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Greg Tardy, an associate professor of jazz saxophone, will take a five-week hiatus from teaching this semester to go on tour with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, led by Wynton Marsalis.

Greg Tardy“I’ve been blessed to have gotten some really great opportunities,” Tardy said. “It is an incredible honor to be called to play with Wynton and the members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, as they are the premier jazz orchestra in the world. I consider Wynton to be one of the iconic, most important artists of this era. He is one of the musicians who inspired me to seek out being a professional jazz musician and made me think I can do this.”

Tardy will be filling in for a vacationing orchestra member and will travel with the orchestra for most of September and part of October. They’ll be playing multiple concerts in California as well as some in Texas, Missouri, and Indiana.

He’ll play four instruments—tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet, and bass clarinet.

While the upcoming gig with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra is Tardy’s longest professional tour since coming to UT, it’s not his first.

“Over the last eight years that I have taught at UT I have had the opportunity to continue to perform on the world stage in jazz, and I feel it is those experiences that help keep me active and vibrant as a teacher,” he said. “My students’ development and growth are of utmost importance and I have always made them a top priority. The experience I gain on these performances helps make me a viable teacher. It’s similar to a professor in the sciences doing lab research.”

Tardy said he’s working with his colleagues in the School of Music to cover his classes while he’s gone. He’s may also to do some teaching online.

School of Music Director Jeffrey Pappas is fully supportive.

“This is the most prestigious international jazz orchestra in the world,” Pappas said. “This is just far too important an invitation for Greg to pass up.”

Although Tardy has known Wynton Marsalis—and his father, Ellis Marsalis, and his brothers, Branford, Delfeayo, and Jason Marsalis—for years, it takes more than friendship to land a spot in a professional touring group.

Tardy said subbing in with a professional ensemble requires quick work and versatility.

“I’m going back and reviewing some of my transcriptions and styles of New Orleans jazz, 1930s Kansas City jazz, and the work of Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, and others to make sure I’m playing in the idiom,” he said. Although he expects to see some of the music in advance to have time to practice, other pieces are being commissioned and may not be available ahead of time. Tardy will likely do some musical improvisation too.

The key to being a good ensemble pinch-hitter, he said, is to be able to “read down some difficult music and make it sound like you’ve been playing it your whole life.”

Tardy was born into a musical family and began his career studying classical clarinet. During college he gradually switched to saxophone and began learning jazz music.

Before coming to UT, he traveled the world performing.

He recorded the first of his 14 solo projects,Crazy Love, in 1992. The following year, he began touring internationally with legendary drummer Elvin Jones in the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine, a partnership that lasted for several years.

Tardy has lived in some of the nation’s jazz meccas—New Orleans, Saint Louis, and New York City—and has performed or recorded with many prominent musicians including Wynton Marsalis, Bill Frisell, Eddie Palmieri, the Neville Brothers, Allen Toussaint, Andrew Hill, Tom Harrell, Dave Douglas, Steve Coleman, Betty Carter, Rashied Ali, Dewey Redman, and Ravi Coltrane (son of John Coltrane).

At UT, Tardy provides weekly lessons to jazz saxophone majors. He also teaches a beginning improvisation course, a jazz composition course, and small-group ensembles, and contributes to a music methods course jointly taught by all jazz faculty.


Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,