Studies at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, and Marquette University
A native of Racine, Wisconsin, Gerald Cannon was given his first electric bass at age 10 and soon began playing in his father’s group, the Gospel Expressions. While attending the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, he met jazz legend Milt Hinton, whose influence inspired Cannon to switch career paths from physical education to music—and from electric bass to upright. At the recommendation of Hinton, Cannon promptly transferred to the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music.
Upon moving to New York City at age 28, Cannon played his bass in the subway and took part in jam sessions at the Blue Note. That exposure led to opportunities to perform with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Jimmy Smith, Jimmy Scott, Dexter Gordon, Elvin Jones, and other jazz luminaries. A chance meeting with Roy Hargrove led to a seven-year gig in the renowned trumpeter’s band, with which he toured throughout the world. Cannon also served as McCoy Tyner’s musical director, a role that saw him play many tours alongside Oberlin faculty saxophonist Gary Bartz.
Cannon remains active on the New York scene, performing regularly at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and Smalls Jazz Club, among other venues. He has played on dozens of recordings throughout his career and released Gerald Cannon (Woodneck Records)—his debut as bandleader—in 2003. His most recent recording, Combinations (Woodneck), was released in 2017.
Cannon’s teaching engagements have included the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, the New School, Long Island University, the Conservatory of Maastricht in Holland, and the Juilliard School, where he continues to teach. He frequently presents master classes and has participated in the North Sea Jazz Festival, Cape Town Jazz Festival, Montreux Jazz Festival, Umbria Jazz Festival, and the Montreal Jazz Festival. His teachers include Ray Brown, Ron Carter, and Buster Williams.
Away from music, Cannon has earned acclaim as a painter of vibrantly colored, abstract works that draw heavily on emotional themes.