Pianist/Organist Gary Brunotte performs his own brand of lyrical jazz, influenced by the tradition but in his own personal voice. Born and raised in a small town in Minnesota, he remembers, "My uncle played accordion, was self-taught and performed in the Navy band. In addition, my stepfather played hillbilly country guitar and my other uncles all played instruments. I started taking accordion lessons when I was nine." He debuted as a professional musician at a New Year's Eve job when he was 11, switched to organ and performed with r and b and rock and roll bands as a teenager.
"I discovered jazz after listening to Brasil '66 and Blood, Sweat and Tears. I particularly enjoyed Howard Roberts' records of the period and Jimmy Smith." After graduating from college, Brunotte attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, switched to piano, and taught at the prestigious school for three years. He moved to Manhattan in 1980. "I worked for a period at Rodney Dangerfield's comedy club. The jazz trio would open a set and there would be a different singer each week before the comedian came out. It was fun for a time." During this period, he won a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to write a suite for a big band and his orchestra performed once a week in a club. After living and working in the Hudson Valley area, Brunotte spent 1987-97 back in Minnesota. "I played a lot of gigs at local jazz clubs, hotels and restaurants with my trio and with singer Shirley Witherspoon. I also recorded my first CD, Yesterday's Dream for the Altenburgh label."
Yesterday's Dream, which features Gary Brunotte with altoist Eric Marienthal in a quintet setting, introduces nine of his melodic originals. The CD received excellent reviews in both JazzTimes and Billboard. In addition, it received airplay throughout the United States and Europe and remained on the Gavin Chart Bound list for 8 weeks straight. In 1997 he and his wife relocated to North Carolina where he has worked steadily ever since. "Since moving here, I have recorded the solo CD Old Fashioned, the duo set Conversations with bassist Rick Jones, and I have done a lot of gigging, from little restaurants to backing major names at concerts including Mark Whitfield and Byron Stripling."
Gary Brunotte recorded his fourth CD, SMILE, which is dedicated to his cat Dexter who passed away in Dec. 2004. Teamed on most selections with bassist Steve Haines and drummer Bill Berg, Brunotte performs such colorful originals as "Ditty For the Kitty," "Seal-Point Strut," "Meow Samba" and "Samba Siamese" along with such ballads as the atmospheric "Wood Lake," the mysterious "In The Night" and "Ciao Meow." He also utilizes bassist Rick Jones and drummer Bill Berg along with singer Kirsten Lambert on "Triste" and "Smile." The latter is heard in two versions including a Latin-tinged instrumental.
In 2007 he recorded his fourth CD, Manic Moments featuring Gary on organ, piano, accordion and vocals. Teamed on most selections with drummer Bill Berg and guitarist Scott Sawyer, they perform such invigorating originals as "Manic Moments," "Bridgemix," and "Slightly Blued" along with standards including "You and the Night and the Music," "Mas Que Nada," "Peacocks" and "Thats All."
In recent times Gary recorded a CD entitled About Time, with former Berklee classmates Gian Wiegner and John Lockwood. Released in fall of 2009, the CD successfully made it on the Jazz Week Charts and received both national and international airplay. In 2010 he completed his Masters in Music – Jazz Studies at North Carolina Central University.
Gary Brunotte, who looks forward to recording and touring in the future, is an accessible and creative jazz performer whose music is well worth exploring.