Tony Purrone was born and raised in Connecticut. His love affair with the guitar started with his first lesson at age nine. This early ability, expressed across a diversity of styles, led to acceptance by the University of Bridgeport Jazz Ensemble at a very young age. Four years later, whilst still a student, he performed with the Don Elliott Quintet and the Gerry Mulligan Sextet. After transferring to New York University, Tony graduated with a BSc in music.
In 1978, he came to the attention of Jimmy Heath in Connecticut and was invited to join the Heath Brothers Band, going on to record five albums on CBS and Island-Antilles in between touring the world.
In 1982, Tony left to carve his own impressive niche in the eclectic jazz world. He has performed with a Who’s Who of Jazz, including: Frank Foster and the Count Basie Band, Jerome Richardson, Lee Konitz, Al Cohn, Pepper Adams, Paquito D’Rivera, Sal Nistico, Nick Brignola, Bill Barron, Dave Leibman, Freddie Hubbard, Dizzy Gillespie, Randy Brecker, Lew Soloff, Jon Faddis, Donald Byrd, Lionel Hampton, Woody Herman band members, the Jimmy Heath Big Band, Stanley Cowell, Billy Eckstine, Johnny Hartman, the Trio (3) with Pete Levin and Lenny White, and his own groups.
He completed an album in July 1991 with Ed Thigpen on Justin Time records called “Mr. Taste”. This received the accolade of a Downbeat magazine 5-star rating.
Tony has taught music at Housatonic College and Wesleyan University in Connecticut and at Queens College in New York. Tony participated in two Grammy nominated albums, “Heath Brothers Live at the Public Theater”, (1980); and “Jimmy Heath-Little Man, Big Band” (1994). Tony has also recorded with Jimmy Heath on the Landmark, Verve, and Steeplechase labels, Ed Thigpen on the Reaction label and is the featured guitar soloist along with bassist, Stanley Clarke, on the song “Dark” co-written with Lenny White on Lenny’s CD, “Present Tense” (Hip Bop records).
In 1993 Tony released his debut CD as a leader and composer on the B&W label (now, Meltdown-2000) entitled, “Electric Poetry”. It features Bob Mintzer (woodwinds), Dave Anderson(bass) and Ray Marchica (drums). His compositions and eclectic diversity figure greatly in this setting.
Tony has also made these and countless other appearances:
- Jimmy Heath’s CD’s, “You’ve Changed” (‘91) and “You or Me” (‘95) on Steeplechase records.
- All-star recording with the late Grover Washington, Kenny Garrett, Lonnie Smith, Joey DeFrancesco, Idris Muhammed, and Lenny White on Hip Bop records: Essence All Stars “Organic Grooves”.
- Tony routinely appears with Jimmy Heath as a special guest, most notably: an Alice Tully Hall (Lincoln Center) performance with the 3 Heath Bros., Wynton Marsalis, and the late Joe Henderson as well as the Jazzmobile 35th anniversary gala concert at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fischer Hall, hosted by Bill Cosby.
- Tony made a special guest appearance on the reunion Heath Bros. release on Concord records, “The Jazz Family” as well as live performances on three SS Norway floating jazz festival cruises, at the legendary Blue Note, Village Vanguard and Birdland jazz clubs in New York City, at the Bethel Woods Jazz Festival in New York and at the San Francisco Jazz Festival in California.
- Tony made a special guest appearance in October 2016 at the Kennedy Center celebration of Jimmy Heath at 90, where he performed alongside fellow jazz greats such as Jimmy Heath, Herbie Hancock and Stanley Cowell.