He came from a musical family in England and by age six took up drums and accordion, then guitar at 12, and finally saxophone at 17. He lived in the United States in the 1960s, but returned to England in 1969. In the early 1970s, his career grew as he founded his own group, the Gary Windo Quartet, and worked with Brotherhood of Breath, Centipede, Matching Mole, The Running Man, Carla Bley and Nick Mason. Gary could play any reed instrument from soprano sax to bass clarinet and was renowned for his full, rich tone. His time in America had exposed him to all types of jazz and he was at home in any idiom, although he focused his style on powerful, direct statements utilizing his unique and complex tone. He also used harmonics a lot and could split a note into its components using his prodigious technique and a metal mouthpiece with a wide lay and a hard reed. Legendary jazzman Sonny Stitt heard Windo play at the Berlin jazz festival and immediately asked Gary to join his band, which, for unknown reasons, he declined. Band leader and musician Carla Bley called Windo the best saxophone player she had heard.
He also did work outside with groups like The Psychedelic Furs, Robert Wyatt, and NRBQ. In addition to this he did incidental music for Saturday Night Live and gave music lessons famous for running over time due to his helpful nature and unbounded enthusiasm.
Paradoxically, Windo suffered from asthma and died of a massive asthma attack in 1992. Since then, compilation albums of his work continue to appear with a recent example being "Anglo-American."
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With Alan Shorter
- Tes Esat (America, 1970)
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