As one of the few full-time touring soloists on The Chapman Stick, Greg Howard breaks new ground at every turn. His first album, Whispers, (1987), was the first all-solo all-original Stick recording; and his latest CD, Water on the Moon, (1998), is an equally unique one-hour non-stop live solo improvisation. Between these two poles Greg has explored jazz and Latin music in a band context (Shapes, 1994 and Sol, 1997), pan-cultural improvisation (Transmigration, 1996) and a new form of improvised music and poetry he calls “groove poetry” (Code Magenta, 1995)
Greg has given many listeners their first taste of The Chapman Stick. This innovative 10-stringed electric instrument employs a two-handed tapping method created by Stick inventor and builder Emmett Chapman in the late 60’s. Each hand plays its own part on the strings, tapping and holding notes independently for a full keyboard-like style, but with all the expressiveness and timbral color of a stringed instrument. Bass, melody, counterpoint and chords are all simultaneously possible in the hands of one musician.
With over one thousand performances in front of diverse audiences (jazz and rock festivals, concerts and clubs, college music series, live radio concerts, street performances) and twelve recordings under his belt, Greg has made the instrument his own. His repertoire includes dozens of original compositions, as well as a wide array of material from the Renaissance through jazz and The Beatles. But his forte is his improvisation. He’ll often launch into a spontaneous composition only to make a surprise landing in a piece by Miles Davis or Brazilian composer Luis Bonfa.
Greg was born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area. Though he has resided briefly in Los Angeles and Santa Fe, New Mexico, Charlottesville, Virginia, has been his home since 1982, where he received his B.A. in English from The University of Virginia in 1986.
Originally a keyboardist and saxophonist, Greg began improvising and making recordings at age fourteen. He picked up his first Stick in 1985 at the age of twenty, and quickly immersed himself in his new instrument.
The music scene in Charlottesville was fertile ground for experimentation, with many transplants from the New York jazz scene crosspollenating with a truly innovative local population. Everybody played with everybody else, exploring jazz, funk, and rock, all with a strong emphasis on improvisation. One product of this environment was The Dave Matthews Band, whose collaborations with Greg include guest appearances on the band’s CDs (Remember Two Things, 1993, and Before These Crowded Streets, 1998) and several recent DMB concerts. DMB saxophonist Leroi Moore is also a member of Greg’s groove-poetry group, Code Magenta.
The new Greg Howard Band is a quartet with three Dutch musicians, Jan van Olffen (bass), Jan Wolfkamp (drums and loops), and Hubert Heeringa (saxophones and wind synthesizer). The group’s instant chemistry inspired Howard to record his compositions with them in September of 1999, and Lift was released in December 2000.
Greg also performs frequently with percussionist Darrell Rose. In 1999 the duo released a live concert video (Handiwork, Volume One). Greg has written a method book (The Stick Book, Volume One, published by Stick Enterprises in 1997), and has taught at several seminars for Stick players across North America and Europe. His music appears regularly on NPR’s All Things Considered, and he has been featured on CNN’s Headline News.
Greg supports the Literacy Volunteers of America, organizing the annual "100 Hours, Our community Reads for Literacy event in Charlotesville. He’s also an active writer on the subject of The Stick, recently published in Progression and Bass Frontiers Magazines, with other writing projects in the near future.
In his spare time, Greg enjoy’s cooking, reading, coffee, the occasional tennis, bowling, or frisbee game, and hanging out with his wife, Joyce.