Garry Dial was born in Montclair, New Jersey where at the age of 10 he began piano lessons with Elston Husk, a jazz pianist who ran the local music studio. Garry's mother also played piano and helped him with his practicing during that first year of study.
His 7th grade teacher gave him his first jazz record "The Oscar Peterson Trio" which instilled in him the love of jazz. For a few years he played the standards and some light classical pieces. Garry entered high school at St. Benedict's Prep in Newark, New Jersey where his musical life would change forever. The priests at St Benedict's were very supportive of Garry's love of jazz. In church at St Benedict's Garry met The "Queen Of Jazz "Mary Lou Williams". She offered him lessons for free and took him under her wing. For the next few years Garry went into NY City, up to 145th St. in Harlem, to study with Mary Lou. It was there he learned of Miles, Monk, Bud Powell and Cecil Taylor with whom Mary was doing a duo concert at Carnegie Hall. Through a connection of Garry's mother's, Mary Lou was asked to perform her mass, "Mary Lou's Mass" at St. Patrick's Cathedral in NY City. This was the first time that a Catholic jazz mass would be performed in a major cathedral.
As a junior in high school Garry took the Summer Jazz Workshop at Berklee College Of Music. This is where he realized that music and jazz would be his calling. After high school graduation he returned to Berklee where he met his teacher of 37 years, the late Charlie Banacos. After one year at Berklee fellow musician Kenny Werner recommended Garry for a gig in Bermuda as the pianist at The Princess Hotel. He lived on the island with his lady for three years while playing 6 nights a week for various shows and singers.
In 1976 Garry returned to NY and started gigging around the city. He played with Charli Persip's big band. There he was discovered by bebop trumpet legend Red Rodney who asked him to form a band. During this time Garry played with various small groups and singers. Through the club Jilly's, Frank Sinatra heard of Garry and asked him to play at his apartment at the Waldorf Astoria. Although he never performed with Mr Sinatra in concert, Garry was asked on numerous occasions to play for Frank at his private parties.
During these years Garry joined The Gerry Mulligan Big Band, The Mel Lewis Quartet and the Joe Morello Quintet performing at the Blue Note In NY City.
Initially, Dial's talent as a pianist earned him a coveted and unique place in jazz history. Ruth Ellington, sister of the great Duke Ellington, enlisted him to perform and record for the Ellington family's personal library the entire Duke Ellington catalog. Many of these compositions would have been lost as they were unperformed and unrecorded.
In the late 1970's Dial spent 10 years with the Red Rodney-Ira Sullivan Quintet, winning widespread acclaim as the primary composer and arranger for these legendary talents. The album "Red Rodney, Live at the Village Vanguard" was nominated for a Grammy for Best Jazz group in 1980. "Ira Does It All" (1981), featuring Ira Sullivan, was nominated for a Grammy for Best Instrumentalist. "Sprint" was chosen as one of the 10 best productions for 1983 by the News & Observer, North Carolina. Rounding out these 10 years Dial's artistic visions are found on all of the releases of the Quintet.
In 1987 Garry Dial's debut release "Never Is Now" (Continuum Records), performed in a trio format, featuring Joey Baron and Jay Anderson "...showcases his exceptional compositional chops on 12 originals. Dial displays an effortless supreme melodicism on tunes both coherent and open-ended enough to allow for significant participation from his associates." (New Music Report)
In a 1989 trip "Downunder", Dial combined his talents as producer, composer and pianist with James Morrison and artist Ken Done. "Post Cards from Down Under" (Warner Bros. Records) won national praise for the pictorial and musical portrayal of many places in Australia.
Upon his return, Dial's partnership with saxophonist Dick Oatts offered "Dial & Oatts", co-produced by Tom Jung and recorded on DMP. Together with the talents of Jay Anderson (bass) and Joey Baron (drums) this project eloquently combined original compositions and arrangements with a 30 piece string orchestra.
The following year the Dial/Oatts combination released "Brassworks" on DMP. Incorporating the original compositions and arrangements of Dial & Oatts and the orchestration and conducting expertise of Rich DeRosa, "Brassworks" unites the Jazz Quartet and the brass choir. This recording won "Disc of the Month" in March of 1991 (CD Review) and was picked by Wayne Thomas of the Orgonian as one of the 10 best recordings of 1990.
In 1992 Dial and Oatts teamed up again to record "Dial & Oatts Verses Cole Porter". Together with Jay Anderson and Jeff Hirschfield they deliver an interesting project of Cole Porter's songs while focusing primarily on the verses. Dial's drastic reimaging of "At Long Last Love" won the top award for the Most Innovative Arrangement of a Standard in the South Bend Tribune at the Elkhart Indiana Jazz Festival in 1992.
In addition to his work in jazz Dial has also worked with the folk music group The Roches, playing on three of their recordings and appearing with them in a video performance. He also collaborated with Terre Roche on arrangements for her band Terre & Her Moodswings, which performed at New York's Bottom Line and were the headliners at the Princeton Council of the Arts First Night Celebration in 1997.
In 1990, after fifteen years on the road, Dial joined the faculties of both The New School and Manhattan School of Music, where he teaches piano, theory and improvisation.
In 1992 Dial played on Jerry Bergonzi's playalong record, "Melodic Structures for Advanced Music".
In 1995 Dial's playing and compositions were featured along with saxophonist Chris Potter on "The Brighter Side" by the Joel Spencer and Kelly Sill Quartet, on Alliance Records. Jazz critic Neil Tesser (Playboy Magazine) said "Dial's experience and compositional abilities make him the artistic gatekeeper in this quartet."
In 1995 Dial & Oatts presented Brassworks in Finland with the Radio Orchestra of Helsinki. On that trip he also played quartet with Jerry Bergonzi.
In 1997 Dial worked as a consultant with Joey Baron on his CD "Down Home", featuring Ron Carter, Arthur Blythe and Bill Frisell. Also in 1997, Dial's compositions were featured in a trio format on the K-Jazz Allstars' "Straight Ahead"ls with Charles Fambrough on bass and Ralph Peterson on drums.
In the late 1990's the Dial & Oatts band incorporated virtuoso guitarist Vic Juris in a band called Loose Change which played in New York City at The Blue Note and Visiones. He continued during this period to do some live engagements with saxophonists Dick Oatts, Jerry Bergonzi and Rick Margitza.
Dial went deeper into composition studies in the 1990's These compositions can be heard on his trio recording "Tea For Three" with drummer Jeff Hirshfield and bassist John Hebert.
Finding a balance between performing and teaching , he wrote the two-year theory and performance curriculum for The New School. In the year 2000 Manhattan School of Music took a new course of direction. With a new chairman, Justin DiCioccio, Dial was appointed head of the improvisation department where his six-year course of study has been implemented in the curriculum.
In New York Dial has a private teaching practice where he has acted as producer for some of his students. An impressive group has studied with him, which includes viberaphonist Stefan Harris and pianist Jacob Sacks, a finalist in the Monk Competition.
Not limiting himself to jazz, Dial has taught people from other musical genres including the Queen of R&B, Mary J. Blige. Billy Joel and supermodel Christie Brinkley’s daughter Alexa studied with Garry as she prepared for her musical debut. Amanda Brecker daughter of Randy Brecker and Brazilian jazz pianist Eliane Elias has studied with Garry for many years.
In 2001, Bette Midler came to study music with Garry. She remains among the growing number of his students. In September of that year he had the honor of co-writing with pianist Bette Sussman a New York Medley for Miss Devine's tribute to the fallen World Trade Center and Mayor Rudolph Guiliani.
In the fall of 2001 Dial performed with the Gerry Bergonzi Group at The Hopewell in Connecticut.
For four years Dial contributed to the Euro-Meet Jazz Workshop in Italy. In addition to doing master classes at the workshop Dial performed with his trio in Northern Italy and also in Salzburg and Vienna, Austria.
In January 2002 Dial teamed up with Dick Oatts to teach master classes at The Dutch Conservatory in Amsterdam Holland. Part of an exchange program with The Manhattan School Of Music, Dial and Oatts performed at the school and at the local jazz club in Amsterdam.
From 2003 till the present Garry continued teaching and performing. Two new projects began to consume his time. One is a CD and video entitled "US AND THEM", a collection of arrangements of national anthems in collaboration with folksinger Terre Roche, and featuring musicians from many countries. He performed two of the anthems live with the Roches: the Czech anthem at the Bottom Line in NYC and the Tibetan anthem at Philip Glass's annual Carnegie Hall benefit concert for Tibet House. This collaboration took on a new life when Bob Justich became executive producer and started to make a movie about the project. For a few years a film team followed Garry and Terre around NY as they interviewed and preformed with various world musicans for the video. After 17 years of work on this project has been released in the Fall of 2008. It is available for purchase on cdbaby.com.
The second project was the construction of a house on a Caribbean island. From his early years living in Bermuda Garry always had a love of the islands and the water. He bought a piece of land on the top of a mountain facing the ocean on the island of St. John and began building a villa. After 4 years Moonswept Villa was completed and he has been spending time there practicing and writing. A dream came true of having a busy NY life while being able to retreat to paradise to compose and reflect.
In January 2008 a series of lessons with Garry was filmed and can be viewed on the internet at Mucony.com.
In May 2008 Garry performed with Dick Oatts the music from their Cole Porter CD At the L.A. Jazz Festival in Los Angeles. In July of 2008 Dial and Oatts again teamed up in Amsterdam for the Summer jazz Workshop.
On Sept 15th 2008 Garry performed with flutist Anne Drummond At Dizzy's Coca Cola at Lincoln Center. They played a duo piece which Anne wrote for him entitled "Garry's Place". Garry And Ms. Drummond have performed in duo and quartet throughout The United States and Europe.
In 2009 Garry performed In NY at the jazz clubs The Knickerbocker and Smalls.
On Dec 8th 2009 Garry's teacher of 37 years, Charlie Banacos died of cancer. His death was a huge blow to the jazz world. A week before his death Mr Banacos through his family asked Garry to help continue his teachings. Garry is now teaching private jazz lessons online through the Banacos family and on his own. Garry’s lessons are for all instruments and vocalists as well.
Garry performed with vocalist Hilary Kole in 2010 at Birdland in NY. Garry toured with her quartet to Montreal Canada. In the summer the quartet played 11 nights at the Umbria Jazz festival in Perugia Italy. In the fall of 2010 Garry and Ms Kole played in London, Paris and Istanbul.
Movie star Ben Stiller hired Garry in November of that year to teach him to play the piano for the Broadway Show " House Of Blue Leaves".
“The Pleasure of his Accompaniment” is the title of an article about Garry featured in the Vocal Ease column of Backstage Magazine on January 5,2011. ??In March Garry returned with Ms Kole to Istanbul Turkey to perform at the Jazz Center for a two week engagement. In April Garry was the featured artist in residence for a three day jazz festival at The Chesire High School in Chesire Connecticut.
Fall, 2011 found Garry playing at Smalls in New York City with his quartet, including Anne Drummond, Steve LaSpina and Richard Derosa.
Between the years 2010 and 2012, Mark Lamb Dance featured Garry several times in his Second Saturday Sanctuary Salon Series at Seven. For this unusual peformance, with no rehearsal at all, Garry's piano improvisations provided the inspiration for the Mark Lamb Dancers to create their work on the spot.
In the Spring of 2012 Dial and Oatts performed their Brassworks music with the Manhattan School of Music conducted by Justin Dicioccio .This was a special evening for Garry because "Brassworks" shared the bill with Mary Lou Williams's "Zodiac Suite", in the first performance of this work since the original Town Hall concert in 1945. Garry brought Fr. Peter O'Brien, Mary Lou's manager, to speak about Mary. Garry kicked off the show with a solo blues that Mary taught him when he was only 14 years old.
Back at Smalls in the fall of 2012 Garry performed trio with Jay Anderson on bass and Joe Hunt on drums.
In Jan 2013 Garry performed in duo with singer Luba Dolgopolsky at the St John School of the Arts in St John U.S.V.I.
Most recently adding to the list of his celebrity students, NY Yankee's legend and Grammy nominated guitarist Bernie Williams began studies with Garry in improvisation in the spring of 2013.
In May of 2013 Garry performed solo piano at a Harlem Piano Jazz party called "Fist full of Keys" at the club Ginny's. He Played the music of his teacher MaryLou Williams and Duke Ellington in tribute to the Harlem Stride greats.
Also in the same month The Garry Dial Trio featuring Jay Anderson and Richard DeRosa played the music of Bill Evans at Trumpets Jazz Club in Montclair, N.J.
In July of 2013 Garry gave a master class in the art of improvisation at Princeton University as part of the Golansky Institute Summer Symposium.
Garry can be heard on both piano and keyboards on the first CD of "Afro-Jersey", a trio blending American and West African folk music with original songs sung in both English and Mandingo. "Afro-Jersey" was released in the summer of 2013.
In January of 2014 Dial performed and taught improvisation at the two week Civebra 2014 music festival in Brasilia, Brazil. He also performed in New York and New Jersey with the Garry Dial Trio.
After many years Dial and Oatts reunited to present a large scale project in which they've written original music to the poetry of Walt Whitman. This features a jazz quintet including trumpeter Terell Stafford, along with Temple University's 32-voice concert choir. In addition some of the best vocal soloists working in New York City today perform on the project. The beautiful choral arrangements were written and conducted by Rich DeRosa. This project had its premiere performance at Philadelphia's Temple Performing Arts Center in October of 2013. The double CD entitled "That Music Always Round Me“ was released in 2015. It was considered for a Grammy nomination. And it was in Downbeat Magazine's list of the best CD's of 2015.
In 2015 Dial launched the Garry Dial Fund in conjunction with the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine at Mount Sinai West Hospital in New York City. This fund enabled a full time music therapy program for radiation cancer patients. It has helped over 350 patients overcome the anxiety of Radiation Therapy when undergoing treatment for cancer. As part of the gala for the Louis Armstrong Center Dial performed with his trio alongside New York Yankee legend and guitarist Bernie Williams and Jazz legend Roy Haynes both of whom were being honored.
Dial and Bernie Williams were also featured at St. Benedicts Prep, Dial's alma mater, playing duo and again with the student Jazz band.
In 2016 Dial teamed back with Oatts and Derosa to perform and record their arrangements of "Unheard Ellington" with the WDR Band in Cologne Germany . It was received with huge success to sold out crowds in the Philharmonic halls of Cologne and Essen. Many years ago, these unheard Duke Ellington songs were recorded by Dial for Duke's sister Ruth Ellington for the family catalogue. These German concerts were the premiere performances of "Unheard Ellington." There will be a CD and video released in 2017.
Returning from Germany, Dial performed duo with bassist Steve La Spina at the Knickerbocker in New York City. A few weeks later he performed trio with Jay Anderson and Tim Horner at Trumpets in Montclair New Jersey.
The three-legged stool as they like to call themselves, Dial, Oatts and Derosa are currently working on a new big band project of Dial and Oatts earlier recording "Dial and Oatts vs. Cole Porter." This project features the verses of Cole Porter which are seldom heard with jazz instrumentalists.
Dial & Oatts, Red Rodney & Ira Sullivan, Dizzy Gillespie, James Moody, Gerry Mulligan, Mel Lewis, Sheila Jordan, Joe Lovano, Jerry Bergonzi, Village Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Joe Morello, Roy Haynes, Charlie Persip, Nat Adderly, Gunther Schuller, Toots Thielemans
B.A. Manhattan School of Music
M.A. Manhattan School of Music Berklee College of Music Alumnus Manhattan School of Music Faculty since 1990
New School of Social Research Faculty since 1990
Private Studies: Charlie Banacos, Mary Lou Williams & Jacki Byard