Gary Motley is a pianist, composer, arranger and educator. He has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Great American Jazz Piano Competition, and the American Composers Forum. Gary has also been featured on National Public Radio’s Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland.
Gary began studying the piano as a young child in Alabama and would later be exposed to jazz as a teenager. While attending the University of Montevallo, Gary honed his skills as a jazz pianist, playing with numerous regional bands. It was soon thereafter that he would decide to make music his life’s endeavor. During his career, Gary has established a professional association with many of today’s leaders in jazz. He has worked with artists ranging from Dave Brubeck to Clarke Terry. His recording credits range from his premier CD Peaceful Moments (1994) to his latest recording, Departure (2014).
In 2000, Gary collaborated with actress Debbie Allen and director Kenny Leon for the Alliance Theater’s production of Blues in the Night and the premiere of Soul Possessed. Gary can also be heard on the Debbie Allen-Phylicia Rashad documentary The Old Settler on PBS. He also recorded music with Whoopi Goldberg for the Broadway production of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and collaborated with Kenny Leon, providing music for Sean Combs’ 2004 Broadway Production of A Raisin in the Sun.
Notable performances include the premiere of Gary’s first orchestral work entitled The Artist and the Visionary, duo performances with pianists Dave Brubeck and Kenny Baron, concerts with Jon Faddis, Eddie Daniels and Benny Golson. Gary’s recordings include Compassion (2001), The Gary Motley Trio featuring Veronica Tate (2001), Keypers (2004), Everything I Love (2005), Renaissance (2009), Seasoning (2012) and Departure (2014). He is the recipient of Creative Loafing Magazine’s Critics Choice Award for Best Jazz Artist and was selected by the American Composers Forum to serve as an artist-in-residence resulting in his second composition for string orchestra and jazz trio entitled The Resolution of a Dream. Gary’s Highland Summit: A Suite for String Quartet and Jazz Quartet was premiered at the Highlands Chamber Music Festival with the Vega String Quartet in 2006. Motley also performed his work Suite Odyssey with the Vega String Quartet at Carnegie Hall in 2007. He returned to Carnegie Hall in 2008, performing with clarinetists Andy Firth and Buddy DeFranco. In 2010, a composition based on the work of Toni Morrison premiered at the Sixth Biennial Tony Morrison Conference in Paris. Motley’s arranging skills can also be heard on the title track of Jennifer Holiday’s 2014 album The Song Is You.
Other engagements include the 2014 National Black Arts Festival salute to Wynton Marsalis with Marcus Belgrave and the Annual Emory University Jazz Festival with violinist Regina Carter (2015), Anat Cohen (2016) with bassist Rodney Whitaker and drummer Carl Allen. Gary recently returned from Colombia, South America where he participated in a jazz education outreach initiative for the Centro Colombo Americano and also traveled to Havana, Cuba with the Victor Goines Sextet as a part of the Horns to Havana Education Exchange Project.
In addition to his work as an artist, Gary is committed to jazz education and awareness. As Professor of Performance and Director of Jazz Studies at Emory University in Atlanta, Gary has developed the Robert Strickland Jazz Studio-an innovative interactive teaching facility that integrates the rich heritage of American jazz with today’s technology practices. Gary is also a member of the Jazz Education Network and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.