Gregg Karukas hails originally from the D.C. - Maryland area where he was one of the top fusion and studio players in town. Gregg moved to L.A. in 1983, not with the idea of getting his own record deal, but with the desire to expand his multi-keyboard style by playing with as many other artists as possible. He quickly became in demand for his tasteful accompaniment skills and advanced command of synthesizers long before the computer music revolution happened.
Thanks to early recommendations by Yellowjackets keyboardist Russell Ferrante, Gregg played his first concert with Shelby Flint after only 12 days on the West Coast. Gregg soon found himself part of the blossoming local contemporary music scene, playing with such notables as Richard Elliot, Grant Geissman, Ronnie Laws, Melissa Manchester, Brandon Fields, Patti Austin, Brenda Russell, and David Benoit. Gregg even played on one of the first RAP records, Rockwell's " Somebody's Watching Me", which featured Michael Jackson, and Ricky Lawson and Russell Ferrante.
Gregg had just completed a 1 & 1/2 year stint with Melissa Manchester (with Richard Elliot on sax) when he formed his own band to be the among first groups to play at Bon Appetit At My Place, and Le Cafe, the now defunct L.A. Contemporary Jazz clubs which spawned most of L.A.'s Contemporary/Smooth Jazz artists. Gregg wrote and recorded "The Nightowl" during this time.
Dave Koz, and Gary Meek ( Jeff Lorber, Airto and Flora ) and yes, Boney James, before his Warner Brothers deal, were the first young undiscovered sax talents to join Gregg's band and contribute to Gregg's melodic, soulful style as the L.A. club scene blossomed.
In 1987 he released his first solo album THE NIGHTOWL, which quickly became a Quiet Storm radio staple w/ the songs " Walkin' With You", "Talbot Street Cafe" and "Drivetime". That same year he became the original keyboardist with the Rippingtons, recording the classic MOONLIGHTING project with Kenny G. and David Benoit. Gregg recommended Dave Koz to play EWI on the Moonlighting record and the rest, as they say, is history......
Karukas has also worked with a number of Brazilian musicians, including stints with Ricardo Silveira, Sergio Mendes, and Grammy nominated recordings with Dori Caymmi. Known for his tasteful synthesizer accompaniment, Gregg is frequently called to provide lush backdrop / orchestrations on many occasions including 1992's Jazz at the Hollywood Bowl "Brazil Project" concert featuring Toots Thielemans, and Brazilian legends Dori Caymmi, Ivan Lins, and Antonio Carlos Jobim.
The L.A. music scene provides many opportunities for Karukas to showcase his talents. As a producer / arranger, Gregg has produced or co-produced CD's for artists such as David Lanz, guitarist Phil Sheeran, Shelby Flint, Tony Darren, and the Pointer Sisters. He has an ongoing songwriting career with songs recorded by George Benson, Deniece Williams, Kenia, Pauline Wilson, Arnold Mc Culler and many others.
Gregg recently arranged and performed most of the instruments on hit tracks for Kirk Whalum, Peter White, Craig Chaquico, and Brian Bromberg. He has also played and programmed synthesizers for many films such as "Stand and Deliver", "Money for Nothing", "Mr. Wrong", and "Major Payne"; Disney cartoon themes "Ducktales" and "Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers", and television shows including "Cheers", "Santa Barbara", "Life Goes On", and "Hope and Gloria".
As a young musician who had natural ability and a good ear, Karukas spent his early years close to the jukebox in his father's roadside tavern absorbing the hits of the sixties - from The Beatles to Motown. While Karukas played organ in rock and soul bands as a teenager, his interest in playing jazz was sparked after hearing Dave Brubeck's "Take Five," and Stan Getz's "Jazz Samba". In his quest for jazz knowledge, Karukas turned to the recordings of Miles Davis, Ahmad Jamal, Les McCann, Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock, as well as mainstream jazz players like Clifford Brown and Lee Morgan. One of his biggest influences was the master jazz pianist Bill Evans.
At age 17, right out of Bowie High School, Gregg joined w/ Tim Eyermann to form East Coast Offering where he honed his compositional skills and jazz chops in the city's " jazz lounges" while still listening to singer-songwriters such as Stevie Wonder, Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, and Jackson Browne. They quickly became the city's top crossover group - playing together for 5 years, and then Gregg and the rhythm section split to form Natural Bridge, a band that included Shannon Ford (Danny Gatton, Paul Simon, Gatlin Brothers), and Michael Manring (Windham Hill, Michael Hedges, Montreux). They opened shows at the famous Cellar Door for artists such as Angela Bofil, Larry Carlton, The Robben Ford Band (pre Yellowjackets-and this is where Gregg met Russell Ferrante), Jeff Lorber ( w/ Kenny Gorelick....G.), and many others.
Gregg rediscovered Brazilian music through Wayne Shorter's "Native Dancer" record with Milton Nascimento. Soon thereafter, the chef at a D. C. jazz club ( Harold's Rogue and Jar ) who had lived in Brazil, loaned Gregg his entire record collection and that was the new beginning of Gregg's long love affair with the rich music of South America. More......
Gregg lives in the Los Angeles area with his wife Yvonne and their 2 sons, 7 year old Alex, and 4 yr old Stephen (Stevie). When not on tour, Gregg spends most of his time in his adjacent 32 track digital studio. As far as future projects are concerned, Karukas will stay busy producing other artists, and wants to keep expanding his acoustic sound.
Notes from Gregg.
STUFF ABOUT Gregg
Birthday: May 18
Born: Baltimore, MD
Favorite Music to listen to: Brazilian, Jazz, R&B
Favorite Musicians: Pat Metheny, Milton Nascimento, Dori Caymmi, Bill Evans (both), Joe Sample, Joni Mitchell, Les Mc Cann
Artist Most Admired: Pat Metheny
Favorite Movies:Diner, Avalon ( Barry Levinson Baltimore Movies), Outside Providence, Moulin Rouge, Nashville, Fargo
Favorite Book: Q - Quincy Jones, Miles Davis' BIO
Favorite TV Show: Action, Will and Grace, ED, The Newsroom
Favorite Food: Sushi
Favorite Drink: carrot juice
Favorite Vegie: any except asparagus
Least Favorite Vegie: asparagus
Hobbies: hiking, camping
Favorite cities in North America: Annapolis, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco
Favorite city in the world: Paris!!!!
What are you currently listening to?: Angie Stone, Larry Goldings, Pat Metheny
What do you like to do on rainy days?: Practice, read, take walks
Favorite dessert?: gingerbread cake with whipped cream and strawberries and Haagen Daz Vanilla or Coffee ice cream and Pepperige Farm Bordeaux cookies, etc........
--- from the official Gregg Karukas website