Oceanlight Records Interview, Part 2

OL: Welcome Back, Glenn. We are certainly enjoying our time spent with You, this week, this being Part 2 of our 7 day Interview for OL’s Oceanliner Notes Weekly Series. Thank you once again.

Glenn Zottola: Thank you, OL!

OL: For our OL Readers, Jazz Trumpeter/Saxophonist Musician Great…Glenn Zottola will be sharing with all of us, his most celebrated Solo recordings, including his many recordings, with the many world-premier Artists.

OL: Glenn, your wonderful recording sessions with music giants like Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Torme, Gerry Mulligan, Milt Hinton, and Zoot Sims, are legendary. Let’s start off with your recording with one of the most celebrated Jazz Artists in the world, none other than 20-Time Grammy-Winning Jazz Legend, Pianist and Composer… Mr. Chick Corea! Tell us about your timeless recording with the one and only Chick Corea, on the George Gershwin / Ira Gershwin classic, “But Not For Me,” and how it came about?

Glenn Zottola: Well, you know, Chick is my best friend. He’s a very colorful guy… but I told him, that I felt that he was not only the greatest living Jazz Artist, but I felt that he’s one of the greatest Artists on the planet, today. He’s 72 years old. He has decades of amazing, amazing stuff. We got to be very close friends. We hang out a lot together, and we jam together. I got a call one night. I was going to bed and I was tired. He said, “Hey, what are you doing?” I said, I’m going to bed, I’m tired. He said, “Well, why don’t you grab your horn and come on over?” I was reluctant, because I truly was tired, but you know, getting a call from Chick Corea, is like getting a call from Mozart. You don’t really want to say ‘no’, you know?… so I grab my horns, and I go over to his house. He happened to be rehearsing his Trio for a tour. Some players I’ve never met before. I walked in, and he said, “What do you want to play?” I said Well, why don’t we do ‘But Not For Me’?… kind of like the Miles’ arrangement, which is kind of a classic arrangement. That arrangement has little interludes between each solo. He said, “Sure!”… so he sat down, and that’s it. He just started an intro. There was no rehearsal, nothing. One take. I laid down that track… and then we hit one more tune, which is not on my new album. We did Miles’ tune “Walkin’ ” Then I said, great, I’m going back to bed! I went back home and went to bed, and the next day, he hands me this tape. It’s a real testament to him, but it’s a testament to Jazz, how you can get together with a bunch of guys that you’ve never met before. One take, and it just happens… and I’m very proud of that track, because it just all felt right. A lot of it, has to do with Chick. Not only is he a great player, but he a great accompanist, oh my God. He just gives you so much space. That’s true with any great player. They always bring you up… up to a higher level. In fact, I’ve had people tell me that, “My God, I love playing in your Band. I feel like I play better than ever.” Good players do that to each other.

OL: Right, they bring each other up to a higher place?

Glenn Zottola: Absolutely. Unfortunately, there’s not enough places for guys to play anymore, like it was when I was growing up… where I’d go to Clubs and sit in with Legends, you know what I mean?… that were playing in those places, and to be next to greatness. I’m not a trained player, I play by ear. It’s all learned on the Bandstand, playing next to Legends.

OL: Wow Glenn, that’s wonderful. We didn’t realize, after listening to ‘But Not For Me’, that this was a one-take recording. Incredible!

Glenn Zottola: One take. No rehearsal. Never met the guys, before. People hear it, and they don’t realize that, that’s what is actually happening. It is amazing, and that’s the amazing thing about Jazz. Sometime when it goes down that way, it’s even better. I know Stan Getz didn’t like to over-rehearse. A lot of guys don’t like to over-rehearse. You want spontaneity, you know.

OL: In your ‘live’ recordings with Mr. Corea and his Trio, on this song and also on the song, “Walkin’,” what was your first thought in how you wanted to approach any type of particular recording style, especially on the recording of “But Not For Me,” the Miles Davis arrangement?

Glenn Zottola: Well, like I said… when I said to Chick; that kind of laid it down, when I said to him, listen, to the Miles’ arrangement. It’s better than a rehearsal. It kind of gives you a guideline of where you want to go… what kind of pocket that you want to put it in. Luckily, the guys were so good. As you know, Chick plays a lot of modern music. With those cats, that he had in the Band, at that time… plus Chick himself; he has great roots. Those guys were able to just fall right into that groove that I wanted.

OL: Tell us about the Musicians that were on Mr. Corea’s Trio, and what it was like working with them?

Glenn Zottola: Well, there’s a guy… he’s actually Israeli, and I was following his Career recently, because he’s out on his own now. He does a lot of stuff in Europe, with String Quartets and Symphony Orchestras. His name is Avishai Cohen. Anybody listening, can Google him. At the time, when he was playing with Chick, he was a real straight ahead Jazz Bass Player, and he still is, I’m sure; but now he’s doing his own music, playing with String Quartets. Some of his music sounds to me, for lack of better words, very Mediterranean, now. He’s into a lot of grooves that are from his culture, and everything like that. The Drummer is a really good Drummer from New York, Adam Cruz. I have a lot of stuff with Chick playing drums… Avishai and me and Chick on drums . I have stuff with me and Chick; Chick playing the marimba.

OL: Is it something you are looking to release?

Glenn Zottola: I would love to, if he’s cool on it. I sent him some new tracks. Man, “That sounds great.” He like it. I thought it would be interesting for people hearing him play the marimba.

OL: Wow, that would be interesting. He’s a Piano Man, so to hear him on another instrument; that’s just another dimension. Glenn: You know, I got to say something about Chick. Chick has been around a long time, but he’s not resting on his laurels, or faded in any way. Being with him, is like being with Mozart. He’ll play me some chords and stuff and he’s so excited about music, still. A hundred albums, 20 Grammy’s, 44 nominations tied with guys who aren’t even in Jazz… but still fresh. In fact, as far as I know, I think that he’s doing an album with John Mayer, right now. John Mayer came into his dressing room I believe, and said, “We should do something, together.” He does this stuff with Gary Burton all of the time. You know like when he was at the Blue Note, who can stay in the Blue Note, for like eight weeks straight? Nobody. He did a different Band every week. Basically, what I’m saying; besides being a great person, he’s so fresh, still.

OL: Working and recording with Chick Corea, must have been like no other jam session. Glenn, listening to this spectacular gem of a recording, we surely know the great and spirited sound that You yourself, brought to the already special Chick Corea session…so can you share with us, what was the one special memory that you took away from playing on this session?

Glenn Zottola: That it was perfect, for lack of better words. I mean, it’s not always that way. In Jazz, a lot, it is that way, but this was perfect… and the way the Band was playing behind me, and with me; I mean it just felt right. Everybody was in communication, and I’m sure that it helped that Chick was rehearsing all day long. Everybody was like, there, before I got there; so there was no effort. Absolutely zero effort.

OL: It just flowed out, so easily?

Glenn Zottola: It just flowed out, for sure.

OL: That’s a terrific moment recording with the great Chick Corea and his Trio, Glenn… and thanks for giving us an inside look at some of your most prized recording sessions. Okay, now let’s visit your special Frank Sinatra recording sessions… Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, who was more than a Legend… he had the world in his voice. What was this great big world like Glenn, playing on the Sinatra recording sessions?

Glenn Zottola: Well, it wasn’t a Recording Session, actually it was Television. It was the Mary Tyler Moore Juvenile Diabetes Telethon, in L.A. We got a call. I was partners with Bobby Rosengarden, a great Drummer, and we had an Orchestra together. We got a call to go out there, because we were already doing the Jerry Lewis Telethon. Bobby was the Drummer on the “Tonight Show,” all of the years it was in New York… so, he called Doc. Said, “Doc, I’m in L.A., doing this Telethon, I need a Band, can I borrow your Band.” Doc said, “Sure.” So he basically gave us The Tonight Show Band. You can’t beat that. We had a lot of acts on that show and Frank was one of them. What I can tell you about that night, was playing Frank’s charts, that I knew so well; like, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “I’ve Got The World On A String,”… I heard those charts so much. It was like someone else was holding my Trumpet for me; Nelson Riddle’s charts and all of that. Nelson Riddle had the best arrangements in the world. The music was playing me. It was an amazing thing, especially with a great Band, like The Tonight Show, it wasn’t a pick-up Band. It was a thrill, and it was a thrill being on stage with Frank. I’ve been thinking about doing a project. I never really thought about it much. I would like to say this now; if someone is listening. You know I always had a vocal approach to playing through my horn, since I was very, very young. The concept of singing through the horn is very natural to me. That’s why I am very confortable around singers… Mel Torme, Tony Bennett, Peggy Lee… and I never collide with them because my approach on the horn is a vocal approach. I never thought about this…I’ve been listening to a lot of Sinatra, lately and he was amazing. That’s why he was the ‘Chairman of the Board’. He admits it himself, working in the Tommy Dorsey Band. He was listening and watching some of those great horn players, how they used breath control. Tommy Dorsey was a master at breath control. I think that he got into that before any Singer before him, and he took that away with him, as a foundation. Not only does he swing, but just his whole phrasing and his breath control, and the power he has, it’s amazing. What I’d like to impart to horn players today, regardless of what music you want to play; I just feel if there’s more of a vocal approach in players playing, Jazz players… the music would communicate more, and have more emotion. I feel that it can get a little mechanical, these days. These guys, they are all virtuosos; nobody is putting anyone down. The modern music doesn’t really demand someone…The older music demands that you kind of sing through the horn. I’m realizing this now. I am going to try do something along the line that will try to get this vocal approach across, because it’s something that I’m strong in. I was reading some interviews, that Miles would hang out at Jilly’s Club, with Sinatra, and he talked a lot about Sinatra and Sinatra’s phrasing. Miles Davis of all people. Miles was a very lyrical guy. My experience with Frank was definitely a high point in my Career.

OL: Bravo Glenn! Yes, Frank Sinatra allowed the arrangements to come through. He wasn’t intimidated by the arrangement.

Glenn Zottola: Absolutely! He let the music breathe. I love that fact that people, obviously got that. No one has really been able to top Frank.

OL: Chairman of the Board!

Glenn Zottola: Absolutely! But the thing I want to get across that he had a way… Suzanne Somers told me that she was a very good friend Frank. When he went to gig, he would sit on a plane and he would be writting up the lyrics to a song over and over and over again. She said, “I asked him, ‘he said make those lyrics your own so you will never take them back.” He really delivered the lyric, but I want to say, he had that foundation (breath control and phrasing).

OL: Okay… on the many sessions that You have worked on; in general, do Producers prep Musicians before-hand as to whether the session will be an overdub session or a ‘live’ session; and with your extraordinary versatility on playing the Trumpet, Alto and Tenor Saxes, Glenn, do You bring all three of your instruments to your recording sessions?

Glenn Zottola: Well, yes and no. For my own albums, I do. Tenor Sax is a new instrument for me, but I always brought my Alto and my Trumpet to my own recording sessions. For other people’s records; not so, I would just play sometimes, Trumpet, because they already had Saxophone Players, and stuff like that. There was one album that I did which… I didn’t know, I had the guts to do that, because I was just getting into Tenor. This was a tribute to Count Basie, with a lot of the Count Basie guys. I brought my Tenor, and just put it on the side. You know Frank West was on saxophone and Freddy Green the bass fiddle; I got inspired, and I’m sitting in the Trumpet area, and I pulled out my Tenor, and luckily I had a Producer that wanted me to fool around like that. I recorded my first recording on that album on Tenor, from the Trumpet section. which is unheard of, and I got so inspired… so yeah, if it’s someone else’s album, I would be playing on trumpet, but sometimes they would ask me to bring the Alto. As far as overdubs, I’ve done some on my recent sessions, but all my 50 albums, all my old records, never any overdubs.

OL: Do You prefer ‘live’ sessions to overdubs?

Glenn Zottola: Well of course. Although it’s a funny thing; at one point, I really wanted to do an overdub. Most Jazz Players don’t do that. I remember doing lots of them in the pop world, in the 60’s and 70’s. But I wanted to do the overdub thing, and that’s why I’m doing that, now. I remember asking Chick, and he said to me “Why do you want to do that, Jazz is all about interaction.” He was right about that. I said, I want to overdub. I asked him to write me a track and he did. So, it’s not a normal thing. Usually Jazz Players don’t do that.

OL: The gifted Vocal Jazz Legend Peggy Lee… of Stage & Screen can no doubt be one of the most shining moments in your illustrious Career, Glenn. You are featured on Peggy Lee’s beautiful samba-styled Harold Arlen song, “Love Held Lightly.” When You do your solo features, what is most important to You as a featured Artist, the entrance or exit of your solo? Or is it just the whole feel of the moment?

Glenn Zottola: I never met Peggy before that session. Of course, I knew who she was. I think that was her last album of her Career. She did the whole thing while she was in a wheelchair. Her spirit was so great, and she was so feisty. When she found out that I worked with Benny Goodman, oh man, she started telling me all of these Benny Goodman Stories, and we had a ball. Working with a Legend like that, it’s like working with Sinatra, or Chick. These are people that you read about and hear about. Now, you’re playing with them; and they’re loving it, they are loving what you’re doing, on top of it.

OL: We understand that this recording session with Peggy Lee was in the twilight years of her extraordinary Career. You must have really cherished this recording even more, Glenn, knowing this?

Glenn Zottola: She had a Nurse there, at the session, but her spirit was bright, and she was feisty and everything. Great Band and Grady Tate on Drums.

OL: Glenn, in this day and age, if it’s not a major Recording Studio booked for ‘live’ Big Band, or Orchestral sessions, some of the more economy-friendly Studios, are becoming less in demand; as Musicians can now record more independently, with their own digital equipment. In your view, what would be the pro’s and con’s of this and can the two systems co-exist, and still get a quality product?

Glenn Zottola: There’s a learning curve, to being your own Engineer. It’s not the best situation. I’ve never recorded at Capitol, and would love to record there. I’ve recorded at the best Studios in the world, and I’ve recorded at the best Studios in England, where the Beatles recorded “St. Pepper.” There is an advantage because you’re not on the clock, when you’re recording in your own Studio. Just relax, take a break whenever you want, as many takes as you want. The Jazz world is not like the Pop world, where guys have unlimited time in the Studio, to spend three months, five months, or six months, doing an album. All of the early albums that I did, they all required that you do, 2 or 3 hour sessions, because they had a budget… so, the con is the fact that there’s a learning curve; and the equipment they get to rent, is not cheap. Chick’s microphones are like $9,000 each. So not everybody can afford that. I get a pretty good sound, I think, that people have liked what I did.

OL: Without question.

OL: This next question Glenn, is a very unfair question, but we’ll just go for it. Which top 5 of the many recording sessions, do You treasure the most?

Glenn Zottola: The one with Chick, for sure. Peggy Lee’s session. Maxine Sullivan, also. Not because I didn’t have as much to blow on, as I did with my own albums, but I’m a funny kind of guy. I’m a head-liner, but I also love to contribute, when I’m around Legends like that. And I also love Singers… so, those sessions were done really great. They spent a lot of time on the mixing in the studio. The quality level was really high. Peggy’s quality level was high, the Band was great. There’s a couple more. I like that session that I did… ‘My Secret Love’ session. That was a really nice session.

OL: We’re guessing that they all had their own special unique moments?

Glenn Zottola: They really do. Someone asked Miles on an Interview, they want to know what was his favorite. He couldn’t even answer it. I’m looking at my list here… a Jazz session with Milt Hinton, that was extremely special. Then Suzanne Somers, of course, that would be a ‘live’ Concert Video. The Steve Allen album… I would say Steve Allen album was a very good album. I’ve got to be honest, now that I’m looking at all of this; I really didn’t have any bad experiences, recording. I loved them all. I walked away with something really special. They are all like a part of my recording track, through the years.

OL: As we will be highlighting even more of these very recording sessions, in this OL Weekly Interview with You, Glenn… for our up and coming Musicians, who want to do session work, what goes into prepping for a booked recording session, and how important is it to be able to sight-read, even when so many of the great Musicians play instinctively by ear…

Glenn Zottola: That’s a really good question. I pretty much improvise, by ear. I’m a pretty good reader. I sit in the Big Band, I did Broadway, I could read, for sure… but as far as improvisation, I don’t know anything about chords, or harmony. I play strictly by ear, which a lot of the old cats, play that way. Lester Young… the first time I played with Zoot, he said, “I’m an ear player, too.” A lot of the older cats played that way. They don’t hear anything like harmony. I don’t even know what key I’m playing in. It’s all by ear. If you’re going to do session work… the guys that really do session work, they’re great Musicians; but Jazz players that do session work… you’re not necessarily great readers. They’re great readers for what they’re doing, when they are doing a Jazz session. All of those albums that I did; I walk into the Studio, and there’s charts there… and very little rehearsal, or no rehearsal. When I listened to them back, I’m amazed that I was able to play that stuff. I tell you why, because I was using my ear, a lot, because I love the music that we were playing. So, I didn’t have to struggle reading the charts. They kind of were natural. As opposed to when I did, the Broadway show, “Evita.” It was really, really tough. That music was changing 3/4, 5/4, 6/8, every two bars, was a different time change. I remember this funny story. Bob was playing 1st Trumpet, I’m playing 2nd. Bob knows my ability, reading-wise, my Brother, Bob. He’s great, like a Studio Player; even played 1st Trumpet in American Ballet… so, he much more schooled than me. I’m playing this stuff perfectly. He turns to me, in amazement, and he says, “You’re not reading this, right? You’re using radar.” I said (laughing), Yeah, you caught me. Forget about trying to read that music, it was impossible. I had to use my ears. You’ve got to use the strength that you have, no?

OL: Well Glenn, You’ve got great ears, of course!

Glenn Zottola: You’ve got to be to able read. You don’t have to be the best, or the greatest, but you’ve got to be able to read, if you’re going to do a variety of work. You can’t play in the Big Band, if you don’t read.

OL: Thank you Glenn, for that advice for our up and coming Musicians! We look forward tomorrow in Part 3 of this 7 part Oceanliner Notes Weekly Series, as we make a visit to the Television & Stage aspect of your Performance Career… from the Suzanne Somers Television Show to Airchecks, to performing ‘live’, honoring the great Benny Goodman, at Carnegie Hall, NYC. Thank you very much Glenn, for coming on as our Special Guest Artist. Glenn, is there any music commentary you’d like to share with the OL viewers, as we conclude this Interview 2 of 7 segment?

Glenn Zottola: I think just the point that I made, with Sinatra, and the singing through your horn; and trying to get that kind of emotion into the music. I’m not being critical of anybody, but I’m just saying that the music today… sometimes, not with everybody, but sometimes to me, it sounds a little mechanical. I think if you’re playing very modern music, if one listens to Stravinsky, or any classical music, it is very modern, but you see that those players are playing with a lot of emotion. I would advise players to go back and listen to some great Vocalists. Listen to Billie Holiday, listen to Sinatra. I think today, that Jazz Musicians don’t have the same rapport with Singers, that Jazz Musicians had in the old days. In the old days, a lot of Jazz Musicians, knew the lyrics to tunes. Lester Young, put with Billie Holiday. There’s a tremendous rapport between Singers and Musicians. Today, it can be mechanical, but just basically, I would like to see players today really get that emotion that you hear from a great Singer.

OL: Thank you Glenn. We’ll see you tomorrow! And thank you all for visiting OL’s Oceanliner Notes Weekly!

Continue to Part 3 →

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