GRAY SARGENT, guitar
Gray Sargent was born in and spent most of his life in the Boston area. He began playing guitar at the age of 11 and is mainly self-taught. Originally inspired by his mother’s keen musical ear, appreciation and a handful of jazz records, he was able to assimilate the language of jazz by careful study of the recordings of Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Kenny Burrell, Roy Eldridge and countless other great jazz musicians.
Gray frequented the Boston jazz club scene to listen, enjoy and absorb great talent. It was at the celebrated “Lenny’s On The Turnpike” where Gray began a long association with the legendary tenor sax player, Illinois Jacquet. Gray began as a teenaged fan in the audience, was asked to “sit in” and the rest was history. This musical relationship and friendship spanned decades, including worldwide tours, recordings, documentaries and culminated in being handpicked to celebrate Illinois’ illustrious career with a concert at Carnegie Hall.
Gray spent many years as a freelance jazz musician in the New England area, which also included extensive traveling. Gray has appeared with and recorded with many greats traveling through Boston, as well as venues and Jazz festivals throughout the world, including: Chet Baker, Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Eldridge, Scott Hamilton, Dave McKenna, Benny Carter, Rosemary Clooney, Henry Mancini, Ray Brown, Warren Vache, Ruby Braff, Phil Woods, Jo Jones, Big Joe Turner, as well as countless local and world renowned jazz greats. Gray is a Concord Jazz recording artist with his own recording, “Shades of Gray”, and is featured on several other Concord releases. Gray was the beloved son-in-law of the late, great, Dick Johnson, a world renowned jazz artist, personally chosen by Artie Shaw to lead Shaw’s big band from the 1980’s thru the new century.
In 1997, after hearing Gray perform at Tavern on the Green in NYC, Tony Bennett decided, after many years of being accompanied by a trio, to add Gray’s talent, forming a quartet. This has proven to be a wonderful musical collaboration and mutual admiration, with Gray accompanying Tony on several Grammy winning recordings, as well as traveling and performing with him, throughout the world, for 24 years until Mr. Bennett’s recent retirement.
Famed jazz critic Whitney Balliett from “The New Yorker” magazine wrote: “As a guitarist, Gray possesses the unique ability to simultaneously play inspired, intelligent, swinging lines, while punctuating and accompanying them with richly harmonic chords; the whole time coaxing a wide range of sounds for his guitar. His tremendous knowledge of jazz and its practitioners, combined with his own keenly defined style make him one of the most exciting musicians of his, or any generation.