Greg Ward

Saxophonist and composer Greg Ward was born in Peoria. Currently based in Chicago, Ward has performed and recorded with a varied group of artists such as Prefuse 73, Lupe Fiasco, Tortoise, William Parker, Andrew D’Angelo and Mike Reed.

In 2000, Ward began his studies at Northern Illinois University, where he worked with Steve Duke, Fareed Haque, Ron Carter and Joey Sellers. Already interested in composition, he discovered that having the opportunity to compose for NIU’s jazz combos deepened his understanding of music. In addition, the chance to work with composer-arranger Joey Sellers equipped Ward with some important tools to further explore this new love.

While in college, Ward spent many nights performing in the jazz clubs of Chicago. Soon he would meet another one of his mentors, saxophonist Fred Anderson, who would later select him to host a regular jam session at the Velvet Lounge for four years. During this time, Ward experienced much growth as a performer and composer and developed a vibrant community of performers, artists, dancers and listeners.

After graduating from NIU in 2004 with a degree in jazz studies/saxophone performance, Ward moved to Chicago. Among the many experiences that shaped him during these years were composing two pieces for the International Contemporary Ensemble, performing a quartet for a Chicago Symphony Orchestra chamber music series, writing “Wings” for the Peoria Ballet Company and being commissioned by the Jazz Institute of Chicago for a new work, which was performed at the 2009 Chicago Jazz Festival.

In 2009, Ward decided to move to New York City. Almost immediately after his arrival, he began working with JazzReach, a New York-based jazz education organization that shares multi-media programs throughout the United States. In 2010, he produced his first CD as a leader with his Chicago-based band Fitted Shards. That disc, “South Side Story,” received much critical acclaim, including Recording of the Year honors from the Chicago Tribune. In 2011, Ward formed Phonic Juggernaut, which features Damion Reid on drums and Joe Sanders on bass. Together, they recorded and released a CD on Thirsty Ear Recordings that same year. Also in 2011, Ward composed and performed a commission from the Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestra for a concerto for jazz quartet and string orchestra.

In 2012, Ward was selected as one of the two New Music USA Van Lier Fellows. In 2014, he received a commission from the Jazz Gallery and premiered “Capturing Sunlight,” an hourlong work for septet, accompanied by a short documentary by Diana Quiñones Rivera. “Capturing Sunlight” was inspired by the life and work of Preston Jackson.

Recently, Ward has collaborated with composer, sound designer and performer Caleb Willitz. First, they composed the film score for Beresford Bennett’s film “Pinch,” which was an official selection of the 2015 San Diego Black Film Festival. Ward and Willitz recorded the electro-acoustic project “Gaps and Spaces: Synoptic Optiks” in 2015.

Ward maintains an active international touring schedule with various ensembles and is on the faculty of the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University as assistant professor of jazz saxophone.