Greg Ward is a saxophonist and composer that was born in Peoria, IL. Currently based in Chicago, Ward has had the opportunity to perform and record with a varied group of artists like 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, having the opportunity to compose for NIU’s jazz combos deepened his understanding of the inner-workings of music. Also, working with composer and arranger, Joey Sellers, equipped Ward with some important tools to further explore this new love.
Around his sophomore year in college, Ward started spending 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 jam session at the Velvet Lounge for four years. During this time period, 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 and took advantage of every opportunity that was offered to him. Composing two pieces for the International Contemporary Ensemble, performing a quartet composition for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Chamber Music Series, composing Wings for the Peoria Ballet Company, and being commissioned by the Jazz Institute of Chicago for a new composition, which was performed at the Chicago Jazz Festival in 2009, are just a few of the many experiences that shaped Ward during his years in Chicago.
In 2009, Ward decided to move to New York City. Almost immediately after he arrived in NYC, he began working with JazzReach, an NYC-based jazz education organization that shares multi-media programs throughout the US. In 2010, he would produce his first CD as a leader with his Chicago-based band, Fitted Shards. South Side Story received much critical acclaim, including “Recording of the Year” by the Chicago Tribune. Next, 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/residency from the Jazz Gallery and premiered Capturing Sunlight, which was an hour-long work for septet and included a short documentary by Diana Quinones Rivera. The Capturing Sunlight project was inspired by the life and work of Preston Jackson.
Recently, Ward has collaborated with another 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. Second, Ward and Willitz will be releasing an electro-acoustic project, Gaps and Spaces: Synoptic Optiks.