* What: Boling/Brown/Holloway Trio with Greg Tardy.
* When: 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 13.
* Where: Barking Legs Theater, 1307 Dodds Ave.
* Admission: $16.
* Phone: 423-624-5347.
* Website: www.barkinglegs.org.
In 2010, after a lifetime of nomadic moves around the country - Milwaukee, New Orleans, New York City - Greg Tardy landed in Knoxville to teach jazz at the University of Tennessee. A globetrotting saxophonist with international performing experience, Tardy says his musical approach is impacted by every place he lands.
In contrast to the modern approach favored by musicians in New York, Knoxville, he says, is more focused on a traditional sound that hearkens back to early sax pioneers such as Sidney Bechet and Paul Gonsalves.
By immersing himself in that scene, Tardy says, he has learned that looking backward can be just as vital to musical growth as remaining on the cutting edge.
"I really do look at the tradition [of jazz] as being ... the foundation that all the modern playing should be based on," he says. "The stronger that foundation is, the stronger everything is. The foundation is essential."
Friday, Dec. 13, Tardy will return to Barking Legs Theater to perform alongside a trio of fellow UT music faculty members: Mark Boling (guitar), Keith Brown (drums) and Rusty Holloway (bass).
"I feel like we all know more of what each other is going to do, so it's a lot easier [to play together]," he says. "It was always easy to make music with them, but it's even better now."
The son of two opera singers, Tardy spent most of his childhood studying and playing classical music on the clarinet. After brief flirtations with funk music - and polka, oddly enough - he found his way into the jazz fold after a brother introduced him to "Thelonious Monk With John Coltrane," a 1961 collaborative album by the titular artists.
Jazz captivated his attention, in part because some elements of Monk's performance ran contrary to his classical upbringing. Ever since, he says, he has been a student of the entire sweep of jazz music, a broad approach that helps him communicate better with the musicians with whom he partners. Throughout his 20-year career, he has found himself in musical collaborations with artists such as Dave Hazeltine, Ellis Marsalis, Victor Goines, Bill Frisell and Tom Harrell.
Despite his position as an academic, Tardy says he thinks it's critical for his music to be both evocative and accessible.
"Ultimately, I'm trying to achieve an emotional result, something the audience can feel and relate to," he says. "I don't try to just play for the musicians because not everyone who comes out to hear me is a musician.
"When I play, I guess I can look at myself as being an educator of sorts, but more than being an educator, I'd like to look at myself as a communicator."
Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.