school, Gregory excelled in music, winning many awards and scholarships offers. While studying with renowned clarinetists Russell Dagon and Jack Snavely, Tardy began preparing for a symphony career. Over time, he began to be asked to play saxophone, to fill in missing gaps in various ensembles. Although he never practiced the saxophone seriously, Tardy began getting calls to play local funk gigs in the Milwaukee area. At the prodding of his older brother, Tardy finally listened to the duo recording of John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk playing “Monk’s Mood”, and then immediately determined to be a jazz musician.
His passion for the saxophone took over his studies and soon his clarinet was gathering dust. At this time, he moved to St. Louis and after a year of performing on the jazz and blues scene, he decided to move back to his birthplace, New Orleans, in order to focus his jazz studies even further. “This proved to be great move”, Tardy says. “ There were all of these outstanding players down there-many of which went on to be well known, like Nicholas Payton, Brian Blade, Victor Goines, Mark Turner, Delfeayo and Jason Marsalis and far too many others to mention. Many, like I, came to study with Ellis Marsalis; some were just hanging out. It was there that I really started to get my playing together.” While in New Orleans, Tardy also played with some of the local brass bands, did some gigging with the Neville Brothers, Allen Toussaint, and groups of all styles. But he never stopped pursuing jazz.
In 1992, Tardy recorded his first solo project, Crazy Love. 1992 is also the year that he was picked up by Elvin Jones Jazz Machine, a relationship that lasted several years. During the time with the legendary Elvin Jones, Tardy felt that it was finally time to move to the Big Apple. In New York, he went on to perform and record with an extremely large array of prominent artists including: Tom Harrell, Dave Douglas, Wynton Marsalis, Jay McShann, Steve Coleman, Betty Carter, James Moody, Bill Frisell, Rashied Ali, John Patitucci, and many more. In 1999, Tardy began to play in various bands led by the great Andrew Hill; a relationship that lasted many years and produced several highly acclaimed recordings. He has also performed and/or recorded alongside many other notable saxophonists, such as Joe Lovano, Mark Turner, Chris Potter, Dewey Redman, Ravi Coltrane, and many others. In more recent years, Tardy has gone full circle, bringing his clarinet out of retirement, using it on recordings by Tom Harrell, Ohad Talmor/Steve Swallow, Stefon Harris, Chris Potter, and Andrew Hill.