Garry was born in Montclair New Jersey where at the age of 10 he began piano lessons with Elston Husk. Garry’s mother also played piano and helped him with his practicing during that first year of study. His 7th grade teacher gave him his first jazz record “The Oscar Peterson Trio” which instilled in him the love of jazz. For a few years he played the standards and some light classical pieces. He entered high school at St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, New Jersey where his musical life would change forever. The priests at St Benedict’s were very supportive of Garry’s love of jazz. In church at St Benedict’s Garry met The “Queen Of Jazz “Mary Lou Williams”. She offered him lessons for free and took him under her wing. For the next few years Garry went into NY City, up to 145th St. in Harlem, to study with Mary Lou. It was there that he learned of Miles, Monk, Bud Powell and Cecil Taylor whom Mary was doing a duo concert with at Carnegie Hall. Through a connection of Garry’s mother’s, Mary Lou was asked to perform her mass “Mary Lou’s Mass” at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NY City. This was the first time that a Catholic jazz mass would be performed in a major cathedral.
As a junior in high school Garry took the Summer Jazz Workshop at Berklee College Of Music. This is where he realized that music and jazz would be his calling. After high school graduation he returned to Berklee where he met his current teacher of 34 years, Charlie Banacos. After one year at Berklee fellow musician Kenny Werner recommended Garry for a gig in Bermuda as the pianist at The Princess Hotel. He lived on the island with his lady for three years while playing 6 nights a week for various shows and singers.
In 1976 Garry returned to NY and started gigging around the city. He played with Charli Persip’s big band. There he was discovered by bebop trumpet legend Red Rodney who asked him to form a band. During this time Garry played with various small groups and singers. Through the club Jilly’s, Frank Sinatra heard of Garry and asked him to play at his apartment at the Waldorf Astoria. Although he never performed with Mr Sinatra in concert, Garry was asked on numerous occasions to play for Frank at his private parties.
During these years Garry joined The Gerry Mulligan Big Band, The Mel Lewis Quartet and the Joe Morello Quintet performing at the Blue Note In NY City.
Initially, Dial's talent as a pianist earned him a coveted and unique place in jazz history. Ruth Ellington, sister of the great Duke Ellington, enlisted him to perform and record for the Ellington family's personal library the entire Duke Ellington catalog. Many of these compositions would have been lost as they were unperformed and unrecorded.
In the late 1970's Dial spent 10 years with the Red Rodney-Ira Sullivan Quintet, winning widespread acclaim as the primary composer and arranger for these legendary talents. The album "Red Rodney, Live at the Village Vanguard" was nominated for a Grammy for Best Jazz group in 1980. "Ira Does It All" (1981), featuring Ira Sullivan, was nominated for a Grammy for Best Instrumentalist. "Sprint" was chosen as one of the 10 best productions for 1983 by the News & Observer, North Carolina. Rounding out these 10 years Dial's artistic visions are found on all of the releases of the Quintet.
In 1987 Garry Dial's debut release "Never Is Now" (Continuum Records), performed in a trio format, featuring Joey Baron and Jay Anderson "...showcases his exceptional compositional chops on 12 originals. Dial displays an effortless supreme melodicism on tunes both coherent and open-ended enough to allow for significant participation from his associates." (New Music Report)
In a 1989 trip "Downunder", Dial combined his talents as producer, composer and pianist with James Morrison and artist Ken Done. "Post Cards from Down Under" (Warner Bros. Records) won national praise for the pictorial and musical portrayal of many places in Australia.
Upon his return, Dial's partnership with saxophonist Dick Oatts offered "Dial & Oatts", co-produced by Tom Jung and recorded on DMP. Together with the talents of Jay Anderson (bass) and Joey Baron (drums) this project eloquently combined original compositions and arrangements with a 30 piece string orchestra.
The following year the Dial/Oatts combination released "Brassworks" on DMP. Incorporating the original compositions and arrangements of Dial & Oatts and the orchestration and conducting expertise of Rich DeRosa, "Brassworks" unites the Jazz Quartet and the brass choir. This recording won "Disc of the Month" in March of 1991 (CD Review) and was picked by Wayne Thomas of the Orgonian as one of the 10 best recordings of 1990.
In 1992 Dial and Oatts teamed up again to record "Dial & Oatts Verses Cole Porter". Together with Jay Anderson and Jeff Hirschfield they deliver an interesting project of Cole Porter's songs while focusing primarily on the verses. Dials drastic reimaging of "At Long Last Love" won the top award for the Most Innovative Arrangement of a Standard in the South Bend Tribune at the Elkhart Indiana Jazz Festival in 1992.
In addition to his work in jazz Dial has also worked with the folk music group The Roches, playing on three of their recordings and appearing with them in a video performance. In 1992 he began collaborating with Terre Roche (of the Roches) on a project of National Anthems from many countries. He performed two of the anthems live with the Roches: the Czech anthem at the Bottom Line in NYC and the Tibetan anthem at Philip Glass's annual Carnegie Hall benefit concert for Tibet House. He also collaborated with Terre Roche on arrangements for her band Terre & Her Moodswings, which performed at New York's Bottom Line and were the headliners at the Princeton Council of the Arts First Night Celebration in 1997.
In 1990, after fifteen years on the road, Dial joined the faculty of both The New School and Manhattan School of Music, where he teaches piano, theory and improvisation.
In 1992 Dial played on Jerry Bergonzi's playalong record, "Melodic Structures for Advanced Music".
In 1995 Dial's playing and compositions were featured along with saxophonist Chris Potter on "The Brighter Side" by the Joel Spencer and Kelly Sill Quartet, on Alliance Records. Jazz critic Neil Tesser (Playboy Magazine) said "Dial's experience and compositional abilities make him the artistic gatekeeper in this quartet."
In 1995 Dial & Oatts presented Brassworks in Finland with the Radio Orchestra of Helsinki. On that trip he also played quartet with Jerry Bergonzi.
In 1997 Dial worked as a consultant with Joey Baron on his CD "Down Home", featuring Ron Carter, Arthur Blythe and Bill Frisell.
Also in 1997, Dial's compositions were featured in a trio format on the K-Jazz Allstars' "Straight Ahead"ls with Charles Fambrough on bass and Ralph Peterson on drums.
In the late 1990's the Dial & Oatts band incorporated virtuoso guitarist Vic Juris in a band called Loose Change which played in New York City at The Blue Note and Visiones. He continued during this period to do some live engagements with saxophonists Dick Oatts, Jerry Bergonzi and Rick Margitza.
Finding a balance between performing and teaching , he wrote the two-year theory and performance curriculum for The New School. In the year 2000 Manhattan School of Music took a new course of direction. With a new chairman, Justin DiCioccio, Dial was appointed head of the improvisation department where his six-year course of study has been implemented in the curriculum.
In New York Dial has a private teaching practice where he has acted as producer for some of his students. An impressive group has studied with him, which includes Stefan Harris (Blue Note Records) and Jacob Sacks, a finalist in the Monk Competition. Not limiting himself to jazz, Dial has taught people from other musical genres including the Queen of R&B, Mary J. Blige.
For four years Dial has contributed to the Euro-Meet Jazz Workshop in Italy. In addition to doing master classes at the workshop Dial performed with his trio in Northern Italy and also in Salzburg and Vienna, Austria.
In the 1990’s Dial went deeper into composition studies. These compositions can be heard on his trio recording "Tea For Three" with drummer Jeff Hirshfield and bassist John Hebert.
In 2001, Bette Midler came to study music with Garry. She remains among the growing number of his students. On Sept 11,2001, Dial saw the fall of the World Trade Center in clear view from his terrace. A few days later he had the honor of co-writing with pianist Bette Sussman a New York Medley for Miss Devine's tribute to the WTC and Mayor Rudolph Guiliani.
In the fall of 2001 Dial performed with the Gerry Bergonzi Group at The Hopewell in Connecticut.
In January 2002 Dial teamed up with Dick Oatts and taught master classes at The Dutch Conservatory in Amsterdam Holland. Part of an exchange program with The Manhattan School Of Music, Dial and Oatts performed at the school and at the local jazz club in Amsterdam.
From 2003 till the present Garry continued teaching and performing. Two new projects began to consume his time. One is a cd and video “US AND THEM”, a collection of arrangements of national anthems in collaboration with folksinger Terre Roche, and featuring musicians from many countries. The project took on a new life when Bob Justich became executive producer and started to make a movie about the project. For a few years a film team followed Garry and Terre around NY as they interviewed and preformed with various world musicans for the video. After 17 years of work on this project has been released in the Fall of 2008. It is available for purchase on cdbaby.com and you can read all about it at Dialroche.com.
The second project was the construction of a house on a Caribbean island. From his early years living in Bermuda Garry always had a love of the islands and the water. He bought a piece of land on the top of a mountain facing the ocean on the island of St. John and began building a villa. After 4 years Moonswept Villa was completed and he has been spending time there practicing and writing. A dream came true of having a busy NY life while being able to retreat to paradise to compose and reflect.
In January 2008 a series of lessons with Garry was filmed and can be viewed on the internet at Mucony.com.
In May 2008 Garry performed with Dick Oatts the music from their Cole Porter cd At the L.A. Jazz Festival in Los Angeles. In July of 2008 Dial and Oatts again teamed up in Amderdam for the Summer jazz Workshop.
On Sept 15th 2008 Garry performed with flutist Anne Drummond At Dizzy’s Coca Cola at Lincoln Center. They played a duo piece which Anne wrote for him entitled “Garry’s Place”. Garry And Ms. Drummond have performed in duo and quartet throughout The United States and Europe .