Pianist Richard "Tardo" Hammer was born in 1958 in Queens, N.Y. He took an interest in music as a small child, as both of his parents were amateur musicians. At age 5, Hammer began playing piano, and he went on to explore the clarinet and guitar before coming back to the piano by the time he was 13.
Though he heard jazz on records at home, Hammer recalls hearing live jazz for the first time in middle school, thanks to a Performing Arts Curriculum Enrichment program that came through the New York school system. His first jazz concert featured a jazz group led by Marian McPartland.
By the time he was a teenager, Hammer was devouring the music of Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. By age 15, he'd formed his own sextet.
After high school, Hammer moved to New York and began working professionally. He took any gigs he could find and supplemented his income teaching piano. By the early '80s, he'd become a regular in clubs around town, working with such artists as Brian Lynch, Lou Donaldson and the Art Farmer-Clifford Jordan Quintet. Hammer made his recording debut along side Al Cohn and Mel Lewis in trumpeter Al Porcino's big band. Hammer has gone one to work with the likes of Lionel Hampton, Johnny Griffin and Abbey Lincoln.
Since the 1990s, Hammer has been performing in clubs and festivals in Europe, Japan and the U.S. In 1999, Hammer signed with a label and released Hammer Time. His fourth and most recent album is Look Stop and Listen, an album of Tadd Dameron compositions.