Who is Gary Wittner

Gary playing Guitar

Throughout a performance career that has spanned 5 decades, guitarist Gary Wittner has played all kinds of gigs and has represented the USA officially 4 times – twice as a Kennedy Center Jazz Ambassador, and once each as a Fulbright Specialist and a US Embassy Outreach Artist. Originally from New York, he has lived in Maine since the 1990s.  Gary has played worldwide for jazz audiences in major urban centers (New York City, Boston, Denver, London, Warsaw, Paris, St. Petersburg, Capetown, Johannesburg); tribal royalty in Papua New Guinea and Fiji, jazz royalty (Thelonious Monk’s widow, Nellie) and at the largest arts festival on the African continent. And in between all that he has played locally and regionally in Jazz, Latin, and Middle Eastern bands.  Gary has released 7 CDs as a leader or co-leader, spanning a large variety of styles: New Orleans Jazz, Blues/Folk Americana, Swing/Bop/Post Bop, Free Jazz and Latin music.  

An acknowledged authority on the music and life of jazz icon Thelonious Monk, Gary has presented lecture/concerts on this topic at many of the world’s most prestigious music schools. His book, “Thelonious Monk for Guitar”, published in 1999, is still informing guitar players around the world today.  He has recorded Monk’s compositions on 6 of his 7 CDs, and has performed Monk’s music with Clark Terry, Christian McBride, Eddie Gomez, Art Lande, James Emery, Reggie Workman, et. al. 

Most recently, Gary has been writing original jazz tunes with lyrics and singing.  Although there is no specific Jazz Singer/Songwriter category, Gary’s vocal tunes have been described as “Jazz Cabaret”. Regardless of labels, Gary Wittner has created a body of songs within the Jazz/Blues/Latin spectrum that combine witty, insightful, heartfelt lyrics with complex Post-Bop harmonies. Audiences and musicians alike have been entertained by Gary’s vocal tunes here in the USA, as well as in S. America, Europe and Africa. Gary currently teaches music at the Univ. of S. Maine School of Music and Bowdoin College and keeps an active performing schedule locally and abroad.

Gary’s resume

Gary Wittner, 2021, All rights reserved. Gary/Guitar pictures used by permission. Photographer - Pepe Avilés.