Gary Morgan and PanAmericana! Bios

Gary Morgan pic Gary Morgan was born in Santiago, Chile, but moved to Toronto, Canada at the age of 2. Tuned to music from an early age, he digested the popular music of the day, country music, Top 40, blues, big bands, rock & roll and rhythm & blues. Formative events in his early life included hearing the bands of Lionel Hampton, Count Basie and Illinois Jaquet up close, "these guys were really having fun!", and hearing Salsa for the first time, booming from a record shop in the Times Square subway station, on a Christmas visit to New York with his parents.

Another memorable experience from his early teens was attending the fabled Jazz at Massey Hall concert of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie et al. Memorable because he couldn't stand the music -- "too many notes" for his tender ears, and he lost his part time grocery job for deserting his fellow workers.

He started instrumental music in high school, wanted the drums, but was persuaded to take up the saxophone instead by his teacher. After a mediocre academic career, he settled down to practicing and freelanced in Toronto for 15 years, playing saxophone and woodwinds on TV variety shows, recordings, movie soundtracks, jingles and musical theater.

During this period Gary appeared with various musical artists including Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson, Dionne Warwick, Otis Redding, Gladys Knight, (Little) Stevie Wonder, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Woody Herman, Jose Feliciano, Quincy Jones, Lionel Hampton, Oscar Peterson, Ray Charles, Rob McConnell, Buddy Rich, Benny Goodman and Henry Mancini.

Gary also studied theory, harmony and composition privately, as well as electronic music. He began composing and arranging music for various ensembles he was performing with, and leading his own small jazz groups. Signature memories from that era included his first trips to Cuba and Brazil. Brazil, in particular, has been a dominant influence on Gary's music:
"From the moment I first stepped off the plane, I was seduced by the warmth and poetry of the culture and the people. In musical terms, the great variety of rhythmic traditions, which are part of the DNA of every Brazilian, the harmonic subtlety of the popular and art music, but most importantly the rich melodic tradition of choro, going back 100 years or more, adds a dimension that seems lacking in our popular music in America."

In 1980, sensing a need for change, Gary received a Canada Council grant to study jazz composition at the Berklee School of Music in Boston, studying with the legendary Herb Pomeroy, among others. After a productive year, he packed his bags and migrated to New York, whereupon he switched to the bass, to better experience the perspective of the rhythm section.

In 1989, Gary was invited to join the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop under the guidance of Bob Brookmeyer and Manny Albam, and later Jim McNeely, where he gained more expertise writing for large ensembles, met other similarly inclined composers and acquired practical experience in the logistics of organizing and promoting concerts.

Gary has been the recipient of composition grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and is a member of the American Federation of Musicians, Local 802.

PanAmericana! began in New York in 1997 as a compositional vehicle for Gary, as well as a repertory orchestra for modern Cuban and Brazilian classics. The recent emphasis in the band has been the orchestration and arrangement of some of the wealth of material emerging from the contemporary composers of Brazil, who do not have much exposure in this country, including such major talents as Egberto Gismonti, Milton Nascimento, Hermeto Pascoal, Jovino Santos Neto and Itibere Zwarg. This is not your father's big band. Although Gary is steeped in the big band tradition and sound, PanAmericana! represents an attempt to expand, through orchestration, his rhythmic, melodic and harmonic ideas.

PanAmericana! is based in New York City, and plays a variety of venues in the New York and New Jersey area including Birdland, Makor, Nuyorican Poets Cafe, the Garage, Trumpets Jazz Club, the Baha'i Center, as well as concerts in Central Park, Brooklyn Museum. The personnel includes many of the finest New York area latin jazz musicians.

In 2004, Gary formed an all-star Canadian orchestra, which is based in Toronto, and is available for dates in Eastern Canada.