Gary Foster (musician)

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Gary Foster
Background information
Birth nameNorman Gary Foster
Born (1936-05-25) May 25, 1936 (age 87)
Leavenworth, Kansas, U.S.
GenresJazz, cool jazz, classical, pop
Occupation(s)Musician, educator
Instrument(s)Saxophone, clarinet, flute
Years active1961–present

Norman Gary Foster (born May 25, 1936) is an American musician who plays saxophone, clarinet, and flute. He is considered a crossover artist, performing jazz, pop, and classical music. He has been prominent in the film, television, and music industries for five decades, having performed on over 500 movie scores and with over 200 orchestras.

He has recorded on numerous Grammy, Academy Award, Emmy, and Golden Globe winning media and soundtracks for artists and composers such as Carol Burnett, Bob Dylan, Barbra Streisand, Mel Torme, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Frank Sinatra, Pat Williams, John Williams, Natalie Cole, Jerry Fielding, Cal Tjader, Marty Paich, and Michael Bublé.[1]

Foster received the Most Valuable Player Award for woodwind doubling from The Recording Academy.

Early life, education, and influences[edit]

Gary Foster was born in Leavenworth, Kansas, in 1936. He started on the clarinet at age thirteen.[2] His first musical inspiration was Olin Parker, a school music director and teacher who introduced him to the music of Count Basie, Woody Herman, and many other types of music. He listened closely to the Woody Herman Orchestra's recording of "Four Brothers", which featured saxophonists Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, and Serge Chaloff. For Foster, Getz[2] stood out on the tenor saxophone because of his tone. Foster also acknowledged the influence of Lester Young and Charlie Parker.

Jazz critic Zan Stewart compared Foster's style to that of Lee Konitz, Paul Desmond, and Art Pepper (West Coast Jazz style).[3] The music of Lennie Tristano and the concepts taught to him by Warne Marsh have been of great inspiration and influence over the years.

His earliest professional experience was aged 15, playing VFW Hall dances with bassist Harold Stanford.[2] After high school, Foster studied at Central College in Fayette, Missouri, then transferred to the University of Kansas, where he studied classical clarinet and music education. He studied musicology and conducting in graduate school. At the University of Kansas, he played with trumpeter Carmell Jones.[2][4]

Professional career[edit]

In 1961, Foster moved to Los Angeles to work as a jazz musician. He taught privately and studied the flute. Shortly after settling in Alhambra, he turned to studio work as a woodwind doubler. His friendships with Clare Fischer and Warne Marsh were vital to Foster's knowledge of improvisation.[2]

From 1973–1982, he was a member of the Toshiko Akiyoshi – Lew Tabackin Big Band. He worked in the reed sections of big bands led by Louis Bellson, Mike Barone, Clare Fischer, Marty Paich, and Ed Shaughnessy.[5][6] He has also worked with Rosemary Clooney, Shelly Manne, Sammy Nestico, Poncho Sanchez, and Cal Tjader.

For over 45 years he has made his living in studios, recording on albums and for movies and television. His movie credits include Monsters, Inc., Ice Age, Elf, Meet the Fockers, and The Haunted Mansion. His television credits date back to the late 1960s and include several seasons on The Carol Burnett Show, which won several Emmy Awards. He has been in the Academy Awards Television Orchestra for thirty broadcasts. He has performed regularly with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra, and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.

Teaching and education career[edit]

Foster has taught privately and in colleges since 1960. From 1971 to 1991 he was on the faculty at Pasadena City College. From 1984 through 2000 he was visiting professor at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. He was on the faculty of University of California, Los Angeles and California State University, Fullerton. He founded Nova Music Studios in Pasadena for private lessons.[6] He has co-authored method books and has led clinics in colleges and universities.


As leader[edit]

  • Alone Together (Revelation, 1964)
  • Subconsciously (Revelation, 1968)
  • Grand Cru Classe (Revelation, 1969)
  • Kansas City Connections (Revelation, 1986)
  • Make Your Own Fun (Concord Jazz, 1991)
  • Perfect Circularity with Putter Smith (Ajl, 2007)

As sideman or co-leader[edit]

With Clare Fischer

With Warne Marsh

With others

  • Kogun with Toshiko Akiyoshi (RCA, 1974)
  • Huracan with Cal Tjader (Crystal Clear, 1978)
  • Live at Maybeck Hall with Allen Broadbent (Concord, 1993)
  • Body & Soul with Lee Konitz (Insights Tokyo, 1996)
  • Once in a Blue Moon, University of Texas Jazz Orchestra (UTJO, 2000)
  • Bobby Shew, Gary Foster & Friends Play Music of Reed Kotler (Torii, 2003)
  • Its About Love - with Bill Cunliffe (Torii Records, 2004)
  • Mark Turner meets Gary Foster (Capri Records, 2019)


  1. ^ "Gary Foster | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 24 June 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e Steve Kraske (April 29, 2011). "Live interview with Gary Foster on KCUR "Up To Date", University of Missouri, Kansas City". KCUR Radio. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved August 18, 2011.
  3. ^ Zan Stewart (July 17, 1992). "Musician Gary Foster Leads a Double Life". Los Angeles Times Inc.
  4. ^ David Basse (April 23, 2011). "Live interview with Gary Foster on Kansas Public Radio Jazz". KPR Radio.
  5. ^ Barry Kernfeld (1995). New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. Oxford University Press, USA. pp. 401–402. ISBN 0-312-11357-9.
  6. ^ a b Leonard Feather, Ira Gitler (1999). The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz. Oxford University Press, USA. p. 232. ISBN 0-19-507418-1. gary foster.


External links[edit]