Tenor saxophonist/Bassist Michael Karn has been involved in the New York jazz scene for more than 25 years, and in that time he has worked with many of the music world’s most creative artists. Born on July 12, 1966, Michael began playing jazz in high school, winning awards at several competitions and appearing in the 1984 New York High School All State Jazz Ensemble. From there it was on to New York University, where he studied saxophone with Joe Lovano, and performed with the school's top ensemble, led by Jim McNeely. Upon graduating Michael immediately joined the Ray Charles Orchestra, touring the United States, Europe, and Japan. Spending 1988 and 1989 with Ray, Michael appeared the Northsea and Playboy Jazz Festivals, and at such venues as the Blue Note, The Hollywood Bowl, Lincoln Center, and the Wolftrap Center for the Performing Arts. At the beginning of 1990, after two years of almost constant touring with “The Genius of Soul”, Michael resettled in New York. Since then, he has been both a member of several top-flight ensembles, and an in-demand freelancer. In 1997, Michael began working with organ powerhouse Charles Earland, remaining with “The Mighty Burner” until his untimely death in late 1999. As Eric Alexander’s hand picked successor Michael toured extensively with Earland, and appears on two CD releases on the Highnote label, Stomp and Irene Reid ‘s The Uptown Lowdown, which features the former Count Basie vocalist singing in front of Earland’s band. At the same time, Michael worked with former Jazz Messenger Valery Ponamarev in a band that included drum legend Jimmy Cobb. This association resulted in a recording on the Reservoir label entitled The Messenger. In late 2001, Michael joined the big band of Harry Connick Jr., participating in several tours of the United States and Canada. In his five and a half years with Harry, Michael, appeared at the 2004 Newport Jazz Festival, the Kennedy Center, and the Grand Ole Opry, as well as making numerous television appearances in the U.S. and England, several of them as a featured soloist. He appears on four of Harry’s CD’s, Only You, Harry For The Holidays, Oh, My Nola, and Chanson Du Vieux Carre, as well as two DVD’s, Harry For The Holidays and Only You In Concert. A small sampling of Michael’s freelance credits includes performances and/or recordings with Andy Bey, Harold Mabern, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Christian McBride, Dave Liebman, Junior Mance, Hilton Ruiz, Larry Goldings, Mike LeDonne, Michael Weiss, Albert “Tootie” Heath, Billy Hart, Lenny White, Charlie Persip, “Killer” Ray Appleton, Danny Moore, Ben Allison, Dave Stryker, Mark Whitfield, Joey DeFrancesco, Bill Doggett, and even Run/DMC, the Temptations and Gloria Gaynor.
Not content to work strictly as a sideman, Karn is a bandleader and composer in his own right. His groups have been featured at many of New York’s finest clubs, and at festivals and universities around the country. Michael has recorded two CD’s as a leader, both on the Criss Cross Jazz label. Head To Head is a rousing two tenor date co-led with his good friend (and Harry Connick Jr. section-mate) Jerry Weldon, and features a rhythm section of Bruce Barth on piano, Peter Washington on bass and Billy Drummond on drums. In Focus finds Karn with Peter Bernstein on guitar, David Hazeltine on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass, and Greg Hutchinson on drums. Both albums were extremely well reviewed in periodicals such as Down Beat, The All-Music Guide and Cadence, and received significant radio airplay in both the New York area and nation- wide.
In addition to his work as a saxophonist, Michael has become one of the busiest and most in-demand bass players in New York. He has appeared with artists such as Jimmy Heath, The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Jon Hendricks, Frank Wess, Harry Allen, Bennie Wallace, Lew Tabakin, Harold Mabern, Johnny O'Neal, Bucky Pizzarelli, Gene Bertoncini, Peter Bernstein and Roberta Gambarini at venues including The Village Vanguard, Avery Fisher Hall, Smoke, Smalls, Dizzy’s Coca Cola and Rose Hall at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Jazz At Lincoln Center Doha, Qatar, Iridium, The Jazz Standard, Knickerbocker and The Kitano.
Michael is also active as an educator. For twelve years he has served on the jazz faculty at New School University, his former pupils including Marcus Strickland, John Ellis, Keith Loftis, Casey Benjamin, and Dmitri Baevsky. In addition, Michael has taught master classes at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and at the Big Apple in Nonoichi festival in Kanazawa, Japan.
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