Gary Carner Biography   (home)  



















  After graduation in 1982, Carner attended a full year of supplemental music classes at City College of New York. “They had a really good jazz program at that time, and I could commute there very easily by bus and subway,” said Carner. “I felt I still needed to round out my musicianship, so I took two semesters of hard-core dictation, ear training, and jazz harmony with Stanley Persky and Bob Norden, two very gifted teachers, plus jazz history classes with John Lewis and Ron Carter. (Saxophonist Frank Griffith was in Carter’s class with me.) I also did an independent study with poet Barry Wallenstein, who really taught me how to write.”

“It was Barry, my second significant mentor, who persuaded me to pursue a masters degree in English at City, leaving music performance behind,” Carner continued. “Meeting my wife notwithstanding, this turned out to be the biggest turning point of my life, because I wanted to write a jazz biography, and I was able to do my thesis on a jazz musician, kind of a thumbnail biography, if you will. As things turned out,” Carner said, “my subject became Pepper Adams! I had the enormous privilege of interviewing Adams at length, while getting to know him during the last two years of his life. Besides working with him on his memoirs, he was kind enough to write me a letter of recommendation to Tufts University, where I went on, in 1985, for yet more academic training, studying with Lewis Porter.”

“Professor Varner shaped me as a musician, Professor Wallenstein shaped me as a writer, and Professor Porter shaped me as a researcher,” said Carner. “I was Lewis Porter’s only graduate student. This was when his Lester Young book had just gotten published, before he was recruited by Rutgers, and before he became America’s busiest jazz pedagogue. By living around the corner from him, I had unfettered access to his massive library and record collection, and, for three semesters, I had, as well, unlimited access to him. It was a very special time. He completely shaped the way I understood jazz history and jazz historiography. I spoke with him every day, like I was a member of the family. Lewis was unbelievably gracious with his time, and he never hesitated to answer my questions, or advise me on my work or career.   (more)