Tofani, an alumnus of the prestigious Juilliard School of Music, has amassed a lengthy list of distinguished performance and recording credentials in a career spanning three-plus decades living and working in New York. He is one of New York’s most in-demand session musicians and has played on more than 600 albums, 100 major motion picture soundtracks, performed on two Grammy Award-winning albums last year including Steely Dan’s Two Against Nature and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra’s Stravinsky Miniatures.
Other career highlights include performing with legendary artists such as Frank Sinatra (L.A. Is My Lady), Barbra Streisand (The Concert and other albums), John Lennon (Double Fantasy), and Simon & Garfunkel (The Concert In Central Park with Tofani playing the stand out saxophone solo on “Still Crazy After All These Years”).
In addition, Tofani has recorded in the studio with a who’s who of top jazz artists such as David Sanborn, Earl Klugh, George Benson, Buddy Rich, Jim Hall, the Dave Matthews Big Band, Art Farmer & Yusef Lateef, Urbie Green & Grover Washington Jr. and John Lucien.
Jazz artist Tofani has played in concert with include Hall, Green, Matthews, Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans, Bob James and Thad Jones & Mel Lewis.
He has both recorded and played onstage with Sinatra, Streisand, Simon & Garfunkel, Natalie Cole, Bette Midler, Aretha Franklin, Barry Manilow, Tony Bennett and James Taylor. Dave also has recorded with Quincy Jones, Donald Fagen, Paul Simon, James Galway, Diana Ross, Soft Cell, Roger Daltrey, Chaka Kahn and Michael Franks.
In recognition of his consistently outstanding performances on saxophone Dave Tofani is a three-time winner of the prestigious Most Valuable Player Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Dave also had the distinction of being one of the very few players ever to be nominated on five woodwind instruments: Soprano, Alto & Tenor Saxophones, Flute and Clarinet.
Tofani also has performed in the orchestras with the Joffrey Ballet and the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre companies. He has performed regularly on the Tony awards live TV broadcast. He has appeared with the New York Philharmonic, the American Symphony and Orpheus Chamber Orchestra under the baton of distinguished conductors such as Leonard Bernstein, Zubin Mehta, Colin Davis, Pierre Boulez, Dennis Davies and Gunther Schuller.
Rounding out Dave’s resume is his work on major motion picture soundtracks such as “You’ve Got Mail,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” “Beauty & The Beast,” “The Birdcage,” “The Mambo Kings,” “Valmont,” “The Wiz” and dozens more.
Tofani’s solos are spotlighted on several soundtracks, including “Peggy Sue Got Married,” “The Untouchables,” “All That Jazz” and “Working Girl.”
Dave Tofani’s musical career began in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, where he was born and raised. His inspiration to take up music came from his uncle, Americo Dell’Omo (named after America because he was the first child in his family to be born in the United States.) It was Uncle Americo who introduced Dave to recordings by Dave Brubeck with Paul Desmond, Stan Kenton, and Miles Davis. Dave began playing clarinet when he was eight years old.
He picked up the saxophone at age 12 and began studying piano when he turned 13. In addition to playing in school bands, Tofani began performing with professional musicians when he was 15 as a member of the John Nicolosi Orchestra, a group that included Dave’s Uncle Americo. The group came in fourth place in a national big band competition for which Dave wrote two arrangements.
Dave moved to New York City when he was 17 years old to attend the Juilliard School where he got his master’s degree. While majoring in saxophone and clarinet performance, he was mentored by two great teachers – saxophonist Joe Allard and pianist Hall Overton.
Dave’s musical influences at this time also included Gil Evans, Joe Zawinul, Lenny Tristano, Lee Konitz, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Thelonius Monk and Duke Ellington. Dave’s first session work was with the “Bell Telephone Hour” TV show orchestra (with Donald Voorhies conducting) backing artists such as Andre Previn and Benny Goodman. Dave also was invited to join the Lee Konitz-Hall Overton Jazz Quintet (featuring Konitz on alto and Tofani on tenor). “That’s when I really learned to play jazz with the top pros. Hall was close to Thelonius Monk so we played a lot of Monk tunes, but we also did several of my compositions,” Tofani recalls. Additionally, Tofani had his own jazz quintet that played a number of New York clubs and concerts.
After graduating from Juilliard, Tofani was drafted into the Army and played in the U.S. Military Academy Band at West Point for three years. During this period he expanded the scope of his woodwind playing by studying flute with Harold Bennett and Tom Nyfenger. After being discharged from the service, Dave returned to New York to resume his professional career. Tofani was a member of the National Jazz Ensemble under Chuck Israels, (they recorded several albums), the David Matthews Big Band as the first reed player (he recorded nine albums with them), the New York Saxophone Quartet for seven years, and Jazz Antiqua. Tofani formed his own band, The Dave Tofani Jazz Quintet which performed in the New York area at, Mikell’s, Seventh Avenue South and other top clubs.
“Despite how much I have always enjoyed session work and performing with major artists, there comes a point in a musician’s life when you have to find your own solo voice and take everything you have learned and express your own sound,” explains Tofani.
His first step in that direction was his debut solo album, the Grammy-nominated Manhattan Carnival on Telestar, featuring seven original compositions plus the first recording of Michael Camilo’s “Manhattan Carnival (Why Not)” Tofani was joined by Warren Bernhardt, Anthony Jackson, Mark Egan, Clifford Carter, Dave Charles and Ross Traut. The album received heavy airplay on radio all over the country and went to No. 7 on the national Radio & Records jazz airplay charts.
Tofani steps out again into the solo spotlight with the new CD An American Garden. The new record features 41 of New York City’s finest musicians including Mark Egan, Danny Gottlieb, Jack Wilkins, Ronnie Zito, Pat Rebillot and Gordon Gottlieb. “The album is a tribute to all of the immigrant families who gave of themselves unselfishly in order to educate their children so that they could have better lives.”