Art Lillard

Art Lillard is a musician with many gifts. In each of his musical roles - drummer, composer, arranger, bandleader, and educator - he shares with us his unique and refreshing contribution to our musical culture.

He has been leading his own jazz big band, Art Lillard's Heavenly Big Band, since 1987, playing in many New York area nightclubs and concert spaces. In 1995 he produced “First Flight,” a recording of this 16-piece band with vocals, featuring ten of his own compositions. The band’s first compact disc recording, “Reasons to be Thankful,” another vibrant compilation of originals, was released on the Summit Records label in 2006; a new recording is due to be released soon. The band's repertoire consists of standards and original compositions, with styles including bebop, Latin jazz, blues, and numbers which defy category altogether. Whatever the style, the music swings. The Heavenly Band enjoys a special relationship with Brooklyn’s Spoke the Hub Dancing, regularly providing live dance music for its community events.

A professional drummer since 1970, Art has had a rich performing career, leading and co-leading several smaller jazz ensembles, and as a sideman in groups of various musical genres, including jazz, country & western, cabaret, rock, and show music. He has recorded with swing/blues band Groovalaya (“Groovalaya '92”), with vocalist Cleve Douglass (“Duke Ellington Boulevard”), and with flutist Jan Leder (“Passage to Freedom” on Monad Records and “Nonchalant” on A-Records). He performed at the Greenwich Village jazz Festival in 1983 with the Amy Duncan Trio (at the Blue Note), at Finland's Pori Jazz Festival in 1993 with the New York All-Stars, and at the Hunter Mountain Festival with Slicker, a country & western group, in 1993, '94 and '95. During the 1990's he also played at the Hudson Riverfest in Yonkers with his Heavenly Big Band, with the Dixieland band the 9th Street Stompers, and several times with the Jan Leder Quartet. In 1998, Art's seven-piece swing band, Blue Heaven, appeared on international television, performing original compositions on two episodes of CBS's “Guiding Light” series.

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What Reviewers Say about the Heavenly Band’s CD, “Reasons to be Thankful”

A solid ensemble with soloists who can ideate with the best - John Gilbert, EjazzNews

File this one under: Swingin' NYC Big Band! - Michael P. Gladstone, AllAboutJazz

Lillard’s variable-pitch drum solo on “Bluez Organ Man,” and the song’s incredible fusion of Caribbean percussion with big band, is one of the session’s high points. - Jim Santella, AllAboutJazz

Reasons to be Thankful is a recording of fresh original material with wonderful orchestration and a unique way of blending the swing fad and the modern big band sound in one setting

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Primary Instrument



New York City

Willing to teach

Beginner to advanced


TEACHING EXPERIENCE 2001-present and 1986-94 Maggio Music, Brooklyn, NY. Teach drums, flute, piano. 2001- 2003 New York City Public Schools. Substitute teacher (music). Spring 2001 Public School 226, Brooklyn, NY. Taught music theory, flute-recorder, and instrumental music to middle school classes. 1997 Bromley Studio, Brooklyn, NY. Taught various instruments. 1996 Music faculty, Long Island University, Brooklyn, NY

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