Associate Professor of Jazz Studies
For composer and multi-reed instrumentalist John Gunther, it’s all about communication. Whether he is playing solo over one of his own mainstream jazz tunes, or “taking it out” with a reinterpretation of a 20th century classical composition, his music remains ever accessible, intelligent and audience friendly. His interests are wide-ranging: World, Classical, experimental and Jazz music are all reflected in his work while remaining unified by his personal style and finely developed sense of structure.
“I got that sense of structure from my mother, who is a painter” he explains. “When I was very young I would look at a group of her paintings and she would ask me how my eye traveled through each one or how light and shadow would feel in relation to each other. I’ve found the concepts of balance, economy, contrast and contour to be equally important in music. Like the frame of a painting, time is the containing boundary that everything occurs within and the composer or improviser can shape this form or boundary and in a sense the listener’s emotions and thoughts. It’s a communication that transcends boundaries, and it’s exciting when both performers and audience share in that experience together.”
John Gunther started playing the saxophone in the third grade. “It was love at first sight–and when I broke my arm that summer, I had the doctor set is so that I could continue to practice!” He was lucky to find progressive music teachers in his hometown of Aurora, Colorado. “They started an after school jazz band that my father enrolled me in and the beginners were immediately taught a blues scale and encouraged to improvise.” Later, in High School he was a member of a Big Band that really played out, doing local gigs. “We wore gold and pink-sequined jackets, and I would do a solo on “Night Train” playing alto and tenor saxes simultaneously·I had never heard of Rassan Roland Kirk, and I don’t know if my teachers had, either, but it was great experience to be playing that much at a young age.”
At CU he teaches jazz improvisation, jazz arranging, conducts large and small jazz ensembles, and teaches saxophone. Professor Gunther holds a BM in Music Performance from Berklee College of Music and a MM in Jazz Studies from the University of Miami. He has performed or recorded with John Abercrombie, Buddy DeFranco, Dizzy Gillespie, Tom Harrel, Dewey Redman, Joe Williams, The Woody Herman Orchestra, The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and The Maria Schneider Orchestra. He was composer in residence for The Toronto Fringe Dance Festival in 2003 and has composed the music for several independent feature films and animations. Prior to his appointment at CU, he taught at New York University. As part of New York city’s “downtown” music scene for many years, he produced five recordings for Creative Improvised Music Projects (CIMP) as a leader and is co-founder of the new music group, “Spooky Actions”. In addition, John is a member of the Denver based jazz group, “Convergence.” He has received grants from “Meet the Composer” and the National Endowment for the Arts.