Tommy Gwaltney

Tommy Gwaltney

Thomas O. "Tommy" Gwaltney (b. February 28, 1921, Norfolk, Virginia) is an American jazz multi-instrumentalist and bandleader. He has played clarinet, saxophone, and vibraphone.

Gwaltney studied under Ernie Caceres and Peanuts Hucko, playing clarinet in college bands and while serving in the military. Due to lung injuries during the war he played vibraphone for a time in the 1940s. In 1946-47 he studied at New York University and played in an ensemble with Charlie Byrd and Sol Yaged. Between 1951 and 1955 he seldom played, concentrating on helping with a family business in Norfolk.

In 1956 he joined Bobby Hackett, playing on his album "Gotham Jazz Scene" in 1957. He then worked with Wild Bill Davison, Billy Butterfield (1958-59), Buck Clayton (1960), Charlie Byrd again (1962-63), and with his own ensembles. He owned his own nightclub in Washington, D.C. called Blues Alley from 1965 to 1969, but even after selling it performed there regularly with Steve Jordan. Gwaltney organized several jazz festivals, incluing the Virginia Beach Jazz Festival and the Manassas Jazz Festival; he led bands at Manassas with Davison, Ed Polcer, Willie "The Lion" Smith, Eddie Condon, Doc Evans, Bobby Hackett, Vic Dickenson, Maxine Sullivan, and Jimmy McPartland. He stopped playing vibraphone in the 1970s but continued on clarinet in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1986 he recorded a tribute album for Pee Wee Russell and gave a concert at the Smithsonian Institute honoring Jimmie Noone. He worked in the Chesapeake Bay Jazz Band from 1992.


*"Goin' to Kansas City" (Riverside Records, 1960)
*"Great Jazz" (Laurel Records, 1963)


*Barry Kernfeld, "Tommy Gwaltney". "Grove Jazz" online.

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