Oceanlight Records Interview, Part 3

OL: Welcome once again, Glenn. This being Part 3 of our 7 day Interview for OL’s Oceanliner Notes Weekly Series, we’ll go right into highlighting some of your most renowned and magical TV Gigs and Stage Performances… from the “Suzanne Somers Television Show,” The “Martin” Show, to jamming with Smooth Jazz Saxophonist Dave Koz, and with no less excitement… performing with living Country Singer Legend Kenny Rogers and Grammy Producer David Foster, to performing, honoring the great Benny Goodman, at Carnegie Hall, NYC. What a whirlwind of a Career, Glenn!

Glenn Zottola: I have a lot to say!

OL: Starting off with Universal Studios, in California… the celebrated Suzanne Somers TV Show… Visitors at your Official website , can have the pleasure seeing some great video footage of You performing with the Band, at her Club Indigo ‘live’ show. Suzanne Somers, surely known for her sparkling character that she played as “Chrissy,” on the famed long-running TV Series, “Three’s Company…” What some may not have known, is that she is a fantastic Singer and Entertainer. On the video clip on your site, she does a great rendition of “I’ve Got The World On A String,” as she features You on Trumpet solo. Glenn, You really pop on this set! Then on the closing number, You provide a nice warm and lush sound for Suzanne on your Sax. Tell us more about the wonderful moments of this show?

Glenn Zottola: I have to say, that I’ve had a lot of high points in my Career. Benny Goodman, Chick Corea, Carnegie Hall. They are real high points, but Suzanne and the TV Show, was definitely right up there, with everything else. I grew up as a child prodigy. I did a lot of TV when I was a kid. After this world of music that I did, traveling the world; I ended up back on TV, with Suzanne, coming full circle. At such a high level, I only wished that the show would run as long as The Tonight Show, because I really, really enjoyed it. I thought I had died and gone to heaven, because here I am at Universal, as a Jazz Musician, with a big office; next to Steven Spielberg. Ten minutes from my house. Doing eight shows a week, for more money that I ever dreamed possible in music. Every time I got on stage, I was playing for tens of millions of people, which few Jazz Musicians ever experience; you know what I mean?

OL: Yes, of course, sure!

Glenn Zottola: I mean, not even Rock Musicians. The biggest stage is not tens of millions. It’s an amazing experience. It’s hard to even explain. Even I explained it to my friends, like Chick Corea, or whatever; what it felt like to be in that position… after all of those years in music. Then working with Suzanne, who was so gracious, and she loved me so much. Let me say about her, you know, that she’s known as an Actress first, but she has a tremendous love for Jazz and Music. She used to go see Carmen McRae. She was good friends with Sinatra. I never had one musical disagreement with her, in nine years. Her instructions to me; she just told me to do your Glenn thing. She never told me one note to play. I’d sit with her, hand-in-glove. As her husband called it; we had real simpatico. Her phrasing was very natural, and I fitted in beautifully with it. It was definitely chemistry, there. It was definitely a very big high point. There’s a video on my website. One of the guys in the band, invited me to her rehearsal. She didn’t know me. I’m sitting there, listening; it sounded pretty good. I said, do you mind if I sit in? She tells the story on stage, and she said like, “Who is this guy?” I pull out my horn, and I say, what tunes do you know? I’m like this crazy Jazz guy (laughing). I said, do you know ‘ But Beautiful’? She said, “Yeah, I know ‘But Beautiful’.” I started playing it with her, and if you look at that clip on my video, you’ll see her melting on the show, but she melted that day, at the rehearsal. She literally melted in front of me. When I got through the tune, she said, “I want you as my Bandleader, now.” The chemistry and the love was instant. It never changed from that moment, on.

OL: That’s wonderful… the feeling that Lady Somers really enjoyed working with You and with a shared mutual respect for each other’s talents, it really shines through, Glenn… and rightfully so. We understand that in all of your 9 years of working with Suzanne Somers, that she encouraged your featured solo moments to be free-spirited, and for You to just be the spectacular Musician that You are. Share with us Glenn, the art of give and take, when performing with and providing instrumental fills for Singers?

Glenn Zottola: Absolutely. Well, first of all, I think I helped her fulfill a dream, because she always wanted to sing standards and Jazz related music, and I gave her that platform. I brought her up to another level, also. She had it in her, for sure, but I gave her that feeding of foil. We’re back to what I said about Singers and Jazz Musicians, possibly getting more into Singers. I love Singers. I feel today, that some of the Jazz Musicians are a little disconnected from Singers. Guys want to blow, they want to play a lot of notes; it’s not a singing type of thing… but I feel different. I come from an era where; if I’m working with a Mel Torme, or a Sinatra, or a Tony Bennett, Joe Williams, or Suzanne… I love, as we say, filling the holes. In other words, not getting in the way. Just enhancing and contributing to what they’re doing. I remember when Chick heard me play ” But Beautiful.” I played that video for him. He said, “Man, you’re comping for her.” ‘Comping’ means, what a Piano Player does for a Horn Player. And it’s true, what I’m really doing is accompanying her on the Saxophone… so I love doing that. I love doing that ‘give and take’, back and forth. It’s almost a lost art, today. I hear guys, sometimes playing with Singers, and they’re colliding with the Singer. They’re playing, not in the holes, they’re playing when they’re singing, and they’re colliding. That’s not the way it’s supposed to go down.

OL: We hear that often, especially in today’s music. Clamoring to be heard; there’s a time and space for both, but just not at the same time?

Glenn Zottola: Absolutely. That’s why certain Piano Players are amazing accompanists, because they know how to make it sound better, by just enhancing it… rather than having to try to be on an ego trip. Suzanne and I, were the epitome of that kind of rapport. I’ve had it with other Singers, too, but the things is I got a chance to do so much with her, over the years.

OL: Glenn, during your time spent performing on the Suzanne Somers TV Show, did You ever think that You would be swinging on a combo jam session with Country Singer Legend Kenny Rogers on upright bass, & the phenomenal Producer David Foster on piano?

Glenn Zottola: That was so funny. The deal with the Guests, that any Celebrity that came on, was whatever they wanted to do, they could. A lot of maybe Academy Award Actresses, people would be surprised, that they can sing. I was at a party with John Travolta. I was telling him that I wanted to do this Stan Getz project. He started singing these Jobim tunes… and I found out he’s a real Pro. He can do Sinatra stuff, and everything. When I think of John, I think about ‘ Grease’. The same thing with Kenny Rogers. He came on, and he picked up the Bass, he started swinging his butt off, and I’m looking at him, and I can’t believe it. I went up to him afterwards, I said, Kenny, listen… I’m so sorry, I’ve got to be honest with you; I’m not a big fan of Country Music, but you sound great! He said, “No, I started off in a group, singing and playing bass in a group that was like the Hi-Lo’s .” So, he had a lot of Jazz in him. Also Actor, Hector Elizondo came on, we did James Moody’s ” Moody’s Mood For Love.” It was Hector, Suzanne and Myself, and he sounded like a Be-Bopper. I said, Hey Hector? He said, “I’m from New York…Birdland!” He’s like a Jazz Be-Bopper. So I learned a lot about everybody, you know.

OL: Wow, that’s great! With the best of the best in the TV Band, including yourself, Glenn; how much does musical spontaneity play into a TV Show, like that of the Suzanne Somers Show?

Glenn Zottola: Well for me, it was total spontaneity. I ran that thing like a Jazz gig. One day I come into the Studio, and they’re tearing out pages and pages of sheets, on the script. Something was wrong, and the Director was frantic. He was a good Director. He did all of Dick Clark’s Shows. He said, “We had just lost one-third of our script. How are we going to do this? You’re going to have to write all new music.” I said, what do you mean, write all new music? Listen, just tell me, give me a color, give me a mood, give me whatever you feel, in my headphones, 30 seconds before the commercial break, and I’ll give you what you want. I did the whole show, without a script, and he was in shock. He said, “I’ve never been with anybody in Television, who could do that.” I said, Barry, I’m a Jazz Musician. So, what I brought to TV, I don’t think anybody before me, or after me, has done that. I ran it like a Jazz gig. Sometimes the Bass Player would tap me on the shoulders and say, “Hey Glenn, it’s like 15 seconds before back on, do you know what we’re playing?” I said, give me 5 more seconds, let me think about! (laughing). I would never be there, if it wasn’t for Suzanne, I’m not a TV guy, you know. Let me tell you how it worked. That show, I’m bragging now, down time on the show at that time, was $50,000 an hour. Since you’re down, because someone made a technical mistake and you’re down for a half an hour, it costs the network $25 grand. Nobody likes that. I didn’t have one minute of down-time, because of any mistake I ever made. They were never down, because of me.

OL: We love that, Glenn! Those were good times, indeed… and with more to come, with the two TV Stars Tisha Campbell-Martin and Tichina Arnold, most notably then of the famed “Martin” TV Sitcom Show. They were set to appear on the Suzanne Somers TV Show, as their show also filmed next door, at Universal Studios, in California as well?

Glenn Zottola: The ‘Martin’ Show was taping right next to us. Suzanne said that, “We’re going to have Tachina and Tisha on, and can you go over there, and find out what they want to do?” I must have spent, a maximum, maybe 30 minutes with them, and we were laughing, having a ball.

OL: On the Suzanne Somers TV Show, Tisha and Tichina did a knock-out duet cover of Chaka Khan’s “Sweet Thing.” You were in on it, Glenn, from the onset, when You were assisting them on the arrangement, as prep, in their dressing room… how did that come about?

Glenn Zottola: I brought a little tiny tape recorder. I said, what do you want to do? They were singing that Chaka Khan & Rufus, Mary J. Blige tune, “Sweet Thing”… and I spent maybe 20 minutes with them, went back to the show, worked up an arrangement for them, and that’s what you see. They’re very good, aren’t they?

OL: It looks like they’ve been singing together, forever. They are very good! It came through on the stage.

Glenn Zottola: They were very tight. They were like two Sisters. I loved working with them. They were a ball!

OL: Moving over to another favorite Guest Artist who appeared on the Suzanne Somers TV Show… Smooth Jazz Saxophonist Dave Koz stopped by to jam with You and the Band…Nice groovin’, Glenn… Both You and Dave killing on the Sax… How often would cool Musicians like that of Dave Koz, sit in on the show and just jam with You and the guys in the band?

Glenn Zottola: I knew who Dave was. He was doing the ‘Make A Wish’ Foundation Show. Dave came on, and we hit it off. We were just jamming on the commercial breaks. I’m not trying to brag, I’m trying to do this, so to tell everybody who I am… trying to impart to younger Players. I love doing a wide variety of stuff. I’m proud of the fact that I can play with Benny Goodman, Chick Corea, do Broadway, do Television… and play with Dave Koz, which is completely different music from what I play. I’m like the real chameleon of music. I’ve always been that way. I think that playing by ear, is a factor there, because I just go where my ear goes.

OL: Carnegie Hall Theater, in New York City… with Clarinetist Bob Wilber & the New Jersey Jazz Society Band… a momentous 50 year Anniversary, in celebration of the great Benny Goodman (1930’s) Swing Band sound. You were a big part of this Tribute Show, Glenn, sitting in on the same chair as Trumpeter great Harry James once performed… Tell us about your terrific trumpet solo and recording cover on the great Louis Armstrong’s, “Shine,” during this Carnegie Hall Tribute Show?

Glenn Zottola: I worked with Benny for two years, and that was an amazing experience. I get a call in New York from a friend of mine, who is a great Pianist, John Bunch. He used to be Tony Bennett’s accompanist. He was working at the time, with Benny… and he said, “What are you doing? Benny needs a Trumpet Player, can you come over to the Astor Hotel, right now?” I said, sure. I was living in Manhattan, so I went over to the Astor Hotel. I walked in, and there’s Benny Goodman, with the whole Band. Not the Big Band, this is the Sextet, a small Band. He doesn’t say anything to me. I pull out my horn, and we jammed for 45 minutes. We get through and he comes up to me, and he said, “Can you leave, tomorrow, to go on the road?” I was trying to be polite, because I knew he had a Trumpet Player, and I’m not going to mention the name, who has quite a name; this Trumpet Player. Benny says, “I didn’t ask you that. Can you leave, tomorrow?” Something must have gone down, obviously. I said, sure… and that’s it. I went on the road with Benny, with his Sextet. It was a great Band. Connie Kay, was on drums, a very famous Drummer. We’re ready to go on stage, and I go up to Connie and I say, do we have any charts? He said, “Yeah, we’ve got charts.” He pulls out this old piece of ripped paper. He hands it to me, and on it, is a rift of this tune, “Undecided.” He said, “Here’s your charts.” So, I got the message; okay there were no arrangements, right? I went on, and I played the gig, and that was it. Benny gets on the microphone, and introduces me for my ballad feature. He talks to the audience for like five minutes about me. He says, “You know, I ran across this kid, and I hired him. Everybody’s been in my Band. This young man can hold his own with any of them.” He names all of these guys… including Harry James, and I can’t believe that he said all of that, because he wasn’t that kind of guy. After the gig, I said, Benny, I really appreciate that. He said, “Well deserved, young man.” I didn’t have any problems with Benny Goodman. He was very, very nice to me. As for Carnegie Hall, you know, you’d have to know the history of music. In 1938, after Benny was on the road. He thought that he was bombing out. He was going to disband his Band, but he didn’t realize, over the radio; he was getting this incredible cult following of Teenagers. People don’t realize, this is very similar to Elvis, or the Beatles, later. What they call the bobby-socks, they were Teenagers, and they were listening to this new music. ‘swing’; which was very different from what was before that. Benny Goodman was the first white Big Band Leader to play Black Music, because he had an integrated Band. He had Lionel Hampton, he had Teddy Wilson, and his arranger was Fletcher Henderson, a great black Arranger. So, his music was not rhythmically, a music that white kids were used to hearing. To put it a better way… what they were used to hearing, was much more ‘corny’. So, when Benny came along, and kids started hearing this music, over the radio, it was like hearing Elvis. Same thing… and I have to tell people this, because Elvis did the same thing. All of these guys were around like Chuck Berry, and Elvis loved that music. Elvis was the first white guy to play that music. Count Basie and Duke Ellington, couldn’t play the big fancy White Hotels in 1938. They couldn’t get into those rooms, so therefore white kids would never hear that music. Chuck Berry couldn’t get on Ed Sullivan, in those days. So, when Elvis brought his thing to the white kids, they went nuts. Same thing… so, when Benny brought that music to the white kids, they went nuts. This was a radical new music. Benny thought that he was bombing out. They would go into these Hotels, and they didn’t like the music, when he was traveling across Country. He was building up this cult following, on the radio. So, in 1938, when he came to Carnegie Hall. which was the first time that Jazz was ever at Carnegie Hall… that was the beginning, really, of the ‘swing’ era. That became the National Music of the Country. The night that I did the Anniversary, which was 50 years later, we played the same exact program of ’38, same songs, and everything. Anybody who was there at the original ’38 Concert, now in their 60’s and 70’s; we let them sit on the same stage with the Band. As I was playing, I was looking at their face, and you can literally see decades come off of their faces, as they were re-living that historic moment. This is when ‘Swing’ music became the National Music of the Country. We’re not talking about something esoteric, like Jazz. This was the music of the Country, that lasted all the way through World War II.

OL: In this 50th Anniversary of Benny Goodman at the Carnegie Hall, you did the cover of “Shine?”

Glenn Zottola: The story behind that… I was sitting in Harry James’ chair, and with original Benny Goodman arrangements; little hand-written notes from Harry James. Harry loved Louis Armstrong, and he asked Benny if he could take a try, because Louis had a very famous solo on ” Shine.” Harry wanted to take a shot at it. That’s how ” Shine” occurred. It was just Harry playing a couple of choruses on that very famous Louis Armstrong piece. So, it was an unbelievably historic night, playing the exact program of ’38. Isaac Stern was there. Isaac Stern did the Intermission, and unbelievable; you should hear him talk about Jazz. He said that when he came to New York, he used to hang out on 52nd Street, and go see Charlie Parker. He was a big Jazz fan. He said, “Growing up in Washington, all of my Classical friends, we used to listen to Benny Goodman, this new beat; we were going crazy, when we were kids.” Who would have thought, right? So, at the end of the night, Benny Goodman’s daughter came out, and gave Benny’s Clarinet to Isaac Stern, to put into the Carnegie Hall Archives. It was a packed house. I was on air, because the Reviewer John Wilson, of the New York Times said… I don’t know if this is true, but it was a compliment; he said, “Harry James was not missed tonight, with Glenn Zottola’s horn.” The reason why I gave you that ” Shine” track… I never knew that it was recorded. No one said it was, and no one knew. I get this tape from a guy that was in the audience. I don’t know where it was recorded. I got that like just last year. All these years, it was the first time that I got to hear the Concert. I’m amazed that I could go back and hear it.

OL: What a terrific story, Glenn! This is indeed your life! As our readers are enjoying listening to some of your most celebrated recordings, Glenn… what would be one of your own favorite recordings, so far?

Glenn Zottola: I really like the Chick Corea track, for sure. When I go back over my Anthology, and I look back over all of the recordings, I’ve got to be honest with you. Every recording has a little something that I like. There are different periods of my musical development. I really can’t pick one thing. I’m glad that they exist.

OL: In your Career travels, Glenn, give us your Musician’s take on performing on both ends of the music world, from the New York Jazz music scene, going all the way to the entertainment Mecca of Hollywood ( Tinseltown), California?

Glenn Zottola: Quickly on Europe, because I spent a lot of time there, and I achieved a lot of acclaim. The Europeans regarding Jazz, is a totally different audience. They are steeped in tradition. At the time when I was going to Europe in the 80’s, they are not so fad oriented. They remember and they’re very knowledgeable on Classic Jazz. A lot of Jazz Musicians move to Europe, because of that reason. Black Musicians moved to Paris, and they were treated like royalty. In Europe, if you say that you’re an Artist, it’s like ‘oh my God’; it’s like saying in America, that you’re a Doctor. Whereas, if you say that you’re an Artist, or a Jazz Musician, in America; they say, well that’s fine, but I don’t want my daughter to marry one, you know! (laughing)… So Europe is completely different, regarding appreciation of history and the arts. The two top towns in America, for Musicians, is obviously New York and L.A. The best Musicians in the world, are in New York, or L.A. The New York Musician is very different, than the west coast Musician. I used to travel in Europe and people didn’t know where I was from. I would play a set, and I would come off and the guys in the Band would say, “You’re from New York, right?” I said, yeah, how did you know? They said, “By the way that you play.” New York playing is very aggressive. It’s like the City! Whereas west coast Jazz is much more laid back, but Hollywood, is Hollywood. There’s nothing like it. I’m a New Yorker at heart, you know what I mean?… but when you talk about Movies and Hollywood, New York doesn’t have that.

OL: That’s true. Each of the two Mecca’s have their own way of shimmering. Thank you Glenn.

OL: We look forward tomorrow in Part 4 of this 7 part Oceanliner Notes Weekly Series, where we get to shine a one-word spotlight on Jazz Trumpeter/Saxophonist Musician Great Glenn Zottola’s One-Word Playback, for the OL Viewers… Glenn, is there any music commentary you’d like to share with the OL viewers, as we conclude this Interview 3 of 7 segment?

Glenn Zottola: New York and L.A.; they have their own vibe. I’m anxious to see… I watched the premier of Jimmy Fallon with The Tonight Show, which has not been in New York, since like 40 years ago. I’m curious to see how he does with it. I’m sure he’ll do great, but it is New York; and you know ‘ David Letterman’ and you know ‘ Saturday Night Live’ has a certain vibe, that is not Hollywood. The cities are very different.

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

Continue to Part 4 →

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