Tony Saunders

Bio & Awards

Tony Saunders is the son of legendary Bay Area keyboardist, Merl Saunders. His life has been infused with one musical adventure after another. A major independent force in contemporary jazzAs a bassist, composer, arranger and producer – whose godparents included Wynton Kelly and Jimmy Smith – Tony has conquered the worlds of jazz, gospel, R&B, pop, and world music. He earned the first of his two Emmys at age 14 for collaborating with his dad on the PBS documentary Soul Is and by 17 was playing with Merl and Jerry Garcia on their collaborative projects. The second was earned for his contribution on the TV show, Digital Journey, on the episode, “China: Their New Digital Economy.” Though he took his first musical lessons on piano from Herbie Hancock, the bass he received from John Fogerty’s brother Tom – and watching recording sessions with famed bassists Anthony Davis and Lee Miles – sparked a lifelong passion for that instrument that now, decades later, has led to his emergence as a major independent force in contemporary jazz. Saunders graduated from the prestigious Conservatory of Music in San Francisco as a piano player, but has focused on the bass throughout his career, drawing on influences and encouragement of greats like James Jamerson and Stanley Clarke. After launching his career with his dad Merl and Jerry Garcia, Saunders embarked on a diverse career that has found him playing and recording with a virtual who’s who of popular music and jazz – including Eric Clapton, David Crosby, Dave Liebman, Les McCann, Dr. John, Joe Sample, Chaka Khan, Ringo Star, Bo Diddley, Mavis Staples, John Lee Hooker, The Hawkins Family, Jeff Lorber and Paul Jackson Jr. Over the years Tony has scored films, corporate videos, TV shows and commercials, and produced many artists out of his own studio, Studio 1281. He’s written the music and been musical director for stage musicals, including Rock Justice, which was co-written by Jefferson Starship’s Marty Balin.

  • NCEM Award – Male Jazz Artists Of The Year
  • AKADEMIA – Best Song – Jazz
  • AKADEMIA – Best Video – For These Reasons
  • Emmy Award – Best Music Score With Merl Saunders – PBS Special “Soul Is”
  • Emmy Award – Best Music Score – Microsoft Special “The New Digital Economy”

I Romance The Bass As I Romance Life…