Born in Queens, New York in 1958, Tardo Hammer began playing piano at age 5, and after dabbling with clarinet and guitar, returned to piano at age 13. By his mid teenage years he was listening heavily to jazz recordings of Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and others and teaching himself to play that music on the piano and with other young musicians
Hammer's first professional appearance was on New Year's Eve, 1973, when he and five other fifteen year olds entertained the revelers with renditions of Ornithology, Four, Round Midnight, Scrapple From the Apple, Buzzy and So What. They were fired shortly before midnight.
In 1977 Hammer took up residence in a Chelsea loft, where regular jam sessions took place. Supporting himself with a combination of gigs and teaching, he began to enjoy a reputation as one of the bright young pianists on the New York scene. He was also a regular at clubs such as Bradley's, the Angry Squire, the Jazz Cultural Theater and the Star Cafe, where he was inspired by the influences of pianists Tommy Flanagan, Barry Harris, Cedar Walton, Hank Jones, among others.
In the 80's, Hammer began working with the Bill Hardman-Junior Cook Quintet, Lou Donaldson and the Art Farmer-Clifford Jordan Quintet. He also worked with Lionel Hampton, Johnny Griffin and Charlie Rouse and performed in venues throughout the U.S. His recording debut was in 1986 with trumpeter Al Porcino's big band which featured Al Cohn and Mel Lewis.
In 1990, Hammer spent two months in Japan performing with a trio that included Vernel Fournier on drums and Victor Sproles on bass. He continued to appear internationally, in Europe and Japan, alongside featured performers including Annie Ross, Abbey Lincoln, Conte Candoli, Chubby Jackson and others.
By 1998, Hammer was increasingly active in New York, and had appeared on a number of CDs. Sharp Nine Records sought him out to record with his own trio. Hammer Time (1999) and Somethin' Special (2001) Tardo's Tempo (2004) and Look Stop And Listen (2007) all feature Hammer as a trio leader and have been highly acclaimed.
Look Stop and Listen, an album of Tadd Dameron compositions, was named as one of the top CDs of 2007 in Downbeat, The Village Voice, and All About Jazz. Hammer's trio has performed at festivals and clubs in Spain, France and Italy as well as in the USA. Most recently, Tardo continues to work with his trio, as well as serving as accompanist and sideman to other featured performers, including Annie Ross, Charles Davis, Warren Vache and Grant Stewart..
Active as an educator, Hammer is on the faculty of the Lucy Moses School as well as conducting classes and lessons at clinics and colleges worldwide.