Born in 1954 in Brooklyn, Gerard grew up in a home where you heard piano every day. His father was a self-taught and accomplished stride piano player. Gerard took some desultory piano lessons at eight. But he didn't catch fire until he was twelve; then, suddenly, his father's Erroll Garner and Ramsey Lewis records got him hooked on jazz. Like his father, he learned quickly by ear and was soon playing high school gigs.
At fifteen he started taking lessons seriously and at seventeen he spent a transforming summer at Berklee School of Music, studying with Charlie Banacos, the respected jazz teacher. Another year to finish high school in Long Island and he was back to Berklee. Already good enough to land a five-night-a-week gig, he spent the next year at Berklee deeply immersed in jazz.
But the lure of the road beckoned. The next three years he spent mostly on the road, touring with Broadway shows or taking club and hotel gigs. He landed a great six month gig in Bermuda where he met his lifelong friend and influence, Gary Dial. In between tours, he pursued his music studies, most notably with the great piano innovator and bebop giant, Lennie Tristano. Lennie, a tragically under-recognized genius, was a great and creative teacher who never taught formulas or rote systems. Not only did he polish Gerard's bebop craftsmanship, his brilliant ear training inspired Gerard to improvise intuitively and organically.
By twenty-two, Gerard was ready to become one of the Big Apple's jazz warriors, settling down in Manhattan. He was busy as a full-time musician for the next decade and a half, working the great New York jazz venues like the Blue Note, Birdland, Village Vanguard, Bradley's, Roseland and the Rainbow Room. He also hit the big European festivals like Rome, Torino and the North Sea. A consummate accompanist, he played with first-rate players like Zoot Sims, Red Rodney, Nat Adderly, Mel Lewis, Bucky Pizzarelli and Ira Sullivan.
In the early 80's, Gerard's interest in technical mastery of the keyboard deepened: he started studying classical piano with one of New York's major teachers, Sophia Rossoff. That was the beginning of the evident--and very appealing--influence of Ravel and Chopin in Gerard's playing.
Shortly thereafter--and perhaps not coincidentally--Gerard turned to composing. Ever since his Berklee days he'd been doodling around with tunes of his own, never seriously. Then, on a Florida bandstand with Nat Adderley, he ran down his first sketch of "Who's Kidding Who?" Nat was knocked out, told him to write out a chart and then recorded the tune with him. That was the first time Gerard took himself seriously as a composer and arranger actively. Now Vincent Herring, Wallace Roney, Mulgrew Miller and Larry Willis all play and record his tunes.
In 1992 he started teaching jazz, harmony, theory and improvisation at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan. He's now a deeply committed, much sought after teacher. At the same time, he's continuing to perform actively. He plays regularly in and around New York, appearing with his trio, Primary Colors, as well as the likes of Vincent Herring, Joe Lovano, Victor Lewis, Steve LaSpina, Gary Smulyan and, of course, Jeff Hirschfield and Jay Anderson.
Current projects he's working on are an album of classical compositions arranged for jazz trio and an album of his own originals.
|Not What My Hands Have Done (#08432)|
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