Tom Lagana – Professional Biography
Guitarist Tom Lagana has been steadily building a strong reputation as a multi-faceted artist in the mid-Atlantic region. As a jazz guitarist and bandleader in clubs, festivals, and recordings, as a classical guitarist in master classes and with orchestras, as an educator, and as a composer, Lagana has garnered respect for his creativity, musical integrity, and devotion to his craft.
After graduating from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Lagana went to work as the guitarist for the Walt Disney Jazz Band in Orlando, Florida. Upon his return to his home state of Maryland, he was recognized by jazz legend Charlie Byrd as “one of the most promising jazz guitarists in the area.” Byrd invited Lagana to sit in with him on several occasions, paving the way for the Tom Lagana Trio to become the house band at Byrd’s venue of choice, The King of France Tavern in Annapolis, three nights a week for over a year.
Lagana took his professional education to a new level by obtaining a Masters in Music at Towson University with a dual focus on both jazz and classical guitar performance. While at Towson, Lagana was awarded second prize in the prestigious Sidney Lieberman Competition. Normally won by pianists, Lagana was the first guitarist to be recognized in the history of that competition. Lagana’s work in higher education has not been limited to musical performance: His in-depth analysis of the work of Pat Metheny was published by Just Jazz Guitar magazine in two issues in 2005 and was endorsed by Metheny himself. Following up on his academic successes, Lagana has served on the faculty at Towson University as well as in his current position at University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Lagana has participated in master classes with Ralph Towner, Dusan Bogdanovic, The Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, Roland Dyens, and the Brazilian Guitar Quartet and was a guest artist at the First World Guitar Congress in 2004. In 2005, he was invited to play for classical guitarist/composer Carlo Domeniconi at the Long Island Guitar Festival where he performed “Koyunbaba,” perhaps Domeniconi’s most recognized work.
In 2008, Lagana was featured with the National Symphony Orchestra as conducted by Leonard Slatkin at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. Composer David Del Tredici lauded Lagana’s performance on the tenor banjo in Del Tredici’s work Final Alice, a 72-minute piece based on the composer’s affinity for Alice In Wonderland. Lagana appeared again with the NSO and Eric Idle of the Monty Python troupe at the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Virginia. Lagana has also performed with the York Symphony Orchestra, the Richmond Symphony, and recently with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in the 30th Anniversary of John Waters’ Hairspray and again as accompanist to singer Jackie Evancho.
Throughout his career Lagana has played numerous festivals including the Chestertown Jazz Festival, Oregon Ridge, Annapolis Jazz Festival, The Mid Atlantic Wine Festival, Federal Hill Festival, and the Kaufmann Music Series. He has shared the bill with international jazz icon Herbie Hancock and has worked with such noteworthy musicians as George Garzone, Walt Weiskopf, Red Rodney, Craig Handy, Bob Mintzer, and Marvin Stamm. Lagana’s guitar work can also be heard on the Fox Network show America’s Most Wanted.
Tom Lagana – Recordings
In early 2002, Tom Lagana released Patuxent, his first recording as a bandleader. The recording and Lagana’s growing reputation were strong enough to get the Tom Lagana Group booked at the Rams Head Tavern’s National Showcase Stage – a rare honor for a local act – where Patuxent’s debut performance played to a standing-room-only audience. After that, the CD began its climb up the U.S. jazz charts where it peaked at #17 over a 10-week period. The recording was not just a debut for the group but also a first stylistic statement made up entirely of Lagana’s original compositions.
With his second recording, Schematic, Tom Lagana took his group in a bold new direction. Saxophonist George Garzone joins the group as Lagana takes them from a rhythmically inventive take on the jazz standard “All Or Nothing At All” to a letter-perfect reading of the challenging Thelonious Monk number “Evidence” to a sublime rendition of Bill Evans’ gorgeous “Re: Person I Knew.” Lagana and company show their deep understanding and reverence for the tradition while putting a fresh spin on those jazz staples. In the guitarist’s original material, he stakes out more personal territory. The urgent title track is a prime example of the Tom Lagana Group in unbridled free bop mode. The gentle nylon string acoustic offering “Lauren’s Song” showcases a wholly different aspect of his musicality while “W.W.H.D.” is pure boppish burn based on the changes to “I Got Rhythm” and featuring a potent tenor solo from Garzone. The restful “There Are Three” is a poignant piece written for his wife and daughters. The funky “Dents” is an infectious blowing vehicle constructed over a go-go beat while the ECM-esque closer “Hidden 5th” has him gliding elegantly over the changes in waltz-time fashion.
Tom Lagana’s third recording, and his second for the HarvestTime label, Vol. 1 is the first to showcase his nylon-string guitar work on every track. This perfectly suits the record’s strong Brazilian influence. George Garzone returns to join the group, this time brilliantly showing off his Stan Getz influence as the group unites to exhibit an updated interpretation of works by A.C. Jobim, Ary Barroso, Jim Hall, and Chick Corea, along with standards such as “Shadow of Your Smile,” “Nature Boy,” and “Moonlight in Vermont.” In addition, Lagana, Garzone, and bassist Tom Baldwin contribute original compositions to the mix. Dominic Smith, the newest member to the group, rounds out the quartet on drums.