Whispers (1987), was the first all-solo all-original Stick recording; and his latest CD, Lift (2000), finds him fronting a Dutch fusion quartet, occupying myriad roles amid bass, lead and percussion instruments. Between these two poles Greg has explored jazz and Latin music in a band context (Shapes, 1994 and Sol, 1997), pan-cultural improvisation (Transmigration, 1996) and a new form of improvised music and poetry he calls “groove poetry” (Code Magenta, 1995). He’s even released a live one-hour solo concert improvisation (Water on the Moon, 1998). With well over one thousand performances in front of diverse audiences, and twelve recordings under his belt, Greg has made the instrument his own. His repertoire includes dozens of original compositions, as well as a wide array of material from the Renaissance through jazz and The Beatles.
But his forte is improvisation. He’ll often launch into a spontaneous exploration, with deep-pocket grooves and symphonic textures, only to make a surprise landing in a piece by anyone from Charles Mingus to Brazilian composer Luis Bonfá, or even Bob Dylan. Greg was born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area. Though he has resided briefly in Los Angeles and Santa Fé, New Mexico, Charlottesville, Virginia, has been his home since 1982, where he received his BA in English from The University of Virginia in 1986. Originally a keyboardist and saxophonist, Greg began improvising and making recordings at age fourteen.
Early influences varied widely, from Peter Gabriel, Yes, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, The Beatles and The Doors to jazz soloists like Oscar Peterson and John Coltrane. He picked up his first Stick in 1985 at the age of twenty, and quickly immersed himself in his new instrument. It wasn’t long before he formed a band and started writing original music for The Stick. The music scene in Charlottesville was fertile ground for experimentation, with many transplants from the New York jazz scene cross-pollinating with a truly innovative local population. Everybody played with everybody else, exploring jazz, funk, and rock, all with a strong emphasis on improvisation.
Among Greg’s frequent collaborators were guitarist Tim Reynolds and trumpeter John D’earth. One product of this environment was The Dave Matthews Band, whose collaborations with Greg include guest appearances on the band's CDs (Remember Two Things, 1993, and Before These Crowded Streets, 1998) and guest concert appearances. DMB saxophonist Leroi Moore is also a member of Greg’s groove-poetry group, Code Magenta. The new Greg Howard Band is a quartet with three Dutch musicians, Jan van Olffen (bass), Jan Wolfkamp (drums and loops), and Hubert Heeringa (saxophones and wind synthesizer). The group’s instant chemistry inspired Howard to record his compositions and some group improvs.
The result is Lift, the band’s debut CD. Greg also performs frequently with percussionist Darrell Rose. In 1999 Greg released their live concert video (HandiworkTM, Volume One). He has written a method book (The Stick Book,TM Volume One, published by Stick Enterprises in 1997), and has taught hundreds of Stick players at seminars across North America and Europe. His music appears regularly on NPR’s All Things Considered, and he has been featured on CNN’s Headline News.
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