Oceanlight Records Interview, Part 5

OL: Welcome Back, Glenn. This being Part 5 of our 7 day Interview for OL’s Oceanliner Notes Weekly Series. On this segment… Collaborations!

Glenn Zottola: Hello again!

OL: Tell us about Glenn Zottola Productions, and how your Big Band took off, gigging at the Rainbow Room, in NYC, and how Drummer great Bobby Rosengarden played a partnering role in this successful venture?

Glenn Zottola: Wow, I’m glad you brought that up because Bobby was one of the collaborations like Suzanne and Chick. We had a ball; seven years together. We actually met on the Benny Goodman Sextet. It’s a funny story. Bobby is one of those real New York feisty guys. He came up through all the channels in New York. He was the drummer on The Tonight Show; all of those years in New York, for Johnny Carson. And then he was the Bandleader on the Dick Cavett Show. He was an incredible studio drummer. He played with Toscanini and the NBC Orchestra and everything. He’s an incredible, incredible musician and a beautiful jazz player too. But as I get off and tell this funny story, so I’m with Benny, right… and we were planning to do a broadcast for 2020 TV. The director is counting down like a minute to go, or whatever. And Benny, he could get a little spaced out. He turns around and he sees Bobby on the drums, and we were going to go on the air, and he says, “I thought I fired you.” Bobby had this real fast New York comeback. He said, “Yeah, but you hired me back!” And Benny goes, “Okay”… and he counts off the tune. So Bobby was one of those real New York Jewish you know tough guys; you know that don’t take any crap, studio guys that grew up through all of those channels. So we first met on Benny’s sextet and then we played some jazz festivals together and he called me up one night and he said, “How would you like to lead your own Big Band in the Rainbow Room?” and I said I’ve never led a big band before. He said “Don’t worry about it. I’ll give you my arrangements, and you can have my bandstands. It’s Johnny Desmond going in and you’ll do great.” So he set me all up and I went into the Rainbow Room, and it was a huge, huge hit. I ended up doing many, many engagements after that. I really appreciated that he gave me everything that set me up, and that was really the start of Glenn Zottola Productions. I wanted to come off of the road. My daughter was 2 1/2 years old I wanted to spend more time at home. So, I started to put together booking people from my house in Connecticut.

OL: Okay, well booking over 300 Events a year, with your Big Band, Glenn, it must have been both exciting, and busy at the same time! How did You schedule in your recording sessions schedule in between that?

Glenn Zottola: I was doing 90 hours a week… I had a band six nights a week at the Rainbow Room. I was Entertainment Director of two major hotels, Crowne Plaza and the Hyatt. Plus I was doing Jazz Festivals. Plus I was going to Europe. Plus I was doing all of my Jazz shows and Corporate gigs, too. So, it was intense, but I loved it. I was young, and I was on fire.

OL: Yeah, yeah, well that’s great, so you basically worked 365 days a year?

Glenn Zottola: It was here and there about seven years. Bobby was kind of semi-retired, he had about 25 gigs a year. And I built it up to over 300. In those days, ‘live’ music was still happening, it wasn’t all DJ’s. You know what I mean? I had the finest Clientele. I used to do Oscar de la Renta’s wedding parties. I did a lot of different parties for the Rockefellers. I worked for the Woolworth Family. I worked for a lot of upscale people in Connecticut and in New York; the guy who founded American Express, Great, great Clients that loved good music; loved to dance, all that stuff.

OL: Oh, wow, it must have been really one of a really rich period?

Glenn Zottola: It really was, I think the end; from what I can tell from people telling me today; It was kind of the end of the glorious days of live music, which is sad.

OL: What would be your fondest memory, of working with Bobby Rosengarden?

Glenn Zottola: Well, we had a ball. We had a lot of laughs. We had really become very, very close friends. We would do a gig at the Plaza Hotel. And afterwards we’d go out for dinner, and we would have a lot of fun. We were great teammates with tremendous respect for each other. Musically, I learned a lot from him about being a bandleader for sure. He was a great bandleader. I learned a lot about business from him, and how to run the show. He was kind of a mentor for me in that way.

OL: Also, in the spirit of partnership… on the classic and beautifully recorded, Softly As A Morning Sunrise”… with You on Tenor Sax, and your Brother Bob Zottola on Trumpet; take us to the beginning of how this collaboration project got started ?

Glenn Zottola: Let me refresh myself on that. This is with Bob? Excuse me, I’m sorry about that. Oh, okay, have you heard that track?

OL: Yeah, we believe that this is one of the ones that you recorded first, and then you set the track to Bob?

Glenn Zottola: But how did you get that? I don’t even recall sending that to you.

OL: We did our homework.

Glenn Zottola: Oh, it’s on my website. Oh, you did your homework, OL. I take my hat off to you!

OL: Thank you.

Glenn Zottola: Well, you know Bob and I have been together a long time as brothers; the family jam sessions. We have kind of a rapport together, that’s pretty amazing. That track was just an experiment. Where I basically…we were at long distance; he’s in Florida and I’m in L.A. We’ve been talking about doing the Zottola Brothers album, forever. I laid some stuff down with the Tenor, and I emailed it to him, and he laid down some stuff with the Trumpet. And that’s what that tracks all about. I don’t know anybody at that age. Bob is 77, now… that has those kind of chops, who plays with that kind of fire. He’s amazing!

OL: We’re sure that this will be a great family affair.

Glenn Zottola: He still loves music. He’s definitely not jaded or tired.

OL: That’s wonderful, wonderful. What would be one of your favorite moments in performing and working with your Brother?

Glenn Zottola: You know, I just received an interesting tape from a fan in Finland, oddly enough. And he was at a club that Bob and I were playing at. The quality is not good, but the music was unbelievable and he sent me this tape… that was one night that really sticks out for me; and of course Bob and I have done a lot of things together. We did a Broadway show, we did “Evita” together. And of course we had the Family Jazz Club. It was amazing; that was a real spawning ground for me. He led the band, there.

OL: Okay, so working in the club with your Brother, that was like the pinnacle?

Glenn Zottola: Well, it was tremendous training. A lot of stars played in that club; Tommy Flanagan and Bob Timmons. To get to sit in there every week, was a great spawning ground for me, even though I was very young. And then, we played together a lot later. We were playing together when we were kids in the house. We always had that same mindset on the music

OL: Wonderful! Who are some of the great Recording Engineers that you would work with again, and again?

Glenn Zottola: Umm… oddly enough, there was a guy that just passed away and he did a lot of my early albums. His name was Richie La Page and he recorded a lot of albums that I did. He was great, other than that, Oddly enough, when I did movies when I first came to L.A., there were a couple of Engineers in the movie world that I really and truly loved the way they handled the sessions. With movies, you know you play all kinds of music; if it’s a period piece in the 40s. You would have a lot of 40s music. I found that the movie engineers could really shift gears and they would get the sound of my horn that I would really want for the certain period.

OL: Okay, Okay, all right, wonderful.

Glenn Zottola: Also with Suzanne, there was a guy named Bob Ludwick. He was amazing. He was our live Engineer for our live gigs. He was the soundman on the TV show. He was the original sound man that did all of the work for the group ‘Chicago’. So, he really knew how to mic horns, which I really appreciated; this guy was great. My horn always sounded pristine.

OL: That’s great, Glenn. Thank You once again!

OL: We look forward tomorrow in Part 6 of this 7 part Oceanliner Notes Weekly Series, as we cover more of Glenn Zottola’s spectacular Stage events, from performing in the many Jazz Festivals, performing with his friend, Jazz Legend Bassist Milt Hinton… to sharing the stage with Singer extraordinaire, Patti Austin & more…

OL: Glenn, is there any music commentary you’d like to share with the OL viewers, as we conclude this Interview 5 of 7 segment?

Glenn Zottola: Well, now that you brought up Engineers; you asked me about what was it like recording by yourself. It’s not easy being the Engineer and the artist. I have to take my hat off; Chick’s Engineer is a very good friend of mine, Bernie Kirsch. He actually tweaked and polish Chick’s track.. It’s amazing what he did, like in a half-hour. And then, there is a very famous guy at Capitol. He’s like a legend. Al Schmidt, who does all of Diana Krall’s albums. So, I have to take my hat off to a great Engineer. I mean in the old days, the famous Engineer was Rudy Van Gelder. Those guys get the sound of your instrument and they carry it forward and they’re really responsible for that sound. He got the sound on John Coltrane and Miles, and all of that stuff. So, my hat is off to great engineers. They really make the Artists’ job easy, and they also get the Artists’ pure sound out to the public… I’ll never forget I’ll tell you a funny story, working with Engineers. I remember I was helping Chick, mix an album that he did in tribute to Bud Powell. And there’s all this technical stuff flying around the studio. Everybody has their own viewpoint. You know all this technical language. I’ll never forget that day. I always quote it: Bernie at one point turns to Chick and says, “Which one sounds better to you?” Chick says, “that one,” and that was the end of the discussion. Like he was so cool, the way he handled all of those different viewpoints in the studio, you know. He just basically said, “Chick, which one sounds better?” So that’s the bottom line.

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

Continue to Part 6 →

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