Charles Gardner


Featured Inductee

After 24 years of distinguished Service in the USAF band program, Chuck Gardner expanded his legacy as a pianist, producer, and composer. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame alongside legends Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, J.J. Cale, and other notable figures in the annals of History. Gardner is no stranger to such company, while throughout his career he has worked with many great minds all over the world, including his 12 year stent in Colorado Springs playing and arranging for the USAFA Band's Falconaire Jazz Ensemble.

As a child growing up in Waterloo, Iowa, Gardner studied classical piano and in the early 1950's he was introduced to the sounds of Jazz in the form of Bud Powell, George Shearing, and Oscar Peterson. Gardner recalls, "My parents didn't know, but I would go out to the Colored Elks Club and listen to the guys play songs out of the Great American Songbook but in a different way...with the style of Bud Powell and all those guys". Soon his professional career started with the Vance Dixon Orchestra playing dances across the Mid-West, including the famous Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.

In 1957 Gardner joined the Air Force Band program and began arranging for Jazz Orchestra. While playing with the Air Force Band of the Pacific's "Pacificaires," his arrangement of 'Waltzing Matilda" was performed along with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and highlighted on Australian Television Network. As his reputation as an arranger and musician grew, Gardner's opportunities expanded with a mentorship from composer Henry Mancini which lasted for several years. "I brought an arrangement of "Dreamsville", a tune Mancini wrote, "and he ripped it apart" Gardner remembers.

Gardner's contribution to the city of Colorado Springs started with his tours in the NORAD Command Band as a guest artist. The NORAD band was comprised of exemplary musicians from U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and the Canadian Armed Forces. The NORAD Command Band performed on the Johnny Carson Tonight Show, the Steve Allen Show, and the Bell Telephone Hour. Gardner, accompanied by the Band, also performed as a soloist in Famous Carnegie Hall.

In 1966 Gardner was assigned to the U.S. Air Force Academy band when their mission was heavily impacted by the Vietnam War. Carrying the traditions of the USAFA academy band, "We still did noon formation for the cadets, graduation, and all of the ceremonies" Gardner remembers. Alongside The Academy's mission, Gardner represented USAFA by directing, rehearsing and producing recordings for Armed Forces Radio with entertainers like Anna Maria Alberghetti, Rosemary Clooney, Irene Kral, Gisele MacKenzie, Mark Lindsay and Paul Revere and the Raiders. The Falconaires performed stage shows with jazz trumpeter Clark Terry, jazz saxophonists Kim Richmond, Ray Pizzi and Pete Christlieb, drummers Louie Bellson and Ed Shaughnessy, vibraphonist Gary Burton, and on many occasions, Bob Hope.

Retiring in San Antonio, TX at Lackland AFB, Gardner and his wife Sandy continued to perform together. Chuck's service continued to his family and eventually the community of Tulsa, OK. Writing, arranging, and directing continue to fill his time. Chuck has provided expertise as a clinician for high school and college music festivals nationwide and has directed, rehearsed and written arrangements for local singers and shows produced at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame since 1992.

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Arts Scene: Sandy Gardner

Sandy Gardner is known around town as a singer and bassist, but apparently her footwear attracts almost as many fans as her music.

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Biographical material from various sources refers to Tulsa's Donald Ryan as "the master of diverse styles" and "a musical kaleidoscope, sparkling at everything he plays." Anyone who's seen and heard a Ryan solo piano performance knows the truth in both of those statements.

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Sandy Gardner in Concert

According to vocalist and bassist Sandy Gardner – who should know – the title of her Sunday Jazz Depot show can be taken a couple of different ways.

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