Oceanlight Records Interview, Part 7

OL: OL would like to extend our immeasurable thanks to You, Glenn… for sharing some of your very valuable time with all of our OL Viewers for this week… This being Part 7 of our 7 day Interview for OL’s Oceanliner Notes Weekly Series. We have no doubt that Musicians reading this worldwide, have come away from this OL Interview, with knowing even more highlights about your ‘shining’ Career! Thanks for sharing, Glenn!

OL: A Quote from Saxophonist great Zoot Sims: “Glenn has ‘big ears’ – he is a natural jazz musician… I find him equally talented on both trumpet and alto.” -Zoot Sims

OL: Glenn, as a young lad, You’ve had wonderful opportunities to play with so many of the celebrated great Jazz Musicians of the world… One night on a Jazz & Blues Club Gig… Zoot Sims was on Tenor Sax, and You were on Alto Sax. Would You say that often being in the special moments & Gigs like this, stays with You, and puts a Musician into a new dimension of performing?

Glenn Zottola: Well, Zoot is a Legend to me, and many others. Milt Hinton, one; we did that gig with Zoot. My first gig with him, he called him “The salt of the earth;” which he was. He was very underrated, I think. They both came up together, Stan Getz and Zoot. They were both in Woody Herman’s Band. Stan went to much higher levels, with the public awareness, with his hit ‘Ipanema’ and so on. But Zoot was equally talented, and he never reached that kind of fame. Although the character on the Muppett Show, called ‘Zoot’, is named after the one that plays the Saxophone. But the point is, that he never reached the fame and the monetary reward that Stan did. So, when I first met Zoot; he found out that I was a player who played by ear, he said, “Me, too!” So, we really hit it off; both being ear players, playing by ear. We had instant simpatico, we really did… kind of like when I first performed with Suzanne. It was a beautiful thing, and he was a Legend to me. He was very nice to me, and very complimentary. Again, that’s another thing that I highly cherish.

OL: Glenn, what would be your own special quote for the great Musician, Zoot Sims, as You think about him, today?

Glenn Zottola: Well, I think that I’ll have to quote Milt Hinton, saying that, “He was the salt of the earth.” What I mean that… he swung like crazy, but he played with so much soul. Really, so much soul. I remember doing a tune; I’m a young guy, and I’m hot stuff, on this gig… and I played this solo, with a million notes. It was a good solo, I got a standing ovation… but then Zoot comes in, he waits a little, but he comes in and played one note, but it was the right note, with the right sound. He made the one note swing, and he put it in the right place. Bells went off in my mind. I said, oh my God, that’s where it’s at. It was like four years worth of College in one note. That’s the way I learned how to play music. I learned so much just being next to these guys. It’s just osmosis, you know what I mean?

OL: Yes, from interviewing You Glenn, it’s very evident that You also listen to the orbits that they are in?

Glenn Zottola: Absolutely, you said it right. You know it’s like in Star Trek, the Vulcan’s mind meld. I get in their heads and in a few seconds, it’s amazing on what I can find out. It’s like the greatest way to learn.

OL: That’s a great analogy, we love that.

Glenn Zottola: Yeah…what a privilege to play next to Benny Goodman every night. I mean, why not get in their heads, and find out what they’re doing. Playing with Chick Corea, playing with Zoot Sims, Milt Hinton; on and on and on. Why not get into their heads and absorb all of that experience?

OL: Right… and at the same time, you’re balancing your own orbit?

Glenn Zottola: Absolutely. You can never be anybody else. I tell people that. You don’t have to be afraid. Imitation, or another word for it; that’s a tremendous learning tool. ‘Emulation’. Emulate to greatness, you know. I want to advise people, that is the quickest way to having your own individual style… is to emulate those you love. That’s the fastest route that I can think of.

OL: Like You said, “Everyone listens to someone.”

Glenn Zottola: Absolutely. For a while in the 60’s and 70’s, people were like, “I don’t want to sound like anybody else, I want to be different.” I don’t think any great player, ever set out as a goal, to be different. They became different, naturally, organically. But I never resisted… oh I don’t want to play like him, I want to be different. That’s not the route. You arrive at your own individual sound, by emulating those before you, not by resisting it.

OL: Available now and on iTunes … You are featured throughout; on the incredible Concord Records CD, “Steve Allen Plays Jazz Tonight…” of what was at the request and the visionary insistence of Talk Show Host Legend Musician, Mr. Steve Allen, himself. That’s quite an honor, Glenn! We especially love You being featured on Trumpet…for the track, “You Go To My Head.” Put us all there right at this session, with Mr. Allen’s free-style approach for the Band?

Glenn Zottola: Well, Steve blew me away, because I didn’t know that he could play that good. He’s a Comedian, right? He did liner notes for the CD I did, called “It’s About Time.” The one with Jim DeJulio. That has “Dewey Square” on it. I gave you that track. Anyway, he did the liner notes. He heard my playing and he never heard me before, he flipped out. He loved it. Concord wanted to do Warren Vache, because Warren has been recording on Concord, forever. Steve insisted that I do the session. And I never even met him. He didn’t even know me, but he heard me, right? So I get to the session. And I knew the guys on the session. And Steve, he didn’t say anything. He just sat down at the piano, with no arrangements. He started playing songs and we had to make up arrangements as we went. It’s a great band; Ken Peplowski on Tenor, Howard Alden, Frank Capp, kind of like the west coast version of Bobby Rosengarden, and the bass player, Chuck Berghoffer. It’s a great album and I love that album. In the beginning when I started my career in New York, the founder of Concord, Carl Jefferson; he sent an A&R guy to New York, to interview me and talk with me. He said he wanted to sign me with a label. At that time, he only had Scott Hamilton and Warren Vache, I believe. So we sit down for a while, and the A&R guy says, “Well, you know I love your playing, etc, etc; but you know if you play the trumpet, or saxophone, you’d be a lot easier to market.” So I said, well, let me get this straight. Are you implying that I give up an ability that only one in three people in the entire planet has, to solve your marketing problems? Anyway, the deal didn’t happen and we just parted ways. Now 30 years later, I’m doing this album with Steve Allen for Concord. So, after the session’s over, Jefferson comes up to me. He’s the founder of Concord, he says, “My God, you are amazing, and I have to apologize for what happened 30 years ago.” And he said, “Would you be willing to record for me, now?” I said absolutely, but he passed away, shortly after that. So, it never came to fruition, sadly, as Carl Jefferson did so much for music… So, that’s the wild story on ‘that session. So, after that session was over, the beautiful thing was Steve invited me down a couple of times to his office, in Beverly Hills. We sat down, and he ordered out for lunch. We had lunch, and we talked. He played the piano, I played saxophone, with him in his office, and we just hung out. It was unbelievable. He had so many stories, he’s got such a history, you know?

OL: Incredible, wow. We enjoyed that.

Glenn Zottola: He had a lot of Jazz Legends on the Steve Allen Show. Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Lester Young, and Coleman Hawkins. He had a lot of jazz players come on his show.

OL: In today’s music world, and with the vast use of the internet & Social Media, more and more Artists are taking more direct control of their Careers, via marketing and promoting. While Major Record Companies are streamlining their Artists Roster line-up, more and more Independent Record Labels are growing in numbers, but pale in comparison to some of the major Record Labels as far production and budget, and things like that. Do You believe that there can be a happy medium between these two entities in working together?

Glenn Zottola: Well, I’ve got to be honest. I’m a little lost on the subject, because there are those that say the CD business is over, with the advent that what Steve Jobs did with the digital downloads. I think it’s a moving target. I think it’s changing. I don’t know if it’s really settled yet. I know that there’s a lot more avenues, and a sense that an artist now, can put out their own CD’s; let’s say, put it on CD Baby or iTunes. So, you can get around the major labels, which is a good thing. But then again, the major labels have the money to promote your product, which means a lot. So, again, back to your earlier question; I think it’s going to be a question of each individual artist really learning about the business, from this angle. There’s a lot to learn; social media, marketing, promotional independent. There’s a learning curve there, for sure.

OL: So, would you say, it’s pretty much like a work in progress?

Glenn Zottola: Well, it is for me. Maybe if you talked to someone more knowledgeable, they would have a better take on it. At least for jazz, but I’m told that even the pop artists are in trouble as far as record sales. So, I don’t know where it’s really settling out. I do know that there’s a lot more routes for people to take, for sure. Like a friend of mine, he was hoping to get a Grammy nomination, at least. So, he produced the CD himself, he’s a very good player in New York. He put it on CD Baby. He did it all himself, no record label. Nothing happened, in terms of the Grammys. So, I don’t know if the game is fixed; in the sense that I don’t have the statistics on how many independent records are winning Grammys. For example, I’m sure that there are some maybe, that have, but I don’t know how many. Because it seems like the record labels do control the environment, a little bit, you know? For example, I use for my research; I use Spotify, it’s a free service. It’s amazing, I can go on there and listen to any CD. In fact, I have a friend who runs a radio station, in New Jersey. She programs her entire show from Spotify. She has no hard copy CDs, in the Library. So, for me, let’s say I’m doing an album with 15 tunes, in all truth of the matter, it might be hard to get someone to really want 15 songs. They might want just one. They want to compile their own set list. Now, the reverse side of that, is that older people, who don’t have any skills with the Internet; but they’re not a large part of the buying public.

OL: But happily, LP’s are coming back. Especially in the European Market, people are demanding that they want something to show for their purchase. LP’s are starting to slowly creep back into the market, and that’s an exciting thing.

Glenn Zottola: I went into the Whole Foods Store the other day, and I saw this huge bin of LP’s. I couldn’t believe it.

OL: Glenn, on our last tour stop with You, on this OL Interview for the week, we’ve come to an equally impressive dimension of your Music Career… to where You’ve played in the Orchestra Pit, on the best of of Big Apple City Stage Arenas… … BROADWAY… Rattling off some of the Hit Broadway Shows that You were a part of… “Annie”, the original ” Evita”, “Dancin”, ” Barnham”, ” 42nd Street”, & on the road playing lead trumpet in the original “Chicago” national tour with Jerry Orbach, Gwen Verdon and Chita Rivera. Tell us about this extraordinary run of shows and how B’way rehearsals in particular differ from preparation for TV Show rehearsals?

Glenn Zottola: Chita was amazing. They’re all amazing… Jerry, too. There is a big number in ” Chicago,” “All That Jazz”, where the star character Roxie Hart makes an entrance down the stairs from the Bandstand. Every night, when we would do a show, Chita would just come up and lean on my shoulders, waiting for the entrance, and we would chat and have fun. She was so relaxed and such a pro, and made it fun! We worked seven shows, eight shows a week. She was an amazing, amazing Entertainer. Oh God, I was so impressed with her. That was a great experience. I try to tell people… I was just telling someone yesterday, about this; you used everything, I used it all. I use my efforts, and everything that I did to television. I ran that show like a jazz gig, I used all of my experience with Broadway, from playing Weddings… As a musician, you do all kinds of work. If you’re smart, you will use it all. It all comes to your rescue, at times. So, Broadway was a whole other genre. I couldn’t stay there. Like my Brother, Bob, did Les Mis for 17 years. I couldn’t have that kind of discipline. There is a benefit to that, and incredible pension. But it wasn’t in my nature. I was groomed to be in front of the audience. A funny story: I walk into the studio one day, and they were ripping pages from out of this script. The director is frantic. He did all of Dick Clark shows. He said, “My God, what are we going to do, we have to write all new music, we don’t have any time, we’re going on the air.” I said, wait a minute Barry, relax. Just give me whatever color or mood, whatever you want; like 30 seconds before the commercial break, and you’ve got it. And that’s what he did. I gave him a perfect show with no music, with a script that had completely changed. And he said, “I never saw anybody on television, operate that way ever.” I said, Barry, I’m a jazz player. That’s what I do, improvise. He actually recommended me for The Tonight Show, because Branford Marsalis was leaving. He was so impressed with my work. What I’m saying is, you bring it all to the table.

OL: How did Broadway rehearsals differ from preparations for a Television show?

Glenn Zottola: Broadway is definitely more expansive, because it’s all written music. I had more control over the TV show, because I was improvising a lot of it, and I was the Band Leader. So, I was able to have control on how I was going to fit the music into the show. On Broadway, it’s all scripted out, you’re just reading music. You’ve got to basically, do a lot more rehearsals and it’s not subject to change. Don’t forget I’m playing a show for a cast.

OL: What would be one of your favorite Broadway Shows that You’ve worked on?

Glenn Zottola: It would be ” Chicago.” First of all, it’s a jazz oriented show. It’s in the 20’s. The music was jazzy. I loved the fact that we were on stage, not in the pit. The band was on stage for the whole show. So, it’s like doing a real jazz gig, you know what I mean?

OL: Wonderful! As we come to a close for this OL Interview, Glenn… can You expound upon your own quote of what the “vintage period of jazz…” and what the preservation of it means to You, in the music world of today?

Glenn Zottola: Well, I call it the Golden Age of Jazz. You find that in a lot of genres. You’ll find the Golden age of film, all of those incredible productions. I saw the other night, “Funny Girl,” with Barbra Streisand. Oh my God, you can’t still see movies like that anymore. So, the Golden Age of Film, you have the Renaissance of Paintings. Then, you have the Golden Age of Music, which started with Louis Armstrong in 1920, and kind of ended with Charlie Parker in 1950. Those golden ages, I feel need to be cherished, preserved and studied. Of course, things move forward, there’s nothing wrong with that; but if you don’t have a foundation, as you don’t take what came before, it’s not going to have the same substance. So, I keep trying to fight this point that the golden age needs to be validated. And that’s why I say, I respect what Wynton Marsalis is trying to do at Lincoln Center. I wish that the jazz education system would do a better job at that; really putting attention on the Golden Age of Jazz.

OL: There are some who touch people with their talents, and Jazz Trumpeter great Glenn Zottola is one who has touched so many people, let alone other great Artists. It is therefore fitting that anyone who reads this OL Interview and listening to his wide range of classic recordings, will also feel his musical touch for a lifetime! OL celebrates the major Stage, Recordings & Screen contributions of this exciting and enduring Artist… Jazz Trumpeter Glenn Zottola!

Glenn Zottola: I want to say one more thing; I repeat myself…on a fantastic job and platform that you have given me. As I said, I’ve done a lot of interviews around the world; this is probably the best one I’ve ever done. Because OL has done its homework. Your tremendous love for artists, your questions are right inside of my head. I just want to validate what you are doing. I think you’ve done a fantastic job, and I love what Oceanlight Records is all about. I just want to tell people that your Oceanliner Notes Weekly Series should be supported, also.

OL: Thank you so much, Glenn. We can’t tell you enough how much that means to Oceanlight Records and the Oceanliner Notes Weekly Series. Thank you so much for doing such a wonderful and informative interview. It is a joy to have you on the OL Series, one of our top interviews of all time…

Glenn Zottola: Thank you. I thoroughly enjoyed it. You’re very welcome.

OL: Jazz Trumpeter/Saxophonist Musician Great…Glenn Zottola! And thank you all for visiting OL’s Oceanliner Notes Weekly!

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