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GARY TU: Reviews

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Originally from Taipei, Taiwan and now living in Chicago, Gary Tu has established himself as a young up and coming Jazz Guitarist who has the skills and determination to continue on this path for many years to come. His first release, Look East, is a prominent debut of nine tunes featuring five well-crafted original compositions and four time-honored classics from highly recognized artists: Steve Swallow, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins and Frank Foster.

In fact I was quite delighted to hear Steve Swallow’s “Falling Grace” which has been a favorite of mine since I first heard Pat Metheny do a version of it sometime ago. And while we are on the subject of Metheny, let me get this out of the way...yes, there are some stylistic and sonic similarities in Gary’s playing that may remind you of Metheny. However, this is definitely not a negative and actually should be put in the plus column since Metheny is one hell of a musician and if that’s the only “bad press” you get as a player then more power to ya! Now onto Gary Tu.

I’ve enjoyed listening to Look East for a while now and I like Gary’s playing and writing a lot. His approach is spacious and bop-ish with fluid lines played with ease and confidence. He sounds very comfortable on guitar and his emerging harmonic sense is less rigid than a lot of players his age. While he has obviously checked out the vernacular of Jazz, he doesn’t stick with the staid patterns that sometimes get regurgitated for whatever reason.

His take on Rollins’ “Airegin” and Swallow’s “Falling Grace” for example, demonstrates his technical ability at playing some quick lines through the changes without sounding stale. Gary’s original composition “The Cube” also shares this same facility and probably gets a lot of people whooping and hollering when he performs this tune live. Drummer Andre Beasley also gets to shine on most of these tunes as well, stepping out of the role as accompanist and into the role of soloist. Bassist Kurt Schweitz also delivers the goods throughout the album and improvises quite nicely as is apparent on the tunes “Look East”, “Sun Rise”, “Falling Grace”, “Simone”, “Milestones” and the delightful ballad “Passing Solitude”. In addition, “Passing Solitude” features a soulful solo by Gary, showing how melodic a player he can be. And don’t forget to check out Frank Foster’s lovely tune “Simone” as Gary gives it a sensitive reading both during the melody and the solo section as Beasley digs into the tune with some nice dynamic snare work. Great stuff!

While I like all the tunes on this CD there is one that I listen to over and over again: “The Road To The Sky”. This is a bright and upbeat tune with an electric solid-body sound that somewhat reminds me of Motown for some reason. The tune is way catchy with a strong melody that hits all the right buttons for me. He also introduces the use of a guitar synth, providing a worthy of note similarity to “you know who” which works given the context of the tune. This is definitely a radio friendly vehicle and a tune I would love to see live.

I would definitely recommend this CD to anyone who enjoys well written tunes and quality playing and I look forward to hearing more from Gary Tu.

Go to to purchase Look East and check out Gary Tu's website at to see what else he has to offer.
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Chicago is a great town for jazz, and one of the things I enjoy most is that you can catch some very talented up-and-coming musicians performing any day of the week. Andy's is a great place to catch some of these musicians, with players like Frank Catalano and Joel Moore among some of the recent offerings. Tuesday nights all during the month of May, guitarist Gary Tu showcased his trio - featuring exuberent young bassist Kurt Schweitz and veteran Chicago drummer Tim Davis. Schweitz - an active and very talented young bassist is often seen in the Chicago area backing up musicians like Charlie Johnson, Dan Effland and Pete Carney. Davis is a stellar drummer with extensive credits (Tim Green, Curtis Fuller, Herb Ellis, Kurt Elling and... Tiny Tim?!). This talented trio play extremely well together and seem to enjoy the experience, while pushing each other to stretch out a bit more.

Tu's fine recent album - "Look East" was recently reviewed on this site. His guitar playing is clean and uneffected, and he could be described as a cross between Pat Metheny and Wes Montgomery. Song choices were exciting with songs from the album like their version of John Lewis' "Milestones," and Steve Swallow's "Falling Grace" shining. Schweitz' bass work was spritely and exceedingly melodic, while dummer Davis showed admirable taste in support, and enough power and attitude during solos to elicit considerable excitement and applause from the crowd.

Tu excelled on such favorites as his version of Sonny Rollins' "Airegin"(also on "Look East"), Metheny's "Water Colors" and "Question and Answer." The guitarist's lines are fluid and melodious, fast but not at the expense of melody. One highpoint for me was when Tu dropped his pick and had to play Wes Montgomery-style with his thumb. Metheny's "The Chief" and "James" were both performed well, and it was a great pleasure to hear the group tackle Ornette Coleman as well as John Scofield's "You Bet."

As I drove home through the streets of this great city, I passed hundreds of people dining in the sidewalk cafes around Chicago. Musing to myself, I could only hope that these people would take the opportunity to catch some of the great jazz acts this city has to offer - the Gary Tu Trio being one I believe most would hear and enjoy.
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Joe Cunniff - Hyde Park Herald (May 9, 2007)
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Gary Tu - Look East
[Triple S Jazz 1740] 4.15.07

Guitarist Gary Tu is a new name to me here, not surprising as the musician hails from Taipei and works mostly in the USA. However, his new album, Look East, manages to fuse east and west into a melodic whole with his mellifluous guitar playing. Look East encapsulates the joys of small band music - just Tu on guitar and guitar synth along with Kurt Schweitz on bass and Andre Beasley on drums. It may be a trio but the sound is big and muscular on occasion and intimate and introspective at other times.
Playing a mixture of self composed tracks and
compositions by Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins and Frank Foster, Gary Tu plays in a style that mixes the ethereal technique of Pat Metheny and the more muscular stylings of Wes Montgomery. Throughout the album there is a strong rhythmic push vying with the melodic themes, and a strong love of the guitar. This is an album for guitar fans - of any genre - and it has been a frequent visitor to my cd deck over the last few weeks. For more information about this artist and album and availability visit:
MIXED MEDIA 20 Lockmere Road Cranston RI 02910 401.942.8025
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Guitarist Gary Tu teams up with Kurt Schweitz (b) and Andre Beasley (d) to form a fusion trio. Gary does nice work with the bossa nova beats of "Sun Rise" as on the rest of the set with a low key, confident approach. "Airegin" is a showcase piece for all of the members with Tu leading, Kurt walking and Andre maintaining the pace. Other highlights are "Simone" and "Milestones". They all play solos as well and prove to be a well-knit unit.
D. Oscar Groomes - O's Place Jazz Newsletter (Apr 3, 2007)
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3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

"Gary Tu is a talented young jazz guitarist, whose style reminds one of a Wes Montgomery (sans the octave doubling) with just a dash of Metheny. On "Look East," the artist displays his guitar, composition and arrangement talents in a trio setting with drummer Andre Beasley and Bassist Kurt Schweitz - and it is a quite engaging set that is the end result.

Intriguingly divided into a first half of original tunes and a second half of jazz classics, "Look East" allows plenty of opportunity for Tu to display his graceful, mostly-uneffected single string charms. The opening title track is enhanced by the guitarists wind chime harmonics and robust riffing over a sure-footed rhythm section. Bassist Schweitz adds a harmonious solo here and is a consistent counterpoint to Tu throughout the recording.

I'll admit to somewhat glossing over "The Cube" the first couple of times through, but upon repeated listening this original tune has won me over with its toughness and tight changes and it is now one of my favorites. If there is a "hit single" on the album it is subsequent "The Road to the Sky" where Tu adds in some tasteful effects, soloing over a catchy pop/jazz progression. "Sun Rise," on the other hand, is a sunny piece where Tu shows his skills in a bossa setting; while "Passing Solitude” is an exemplary example of quietude and economy in playing.

In a clever twist, the second half of "Look East" is filled with jazz classics that were not originally guitar-based tunes. An up-tempo, somewhat Brazilian version of Steve Swallow's "Falling Grace," and Sonny Rollins' beloved "Airegin" are both presented in wonderful guitar-centric arrangements - the former again embellished with Tu's sparkling chimes, the latter in a delightfully hot session that may be the highlight of the album. Finally, the Frank Foster waltzing standard "Simone" is caressed beautifully, before Tu and the band (especially drummer Beasley) go out in high style with an ecstatic version of Miles Davis' "Milestones."

A clever and pleasing guitarist, Tu is a nice change up from an atmosphere filled with guitarists who want to be the next Al Dimeola. He obviously realizes that good tunes and good playing are a nice combination to strive for, and he succeeds quite well in this first solo venture. "Look East" is a worthy addition to your jazz collection, as well as leading one to keep a watch on this artist as his career progresses."
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"Gary Tu has a more traditional Jazz guitar sound on [Look East]. With a solid and unobtrusive bass and drum accompaniment, Tu works through 5 originals before he gets to a very fresh and clever selection of covers. He has a clear, crisp tone, without any fusion or rock effects, and he's a fine one-note picker, adept at finding new melodies. And he swings. While he likes to use harmonics, they are very tasteful and never overdone. Covering Rollins' "Airegin" is clever, and he does it without bringing to mind Jim Hall. And there is a pretty take on Steve Swallow's "Falling grace." Largely Tu stays away from tunes that were originally guitar based, which makes the collection fun. On a programming note, it might have been better overall if he had mixed his own compositions in with the standards. But [Look East] is a solid Jazz guitar recording."
Cadence Magazine (Feb 1, 2007)
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"Two out of three Stars."

"Self-produced CD by a young Chicago-based, Asian-American guitarist. Pat Metheny is the most obvious influence in a pleasantly mellow trio recording of originals."
Jazzwise Magazine UK (Jan 1, 2007)
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"There’s no denying Gary Tu is a talented jazz guitarist, and when joined by a bassist and drummer for the nine cuts of Look East, the trio offers a pleasant listening experience."
Illinois Entertainer (Nov 30, 2006)
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"Born in Taiwan in 1976, guitarist Gary Tu couldn't speak a word of English when he arrived with his family in the U.S. in 1984, so it is really cool that here he is 30 years later perfecting a new musical lingo on jazz guitar. Tu began his fascination with the guitar at age 13, and at 16 he began digging Bright Size Life, an album featuring Jaco with Pat Metheny, while later turning on to Jim Hall, Wes, Frisell and Abercrombie. Now Chicago based, Tu's 2006 CD, Look East is a very cool instrumental jazz guitar album in the finest spirit of guitar greats like Pat Metheny, Mike Stern and Bill Frisell. Assisted by the rhythm section of Kurt Schweitz (bass) and Andre Beasley (drums), Tu turns in a timeless guitar performance that ably combines mood and technique with some splendid improvisation."
20th Century Guitar (Nov 1, 2006)
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“I believe that a true artist is always stepping with trepidation, never quite sure that his art will be accepted by the general public. There’s always the risk that people might not like it. In order to be true to oneself and keep the integrity of your art, that kind of risk one has to take.” Gary Tu took a calculated risk; he released his first album, Look East. And, in my opinion, he won. Heck, we have all won, a real win-win situation. The product is solid, the music is good and the first five of the nine tracks are original compositions. Heeeeeey!

"I started playing guitar at the age of thirteen. At fifteen, I became interested in jazz. I heard Miles Davis for the first time and a moment of ‘wow, what are they doing and how can I do that, too,’ came over me.” Did Gary figure out what they were doing and how he could do it? “I’m closer to knowing the how at thirty than I was at fifteen. It’s still an on-going journey.”

Gary cites Wes Montgomery, along with John Coltrane, as musical influences. “My first time hearing Wes, I thought it was the most advanced jazz playing I had heard to date. Everything he played was so good and so beautiful.” And Coltrane, how does his music translate to guitar? “Coltrane is difficult to play on guitar. His spirit and his work ethic inspired me; he motivated me through his music. Coltrane approached his music like it was a religion and this encouraged me to continue to play, to practice and to not give up.”

Currently, as he and his wife await the birth of their first child in January 2007, Gary teaches music at Morton College, The Music Room, Music Arts School, and The National Guitar workshop.

“I definitely have moments where I question if I made the right decision to follow what I believe to be my path, the arts, as a career choice. For really great artists, it’s more important than money or fame to be confident at your craft and make creating good music your goal.” Gary Tu has done both. He plays guitar with the confidence and skill of guitarists like Wes Montgomery or Charlie Christian and he has created a beautiful body of work, Look East.
ABYSSJazz Magazine (Nov 1, 2006)