Carl Gordon Grubbs, alto, soprano and tenor saxophonist – composer, educator and recording artist is a native of Philadelphia. He received early extensive training from John Coltrane, who was married to his cousin, Naima. Through his family, he was close to many of the history-making musicians of the 1950s and 1960s. With his brother, Earl, he formed The Visitors, a quintet that recorded four albums for the Muse record company in the early 1970’s. Mr. Grubbs is a former member of the Julius Hemphill Saxophone Sextet. This group toured the U.S. and Europe performing two productions: Hemphill’s Long Tongues: A Saxophone Opera and Bill T. Jones/Arne Zane Production: Last Supper at Uncle Tom’s Cabin: The Promised Land. He was a guest soloist at the Philadelphia performance of Reggie Workman’s current project, African Brass, a tribute to John Coltrane. In 2014, he was commissioned by the Philadelphia Jazz Project to complete a new arrangement of “In My Youth,” a previously recorded by the Visitors. The new arrangement was performed at the Irvine Auditorium at the Annual Frosty Event. Mr. Grubbs performed as guest soloist. As a guest artist at Philadelphia’s “Coltrane at 90 Celebration, he performed a medley of his favorite Coltrane tunes and his original music.
Carl Grubbs is a recipient of the prestigious Mary Sawyer Baker Award and the Ruby’s Prize, programs of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance. He is a two-time recipient of the Maryland Traditions Award as a Jazz Master working with apprentices David Lowe and Lafayette Gilchrist. The Carl Grubbs Quintet performs in major cities in the United States. His ensemble has performed in Bogota and Medellin, Columbia, SA and did an eight-city tour of Brazil. Mr. Grubbs currently is the Jazz Band Director at St. Paul’s School in Brooklandville, Maryland. He has directed the Middle School Jazz Band Director at Friends School and served as Artist-in-Residence of the Instrumental Music Child First After School Program at Bernard Harris Elementary School in Baltimore City. From 2010-2012 he conducted Workshops in Jazz Performance and Improvisation at Randallstown H.S. in Baltimore County, Maryland.
NOTE: Carl Grubbs is a member of the Maryland State Arts Council Touring Artist Roster. Presenters can apply to the Maryland State Arts Council’s Touring Artist Fund for funding to present the CARL GRUBBS ENSEMBLE.
I had the distinct pleasure to enjoy saxophonist Carl Grubbs's Quartet Series at Baltimore's Enoch Pratt Library. Longtime Maryland resident Grubbs brought the intensity and beautiful tone of his Philly roots to the varied program—"Blue Monk", "On a Misty Night", "In a Sentimental Mood", "Giant Steps"—that included originals "The Camp Song" and "Joy" written by his late brother and co-founder of The Visitors, Earl Grubbs.
– Charles Rahmat Woods
Grubbs has crafted a work of considerable color and depth in his Inner Harbor Suite; melodies, counter-melodies, blues elements of call and response, bebop rhythms, Afro-Cuban rhythms and avant-garde elements.
– Howard Mandel, DownBeat Magazine
The amazing jazz saxophonist Carl Grubbs debuted Inner Harbor Suite Revisited, a musical love letter to Baltimore. This re-imagined composition allowed Mr. Grubbs to experiment with a jazz/classical fusion and assemble an incredible group of musicians . . . the strings added a different feel and more colors to the music, notably on the tune “By and By,”which became a dramatic, bluesy, waltzing lullaby vividly bringing visions of the Inner Harbor to life. Grubbs’ fierce blowing on “Saturn,” one of his signature tunes, was a highlight, and “Barbara Dear” featured tenderly blown harmonies by Grubbs on a tune honoring his wife.
– Steve Monroe, BJA News, July 2015
Grubbs, winner of a 2014 Rubys Award and 2009 Baker Award, was in top form. The tone of his alto saxophone was sharp and biting right from the start of the opening tune, Tadd Dameron's "On a Misty Night.” . . . Back on alto, Grubbs fired up a soaring rendition of "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes,” followed by a haunting version of "Soul Eyes.”
– Steve Monroe, BJA News, May 2015
The quartet takes the tonal centers of Trane’s “Giant Steps” as their shared springboard. Grubbs solos first, crafting a highly personalized tribute to the composer through a verbose series of high register note streams . . . bouts of impressive circular breathing in solo and tandem, but the extended reed techniques never compromise the musicality of their endeavors. “July” features the full quartet galloping through another of Grubb’s melodically charged creations Miles Davis’s “Four” supplies further fodder for spirited blowing and the quartet attacks the bop standard with a voracious improvisatory elán.
– Derek Taylor, Cadence Magazine
• Two Dreams, Odean Pope Quartet, CIMP, 2004
• Stepping Around The Giant, CIMP label, 2003
• Carl Grubbs, Reflections, B&C Productions, 2002
• Broto Roy Live, Total Immersion, Buzkashi, 2001
• Carl Grubbs & Friends: Inner Harbor Suite
• Live at the Baltimore Museum of Art, B & C Productions,1994
• Carl Grubbs & Friends, Live at The New Haven Lounge,
• The Julius Hemphill Sextet, Fat Man and The Hard Blues,
• The Visitors (Carl and Earl Grubbs),
Neptune, Motherland, In My Youth, Rebirth 1972-74