Original Jazz: Gary Wheat

Gary Wheat BMC

His sound: Jazz with pop and eastern music influences
For fans of: Lester Young, Duke Ellington, Woody Shaw

People are often impressed by the marquis names Gary Wheat has played with: The Temptations, O’Jays, Four Tops, Frankie Valli. But his proudest moments have been in the “trenches of the Birmingham music scene, creating music with my friends and the varied and rich talent here.”

The Huntsville native and University of Alabama music major moved to Birmingham in 2000 in the first of a wave of jazz players his age and younger who came to, or stayed, in town. “I knew it was fertile ground, and it has proven to be the case, and not just in music,” he says. He has been a part of Jose Carr’s weekly jazz jam session since 1999 and has played with “just about every band that uses horns, and even some that don’t.” “I do a pretty mean bluegrass fiddle impression on sax,” he adds.

You’ll find Wheat’s improvisations and compositions on the albums of jazz groups Downright, Meteorite, and the Birmingham 7. His newest project, Star Child, the first album to feature solely his music, starts with “Rubato Con Moto,” a merger of jazz, classical, and pop devices. His aim is at once focused and varied: “I am mainly concerned with writing and playing original music that covers ground that I don’t believe has already been covered. This is what I believe innovation in music is about. But there are elements of existing music which I admire within my originals, and I sometimes arrange the music of other people.”

Wheat, who has also taught music for most of his career, wants his music to share a novel and inspiring version of both jazz and its current narrative, that listeners seek out other examples of jazz after hearing him even if they previously saw the genre as something they “should like because it’s deep and smart.” Today, jazz practices mix with international influence, and he hopes that’s what you’ll hear in his music. “You can hear strains not just of Lester Young, Duke Ellington, and Woody Shaw, but also of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Arnold Schoenberg, Prince, and of course myself,” he says.

See him: Friday nights at The View at The Club
Listen: cdbaby.com/cd/garywheat

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