Musician, composer, and painter, a renaissance man with the goal to preserve jazz as an American art form: enter GERALD CANNON.
Born in Racine, Wisconsin, Gerald’s initial inspiration was his father Benjamin, a guitarist, who bought him his first electric bass at the ripe young age of 10. He began playing bass in his father’s group ‘The Gospel Expressions' and he never looked back. Gerald attended The University of Wisconsin at La Crosse where he met jazz great Milt Hinton. This meeting not only changed Gerald’s major in college from physical education to music, it also changed the rest of his life.
Gerald transferred to the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music in Milwaukee, where he spent the next four years studying jazz bass, classical bass and piano. He also studied art at Marquette University, which nurtured a natural talent and love of painting. Outside of school, Gerald began working as musical director with singer and mentor Penny Goodwin. This experience led to the creation of his own quintet ‘Gerald Cannon’s Jazz Elements,’ which laid the foundation for a solid reputation as a leader and composer in his own right.
At age 28, Gerald arrived in New York City. He immediately began earning his living playing bass in the subway and jamming at the Blue Note with renowned musicians Russell Malone, Winard & Philip Harper and Justin Robinson. From there, prestigious gigs arose with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Dexter Gordon, Cedar Walton Trio with Billy Higgins, Jimmy Smith, Little Jimmy Scott, James Williams, Hamiett Bluiett, Ed Thigpen, Frank Foster, John Bunch, Eddie Harris, Stanley Turrentine and Bunky Green.
After a short stint back home, Gerald returned to New York to work with Buddy Montgomery and Andy Bey. Good fortune followed when acclaimed trumpeter Roy Hargrove came to a club where Gerald was working. For the next seven years, Gerald performed as a member of Roy’s band at major jazz festivals all over the world, including the North Sea Jazz Festival, Cape Town Jazz Festival, Montreux Jazz Festival, Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia, and the Montreal Jazz Festival. He also was a part of the award winning Crisol tour where Gerald played with great Cuban musicians like master percussionist Jose Luis “Chanquito” Quintana, Miguel “Anga” Diaz, Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez, Chucho Valdes and studied with excellent bassist Orlando “Cachahito” Lopez and pianist Ruben Gonzalez.
Gerald carries the knowledge passed on to him by legendary bassists Ray Brown, Sam Jones, Ron Carter and Buster Williams and continues the legacy by conducting master classes throughout the U.S. and Europe. He taught at the Oberlin Conservatory in 2014, the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music in Milwaukee, the New School in New York and at Long Island University. He also gave a number of master classes at the University of Wisconsin in Whitewater and Eau Clair, at Emery University in Atlanta, Georgia and at the Conservatory of Amsterdam. Gerald was also a faculty member of the prestigious Conservatory of Maastricht, Holland.
After leaving Roy Hargrove, Gerald held the bass chair for legendary drummer Elvin Jones until his passing in 2004. Gerald considers his time spent with Mr. Jones a profound period of spiritual and creative growth. Since then, Gerald has worked with jazz heavy-weights Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Pat Martino, Louis Hayes and The Cannonball Legacy, Ernestine Anderson, Carmen Lundy, Abbey Lincoln, Gary Bartz, Joe Lovano, Cyrus Chestnut, Larry Willis, Dr. Eddie Henderson, Steve Turre, Eric Reed, the Dexter Gordon Legacy Ensemble and many other all-star combinations, as well as with his own quartet. He continues to conduct Master Classes around the world and remains the Musical Director for the McCoy Tyner Trio.
Gerald debuted as producer with the CD ‘Mad about the Boy’ featuring jazz vocalist Jeanne Gies. This recording includes the vocal rendition of Gerald’s original composition ‘Peri.’
The consummate sideman, Gerald has now stepped out front as a leader with the debut of his self-titled recording GERALD CANNON (Woodneck Records.) Along with stellar versions of well-loved standards, this recording spotlights Gerald’s critically acclaimed originals including ‘Little G’s Walk’ and ‘Jeanne’s Dream.’
Gerald’s creativity and passion is expressed not only in his music, but also in his painting. He recently had his first art showing in New York City and hosts exclusive viewings for interested art enthusiasts. A US tour of his paintings paired with musical selections will begin in 2016 and his highly anticipated sophomore album is underway with plans to release later next year.
Like the masters before him, Gerald Cannon has established a fearless, solid groove that distinguishes him as a principal figure in jazz. He will go down in history as a signature jazz bassist and composer of this century.