Tad Shull Biography


Tad Shull is a veteran of the New York City jazz scene with two generations of experience. He has a number of highly regarded records on Criss-Cross Jazz and has performed in the City’s top venues. Shull is master of the classic tenor sax sound, combining hard swing with an orchestral approach to the horn.

Shull was playing swing and jazz-rock before reaching his teens. In 1972, at age 16, he studied with studied improv and performance with tenor master David Liebman and pianist Richard Beirach. Shull later studied with saxophone guru Joe Allard at New England Conservatory. Allard had previously taught Liebman, Steve Grossman, Eric Dolphy, and Harry Carney. Shull also worked closely with Jaki Byard and Gunther Schuller as a student at NEC.

After moving to New York in 1978, Shull further apprenticed with swing era or swing inspired musicians still active then: Roy Eldridge, Jimmy Rowles, Dave McKenna, Harold Ashby, Bob Wilber, Joe Temperley, Kenny Davern, Eddie Locke, Jake Hanna, Tiny Grimes, and Milt Hinton. He also worked with bebop veterans, including Dizzy Gillespie, Connie Kay, Hod O’Brien, Jodie Christian, Willie Pickens, Eddie Higgins, and Melvin Rhyne while on tour in the US and Japan. During the 1980s and ‘90s, Shull was a co-leader and arranger for the Widespread Depression Orchestra, a leader in the swing revival, alongside perennial colleagues Mike LeDonne and Michael Hashim.

In the 1990s and onward, Tad Shull recorded frequently for Criss-Cross Jazz with Melvin Rhyne, Kenny Washington, Dennis Irwin, Peter Bernstein, Eric Alexander, Mike LeDonne, Ralph Lalama, and Mark Turner, among others. He has toured the US, Canada, Japan, Korea, and Western Europe as a leader or frontline soloist. He performed at the opening night of Smalls in 1994 and played there frequently since that time. Shull makes regular appearances in Greenwich Village, uptown, and NYC tristate area venues.

Shull is known for exploring the music of tenor masters Don Byas and Lucky Thompson. He is a composer, plays flute and clarinet, and has published writings about jazz.

Tad Shull serves on the boards of several organizations promoting cultural diversity and cultural empowerment through the arts, including Lotus Music & Dance, Mind-Builders, SmallsLIVE Foundation, and Riverview Jazz.

Selected Recordings

“Paris Blues”

(with the Widespread Jazz Orchestra) Columbia Records FC 40034

“Deep Passion”

Criss-Cross Jazz 1047

“In the Land of the Tenor”

Criss-Cross Jazz 1071

“Tell It Like It Is”

(with the Tenor Triangle and Mel Rhyne) Criss-Cross Jazz 1089

“Aztec Blues”

(with the Tenor Triangle and Mel Rhyne) Criss-Cross Jazz 1143

“Two Tenor Ballads”

(with Mark Turner) Criss-Cross Jazz 1182

“Tomorrow Yesterday Today”

(with the Mel Rhyne Trio) Criss-Cross Jazz 1252

Tad Shull