Meilana McLean Gillard is a Tenor-Saxophonist, Vocalist, and Composer residing in Derry, Northern Ireland. She is praised by critics for her passionate and fiery story-telling improvisations and her robust tone which has been said to recall modern masters Joe Lovano and Branford Marsalis as well as legacy-masters such as Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, and Dexter Gordon. She has also been praised for her composition and arranging skills that range from traditional to completely experimental.Gillard currently has two albums out as a leader. 'Day One' was released in 2009 on Greg Osby's label 'Inner Circle Music' and her trio album 'Dream Within a Dream' ('Lyte Records) was released in 2017 and made the top ten list of several critics that year.
In 2019 she formed the collective RBG Trio with two of Ireland's top-call artists Dave Redmond and Kevin Brady. In 2019 they performed at EuroJazz Fesival in Mexico City and Brilliant Corners festival in 2021& 2022 and are have released their debut album ‘RBG Trio’ on 20 September, 2023. The has received incredible reviews from The Irish Times, Marlbank and others. She started her own label ‘Auragami Records’ and has released the Michael Barkley Quartet’s debut ‘Portals’ in April 2023 and ‘RBG Trio’ (Sept 2023) as well.
Meilana (born in London, raised in Ohio) relocated from the US to Northern Ireland in 2012 and since then has worked with artists like Liane Carroll, Tom Harrison, Quentin Collins and performed at festivals such as Love Supreme, London Jazz Festival, Cork Jazz Festival, Sligo Jazz Festival, Brilliant Corners Festival and Derry Jazz Festival. She has recently performed with UK guitarist, Phil Robson.
Meilana studied Jazz at The New School University in NYC where she resided for about 8 years. She was a 5 year member of Charli Persip's Big Band 'Supersound' and his Quintet. She composed the title track to his 2007 album 'Intrinsic Evolution'. She performed at Birdland, Jazz Standard, Blue Note, Minton's Playhouse and Dizzy's Club. She also performed at several festivals in the US and Europe at that time. She also had substitute roles in The Diva Jazz Orchestra and Christian McBride Big Band.
Raised in Ohio, Gillard was brought up on the strong Jazz scene in Columbus Ohio. She studied saxophone with Gene Walker, Pete Mills and Michael Cox and got her start playing in big bands like Vaughn Wiester's Famous Jazz Orchestra and Todd Stoll's Jazz 2 Go as well as Gene Walkers 'Generations' and 'Cotton Club' bands, and Roger Hines and Stan Smith's 'Madrugada'. There were many great Jazz musician and jam sessions in Columbus that helped to shape Gillard and greatly inspired her.
Gillard is the leader and lead vocalist of Derry-based 6 piece experimental Soul & R&B group The Funkitects' which features regular Jazz collaborators John Leighton, Joseph Leighton, Neil Burns, Rohan Armstrong and Andrew McCoubrey. She is the ensemble's primary songwriter and producer.
Meilana performs regularly as a Jazz/Soul/R&B vocalist. Recently, she had the honour of having the Joel Frahm Trio perform with her at the Derry Jazz Festival while she performed an evening of her favourite standards to a sold-out room. Her self-produced single ‘Christmas Glow’ has gotten steady holiday radio play around UK and Ireland.
Meilana is also a sideman in Comrade Hat (Neil Burns) projects as well as Derry-based all-star group the ‘John Street Quintet’ (also feat: Michael Barkley, John Leighton, Rohan Armstrong and James Anderson) where she performs as a vocalist and saxophonist.
Gillard has been a 3-time faculty member of the Sligo Jazz Workshop, 2-time guest artist for the Newpark Big Band Workshop and currently teaches saxophone, voice, theory/improv, and composition at her private studio.
She is currently a member of Live Music Now, and organisation that brings music into Care Homes and SEND schools alongside longtime collaborator John Leighton forming the duo ‘Joyology’. This is something she is very passionate about and hopes to continue to develop.
Some have said:
“Gillard’s gutsy full-toned tenor saxophone lines sweeping majestically like a West Coast surfer…” - Nigel Slee, JAZZWISE
“Gillard's tough tenor confident and full of ideas” - Stephen Graham, MARLBANK.NET
"… Gillard is a gutsy, inventive player with a forceful melodic sense and an open, old-school tenor sound." – Cormac Larkin, IRISH TIMES
“A tenor player who marries old school, blues-based melodicism with a more modern edge—somewhere between Coleman Hawkins and David Murray“ - Ian Patterson, ALL ABOUT JAZZ
More About this Artist
Cormac Larkin, IRISH TIMES“'… Gillard is a gutsy, inventive player with a forceful melodic sense and an open, old-school tenor sound.' ”