Originally from Bethpage, New York, Gary Smulyan is a critically acclaimed baritone saxophonist and Jazz educator. 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. After graduating high school he attended SUNY-Potsdam and Hofstra University. It wasn’t long before Gary’s professional career began to take shape in 1978 when he joined Woody Herman’s Young Thundering Herd at the age of 22. In 1980 he became part of the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra then under the direction of renowned valve-trombonist and jazz guru, Bob Brookmeyer. Gradually establishing himself the talented Smulyan was asked to share the stage and recording studio with a stunning array of luminaries including: trumpeters Freddie Hubbard and Dizzy Gillespie, saxophonist Stan Getz, pianist Chick Corea, timbales king Tito Puente, and R&B/Blues and soul icons Ray Charles, B.B. King and Diana Ross.
Smulyan has become a fixed member of the acclaimed Vanguard Jazz Orchestra for over twenty years. He has performed and recorded with the Dave Holland Big Band, the Dizzy Gillespie All Star Big Band, Carla Bley’s Big Band, the Mingus Big Band, and the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra. Among his many accomplishments, Gary is a four-time winner of the prestigious “Down Beat Magazine” Critic’s and Reader’s Poll’s for Baritone Saxophonist of the Year. He is a six-time Grammy award winner for his work with B.B. King, Joe Lovano, Dave Holland and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. Gary continues his impressive work in music education as a Jazz faculty member at a variety of colleges including the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, SUNY Purchase, and the Manhattan School of Music.
Today Gary has become recognized across-the-board 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.
These days Smulyan lives in Amherst, Mass., with his wife, pianist and conductor Joan Cornachio. He is a faculty member of Amherst College and serves as the artistic director at the Berkshire Hills Music Academy in South Hadley, Massachusetts, a two year post secondary music school for adults with developmental disabilities.
Trumpet player Matt Hilgenberg has been a top call musician in New York City for 20 years. He has toured with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Bebo Valdes, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Antibalas, and many jazz, rock, Latin, and singer songwriter acts. He has performed in pits for many Broadway musicals, including Jersey Boys, Fela!, and Movin Out. For 15 years he performed at Birdland every Sunday night with the Chico O’Farrill Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra, and appears on three Grammy nominated CDs with the group. Final Night at Birdland, the band’s last release, won the 2014 Latin Grammy for Best Instrumental Album. Hilgenberg also is on staff for the Jazz at Lincoln Center music preparation team, arranging and transcribing musical parts for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra directed by Wynton Marsalis.
In 2000, Matt recorded his first jazz album as a bandleader. Rasa, on Double Time Records features Frank Kimbrough on piano, Mike Richmond on bass, and Adam Nussbaum on drums, and highlights many of Matt’s original compositions. Since then, Matt has also appeared as a sideman in many recordings, ranging from rock groups to Latin Jazz groups and big bands, and many national commercial TV ads.
Matt is currently in his seventh year of teaching band in the Mamaroneck public schools, to roughly 200 students per year.