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Grammy-nominated guitarist, composer and arranger Tom Guarna began his musical career at age 15, when his father introduced him to the guitar. His natural ability to play and compose with phrasing reminiscent of his idols, combined with a relentless drive to refine and invent a unique guitar style has made him a desired commodity in the music industry. He is currently performing and recording with jazz groups internationally, and is first-call on a wide range of projects, from session work, jazz venues, tours, and large arenas.
Guarna developed an interest in classical guitar performance and composition at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music in 1986, where he studied guitar with Michael Cedric Smith and composition with Robert Starer. In 1989, he moved to Los Angeles to attend the Guitar Institute of Technology. Shortly after graduating, he moved back to New York, playing local gigs and studying with Steve Kahn and John Abercrombie. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, graduating with honors in 2008. In that same year, the renowned Juilliard School sought after Guarna for a scholarship in jazz guitar performance. He finished his Master Of Music Degree from The Juilliard School in 2010.
In 1991, Guarna began working with saxophonist and best-selling author, James McBride (The Color of Water), whose band members included drummer Gene Jackson and bassist Tracy Wormworth. Guarna joined Blood Sweat and Tears in 1995 and toured extensively for the next three years with that group. Since then, he has forged his own voice as a modern jazz guitarist, performing with a wide range of artists including Chick Corea, Wallace Roney, Stanley Clarke Band, George Cables, Mark Turner, Branford Marsalis, Randy Brecker, Lenny White, Mulgrew Miller, Billy Hart, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Greg Hutchinson, Javon Jackson, Les McCann, Victor Bailey, Gary Bartz, Fred Wesley, Mike Clark, Tim Hagans, Greg Tardy, Bob Dorough, Craig Handy, Uri Caine, Chris Minh Doky, The Yellow Jackets, Buddy Defranco, John Benitez, Gary Smulyan, Joe Locke, E.J. Strickland, Billy Drummond, the Mingus Orchestra, The Allman Brothers, Helen Sung, Tessa Souter, Jimmy Herring, Rodney Holmes, Vincent Gardner, George Colligan and Mad Science, and Manuel Valera.
In 2012 alone, Tom Guarna led his own group throughout Europe and North America, and has been touring as a featured sideman in several exciting groups. One such band is Present Tense, led by drummer Lenny White (Return To Forever, Miles Davis), which includes bassist Richie Goods and pianist George Colligan. His collaboration with Manuel Valera earned Guarna a 2013 Latin Jazz Album of the Year Grammy Award nomination for the album New Cuban Express, and they are currently touring internationally. Guarna is also a member of Freedom Of Ideas, which is led by veteran drummer Billy Drummond, and features bassist Francois Moutin (Moutin Reunion Band, Martial Soleil). Guarna also works with Dr. Lonnie Smith, and was heard at Birdland and other venues in and around New York. He was honored to play the groundbreaking “Bitches’ Brew” for the album’s anniversary, with Wallace Roney, Lenny White and Victor Bailey at Smoke Jazz Club, in New York City. Throughout the year, Guarna has collaborated with Jimmy Herring, playing at clubs in the tri-state area, such as B.B.
King’s. Guarna has also been playing the music of Stevie Wonder with the E.J. Strickland Project. This group, which was called “an incredible lineup of musicians” (http://revivalist.okayplayer.com/tag/tom-guarna/) broadcast on live radio and have been playing up and down the East coast. When The Allman Brothers are at The Beacon Theatre, Guarna has a standing invitation to play alongside the legendary blues/rock band, and was a featured soloist on several occasions.
Recordings/Reviews as Headliner:
– Guarna has had feature articles in Jazz Improv (Summer 2004) and Jazz Guitar Book (2012) magazines for his jazz approach, and had his masterful hands in the following styles of music: jazz, funk, Latin, soul, pop, R&B, gospel, Broadway, world music, dance music, and has arranged for film scores. Equally proficient in all, he “can play straight ahead, fusion, blues, rock, classical, you name it. He’s a whiz with effects, but can play convincingly with a clean sound as well” . Guarna incorporates all of these styles into his own blend of unique and engaging music, as he forges ahead within his forte: modern jazz.
– Guarna has recorded five CDs as composer and leader on the Steeplechase Records label: Get Together (2005), Out from the Underground (2007), “features challenging lines through quick meter changes… evokes a mysterious thriller… features Guarna’s crooning, melodic guitar… variety and appeal is broad on this set” (Read More). Wingspan (2008), “fluid style… lyrical gem… breezy delight… treat…”
“Guarna’s original ‘Wingspan'” is a “lively bop vehicle, and the mellow ‘The Long’ nicely round out this enjoyable date”.
“Guitarist Tom Guarna takes a breezily swinging tack in this set, combining strains of cool jazz and bebop. …[A] fine propulsion that emphasizes Guarna’s bright tone and velvety style… Guarna mixes old and new with satisfying results” (Read Article).
“Guarna masters… by caressing the melody in a spacious solo treatment…” (Read Article).
Major Minor (2009),
In 2014 Guarna released his highly anticipated CD “Rush” on the Brooklyn Jazz Underground label to rave reviews. The CD highlights eight Guarna compositions and features explosive performances by drummer Johnathan Blake, pianist Danny Grissett, bassist Orlando le Fleming and saxophonist Joel Frahm.
“An unequivocally modern record that focuses on both his compositional acumen and a broader textural palette . . . it’s about time that the secret already known amongst musicians finally becomes public knowledge.” -John Kelman, All About Jazz.com
“With each track, Tom reveals more and more about his own musicianship. He displays incredible delicacy, fierce attack, longing melodic intonations and just why he chose these four musicians to accompany him on this album’s journey.” “His own space creation and vibrant virtuosity are the centerpiece of the group. Name any guitarist-Metheny, Frisell, Scofield-comparison falls far short or fails entirely because Tom Guarna is his own guitarist. With albums like ‘Rush,’ he can also belong to us.” -JazzTimes, Music Life & Times
” . . . There’s plenty to dig on here, emotion, tension, surprise, swing, passion . . . quite beautiful . . .” – DownBeat Magazine
In 2016 Guarna signed a two CD deal with Destiny Records Music. The first CD entitled “The Wishing Stones” which features the allstar lineup of drummer Brian Blade, bassist John Patitucci and pianist Jon Cowherd was released in November 2017.
Recordings/Reviews as Sideman:
– Manuel Valera, New Cuban Express (2012) Mavo,
Latin Jazz Album of the Year nominee at the 2013 Grammy Awards
“Seamlessly blend[s] bop, post-bop, funk and Afro-Cuban into a final mixture that still grooves without losing either its melodic complexity or its sense of swing… mak[ing] it all sound effortless even as it is blowing you away…”, it “sets a bar that will be hard for others to jump over…”. Guarna “stretches out” on ‘Gismonteando/Gismonteando’, opening as an “Afro-Cuban/rhumba” which “evolves into a Samba-jazz pattern that evokes some of Brasilian artist Egberto Gismonti’s work”
– Tessa Souter, Rochester Jazz Festival, 2012, “The audience seemed absolutely entranced by her rendition of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s ‘The Look of Love,’ which featured a mesmerizing guitar solo by Tom Guarna”
– Beka Gochiashvili, Beka (2012) Exitus Entertainment “Guarna plays superb guitar solos at every turn”
– John Benitez, Purpose (2011) Seed Music “Captures the listener’s ears in a genuine calm while still containing the fiery essence of… Latin jazz…” “Guarna enlightens us with a burning fusion solo… a definite must buy for every jazz fan who wants to listen to new music from a master in his prime”.
– Lenny White, Anomaly (2009) Abstract Logix Guarna “contributed an exotic original composition” entitled “If U Dare”, in “which he imbued his distortion-laced tone and considerable chops”
“When Guarna plays the theme on guitar, a flamenco tinge is introduced. There are twists and turns in the track which is reminiscent of Return to Forever” (Read Review).
– George Colligan:
- Como La Vida Puede Ser (2000) Fresh Sound, New Talent,
- Mad Science (2003) Sunny Sky,
- Realization (2005) Sirocco Music Limited,
- Runaway (2008) Sunnyside
“At once groovy and funky, mysterious and deeply romantic”, Guarna contributing “compositions and mellifluous guitar work” (Buy CD).
– Rodney Holmes, Twelve Months of October (2005) Rodney Holmes Music,
– Jason Marshall, Overt Negritude (2007) JMM,
– Vincent Gardner, Vin-Slidin’ (2006) Steeplechase
Listen to Audio
Reviews of the latest album ‘The Wishing Stones’:
“Name any guitarist – Metheny, Frisell, Scofield – and the comparison falls short or fails entirely, because Tom Guarna is his own man ” – JazzTimes
“This guitarist’s guitarist deserves wider recognition beyond his considerable rep with his peers. It’s about time that the secret already known among musicians finally becomes public knowledge ” – All About Jazz