Composer, arranger, bandleader, lyricist, and drummer Art Lillard grew up in Miami, where his jazz roots include playing with the great master Ira Sullivan and studying with pianist/composer Wally Cirillo. Art also studied at Karl Berger’s Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, New York. Subsequently, he graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston with a bachelor’s degree in composition and arranging, having garnered multiple scholarships and honors along the way. Art has also studied with Greg Hopkins, Mike Gibbs, Paul Caputo, Tom Boras, Kenny Werner, Portinho, Maria Schneider, Mike Holober, and Jim McNeely.
Art’s nine-horn Heavenly Big Band has been playing in clubs and concert spaces since 1987. Their compact disc, “Reasons to be Thankful,” was released on the Summit Records label in 2006, and their “Certain Relationships” in 2015. Art’s On Time Band, a trio/quartet that has been performing for many years, produced a recording, “It’s Time,” released by Summit in 2009. In 1998, Art’s seven-piece swing band, Blue Heaven, appeared on television playing original compositions on two episodes of CBS’s daytime series, “Guiding Light.”
A professional musician since 1970, Art has had a rich performing career. He has led and co-led many jazz ensembles. He has also played drums as a sideman in groups of various musical genres, including jazz, country & western, cabaret, rock, and show music. He has recorded with some of these groups. Along the way, he has played with such jazz luminaries as Ben Brown, Jaki Byard, Gilly Coggins, Junior Cook, Kenny Davern, Buddy DeFranco, Joe Diorio, Bobby Forrester, Eric Gunnison, Greg Hopkins, Paul Horn, Nancy King, Cecil McBee, Arturo O’Farrill, the aforementioned Ira Sullivan, and many more.
Art has written hundreds of compositions in a wide range of musical genres and is often commissioned by performers, producers and other composers to arrange music for vocalists and instrumental groups. Art’s original works appear on cd recordings by vibraphonist Gust Tsilis, vocalist Larry Browne, saxophonist Claire Daly, flutist Jan Leder, the band Groovalaya, and the duo of guitarist Pere Soto and saxophonist David Valdez. Art also wrote and scored the soundtrack for a film, “The Wannabees.” Some of his compositions can be heard on episodes of the MTV productions, “Jackass” and “Cat House,” and on HBO’s “True Blood,” as well as in the 2014 movie, “Teacher of the Year,” and an online commercial for Mercedes Benz.