Category Archives: Podcast Season 1 “My Life In Jazz”

Glenn Zottola “My Life In Jazz” Charlie Parker with Strings Re-Visited – Final Episode 26

Glenn Zottola Charlie Parker with Strings Revisited Review by Nick Mondello

Musical genius has little regard for boundaries, whether those limits are stylistic, tempo, ensemble format, or, in this example, historical precedent. Expanding on that hypothesis, when an artist such as Glenn Zottola steps into the impossible-to-wear musical Florsheims of Charlie Parker, as he does so effortlessly here, he risks everything in a zero-sum game of musical Russian roulette. The emulation is a Herculean task, a pas de deux with the Devil fraught with musical and possible critical peril. Here, Zottola, a multi-instrumentalist and musical savant if there ever was one, places himself in a musical Lion’s Den and performs his personal stylistic renderings of Parker’s classic string sessions of 1949 and 1950. The result is a portrait of both Parker’s enormous abilities and impact on jazz to this day and also Zottola’s incredible ability to perform brilliantly at such a level of precision and artistry. The recording features Zottola playing nine cuts from Bird’s epic Mercury Records sessions along with impeccable orchestral transcriptions of the original Jimmy Carroll and Joe Lipman arrangements. If that weren’t enough of a feat, Zottola plays here entirely by ear and sans sheet music. Shrewdly, Zottola does not “cop” Parker’s original improvisations. He doesn’t have to. His interpretations are musically rich, inventive and, while they shade Parker’s style and technique, they are obviously not an attempt to play Bird’s licks. One gets the immediate impression that Zottola could do that if he foolishly so desired. He’s that good getting around the horn. There’s a very famous photograph, a close-up of Bird’s fingers gingerly grasping his alto in an almost amorous manner as his musical magic poured out. I’d bet the house that Glenn Zottola probably holds his axe in a similar way since the result here is the same.

Glenn Zottola “My Life In Jazz” Playing In Big Bands – Episode 25

Glenn Zottola  “Come Fly With Me”  review by Jazz Writer Nick Mondello

As portrayed in Chuck Granata’s fascinating “fly-in-the-studio” book, “Sessions with Sinatra – Frank Sinatra and the Art of Recording” (A Cappella Books/Chicago Review Press, 2004) the Master would always enter the studio ready to record with a fervent desire to nail first takes. The orchestra, whether under the baton of Nelson Riddle, Gordon Jenkins, “Q,” et al, would have been rehearsed and collectively primed for the business at hand.

With “Come Fly with Me,” trumpeter Glenn Zottola takes a rather unique turnaround of the Sinatra session routine. He has brilliantly prepped and recorded over magnificent session material which was culled from the enormous vault of Irv Kratka’s Classic Jazz Records. The result is an exquisite display of musicianship, preparation and trumpeting chops of which OBE, who certainly knew his trumpet men (i.e., Conrad Gozzo, Charlie Turner, Harry James, and Count Basie’s Guys) would be proud.

The 10 well-known GASser selections (“Come Fly with Me,” “How High the Moon,” “Come Back to Me”) – most of them recorded at one time by Sinatra (but not Frank’s arrangements, in case you might ask) – feature Zottola’s lush horn blowing and swinging over terrific charts performed by top-tier New York studio types. Their skill, combined with Zottola’s marvelous lyrical playing (“People,” “Come Back to Me”) is enthralling and vividly reminiscent of a time when art emanated from soundstages. This effort certainly falls into that designation. One would not be off-base if a memory is jogged of those wonderful Jackie Gleason sides that featured Bobby Hackett spinning melodies from his Angelic-speaking cornet. Zottola is that good.

To prepare one’s self to record in any environment is a daunting task. However, a pre-recorded environment of this caliber? That takes chutzpah. Yet, Zottola, obviously savant-like – blends so seamlessly into the material that if I weren’t aware of the methodology, I would not have discerned it. You won’t, either.

Enjoy “Come Fly with Me.” This jet is under Glenn Zottola’s able command and Frank is seated in First Class. That’s him with headphones on. Gee, why is he smiling?

Glenn Zottola “My Life In Jazz ” Miles Davis – Episode 24

Review By NICHOLAS F. MONDELLO in All About Jazz August 4, 2015

Views A young musician’s mind can be so very impressionable, so capable and available to lock onto a recording, a phrase or texture and hold it. The effect is almost nuclear—one note, perfectly placed by the performer and into a young listener’s ear, can set into play a chain of music-driven events that can spawn professional careers, if not a lifelong interest in the art. Such was-and is—the case with trumpeter and multi-instrumentalist, Glenn Zottola. A phenomenon in his own right. With Miles Remembered Zottola, as he did with his prior tribute recordings of Clifford Brown, Stan Getz and Charlie Parker (all superb, by the way), Zottola offers a salute to another of his early childhood influences—Miles Davis. And, this effort is terrific. Incorporating and recording in two accompaniment formats—a sextet and a full orchestra (both of which were previously recorded and plucked like gems mined from the exhaustive Classic Jazz Records vault), Zottola’s complete focus here shades and genuflects to Davis and his classic Prestige and early Gil Evans/Columbia period. It’s the best of all jazz worlds—great GAS material (“This Heart of Mine,” “I Cover the Waterfront,” “My Funny Valentine), highly-expressive improv, and trumpet wizardry. Throughout the recording, Zottola demonstrates a beautiful sound, great technique and deep, musically sincere affection for Davis and this celebrated period. He wisely avoids any Miles Davis classics, direct playing imitation, or “Miles licks.” Zottola doesn’t have to; he’s an Ace player with a great sound and jazz touch (“Just You, Just Me,” “Beta Minus”). But, as any jazz trumpeter worth his valve oil would, the Davis influences on Zottola percolate effortlessly from the recesses of his mind and out the end of both his Harmon-muted or open horn. A word about the accompaniment; as one would expect of Davis, Zottola or any performing great, the accompaniment here is A-1, swings and frames the front man fine. Zottola’s overdubbing onto the support of Jimmy Raney, Stan Getz, Ed Shaugnessy and also the All-Star orchestra is dead-on. This is not karaoke or recorda-me, by any means. While Miles Davis was a constantly evolving jazz entity over many decades, with Miles Remembered Glenn Zottola ‘scopes a robust Davis period and in doing so does one of his idols -and himself -most proud. Track Listing: This Heart of Mine; I’ll Be Seeing You; Jupiter; I Cover the Waterfront; Spring Is Here; Beta Minus; Autumn in New York; Just You, Just Me; My funny Valentine; Sunday. Personnel: Glenn Zottola: trumpet; Jimmy Raney: guitar; Stan Getz: tenor saxophone; Hal McCusick: flute, clarinet; George Duvivier: bass; Ed Shaughnessy; unidentified string orchestra. Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Classic Jazz Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream

Glenn Zottola “My Life In Jazz” The Great American Songbook – Episode 23

Glenn Zottola “Getting Sentimental” Review by Jazz writer Nick Mondello.

Our culture – and within that one of its bedrocks, our music – is in somewhat of a topsy-turvy, push-the-envelope-to-the-extremes flux. What excites or tempts, even repulses irrespective of good taste, is attractive and what formerly passed as beauty is bad toast. If it’s not “hot,” it’s not. The music in “Getting Sentimental,” from trumpeter Glenn Zottola is the antipodal musical pole from entertainment icons and hit-makers such as “twerker,” Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga (actually a homonym from the Italian meaning to defecate) and hip-hopper, Nicky Minaj (no talent, therefore no comment deserved), et al. His is an offering of exquisite taste, talent and beauty that is a throwback to days when talent and taste trumped exposed or undulating body parts – what author, Tom Wolfe once told me they were like “glistening giblets.” This is simply a gorgeous recording reminiscent of the classic 1960s Bobby Hackett-Jackie Gleason collaborations. Brilliantly covering nine Great American Songbook ballad standards and performing them over lush material drawn from Irv Kratka’s Classic Jazz treasures, Zottola’s lush trumpet and singing style is hypnotically sensuous. I’d swear that there is a Sinatra, a Bennett, or a Hartman hiding in that horn of his. His playing approach values melody over technique – although, rest assured he has plenty of that – and beauty over finger-wiggling. There are very obvious shades of the great Clifford Brown here and Zottola’s sound is Grand, as in “Canyon.” Post-modernists and “millennials” that have only been exposed to “entertainers,” as opposed to artists, could learn a valuable musical lesson here. This is brilliance and beauty in music. And, it is offered by a gifted performer being at his best. Perhaps on Grammy® night the “twerkers” and hip-hoppers might get to the stage first. That is, of course, if the presenters don’t hand out the awards in reverse alpha order. “Getting Sentimental” is that deserving.

Glenn Zottola “My Life In Jazz” with Frank Sinatra Episode 22

Glenn Zottola Plays Classic Arrangements Review By Nick Mondello

The arranger’s task is a multi-dimensional one. He/she must develop an aural landscape that – as one certainly would for a great work of art – frame the subject appropriately, while never being so ornate as to distract or misrepresent. The greatest of arrangers, especially those who worked with Frank Sinatra – Nelson Riddle, Gordon Jenkins, Quincy Jones, Billy May and others – also had the knack to present material which stimulates the soloist, urging him or her on and effectively simultaneously challenging artist and musicians. Ennui and complacency – whether actual or perceived – are the arrangers’ Satans and Hell on earth for musical artists. With this superior and fascinating effort, multi-instrumentalist Glenn Zottola brazenly places himself in the “Sinatra spotlight,” performing a baseball team’s worth of Sinatra-affiliated tunes (“Teach Me Tonight,” “Angel Eyes,” “Street of Dreams”). Each selection was inspired by the actual arrangements and was impeccably transcribed – and performed same. It’s brilliant all around. Zottola’s alto saxophone is a classic one – a throwback to when sonic beauty trumped technical wizardry and when melody reigned supreme. This is a lush, elegant send-up of the highest order. Zottola is a melody marvel, possessing that unique, indescribable element that only occurs when what is written on staff paper flows through the performer’s heart and soul and becomes a “feeling,” a “touch,” a “memory,” or “picture” in the listener’s mind. It’s magic, and Zottola has the wand with which to make it here. Voila!

Glenn Zottola “My Life In Jazz” Classic Standards with Strings Inspired by Ben Webster – Episode 21

Glenn Zottola Classic Standards with Strings Inspired by Ben Webster Review by Jazz Writer Nick Mondello

Jazz Legends Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young and Ben Webster are rightfully considered the Swing Era’s Pantheon of the tenor saxophone. It is from that glorious rock-solid foundation of the jazz tree that yet-to-come tenor greats such as Stan Getz, John Coltrane and others blossomed. The influence of the tenor triumvirate on those who followed them was enormous – Hawkins improvisational genius exemplified in the still-examined “Body and Soul,” Young’s suave and silky-smooth cool melodic and improvisational approach and Webster’s sensually breathy balladic and hard-swinging up-tempo interpretations. With “Classic Standards with Strings – Inspired by Ben Webster,” multi-instrumentalist Glenn Zottola, yet again musically validates his worldwide reputation as both an insightful and highly expressive musical artist. Here he grabs his tenor and brilliantly delivers a dozen of the Great American Songbook’s most melodic and romantic jewels. The result is an aural masterpiece of tone, melodic passion, and lyric sensitivity. Webster was a large man who was nicknamed “Brute.” However, his breathy entrances and tonal sensitivities belied the moniker. Zottola, who shrewdly doesn’t mime Webster’s sound or articulation here and who certainly isn’t brutish in any way – musically or otherwise – renders all of the smoothness and sensitivity that both the esteemed material and his mentor deserve. Working exclusively with the greatest of balladic material (“Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man,” “Laura,” “Embraceable You”) and backed by a lush string orchestra and superior arrangements, the recording is reminiscent of the great Jackie Gleason sides – you know, when music was about elegance, romance and class. Zottola, first and foremost a melody man, takes this classic material and literally breathes interpretive life into it. His reserved dynamic feel and vocal-tinged vibrato are a case study in lyricism and stellar ballad playing (“Where or When?” “Yesterdays,” and “Stardust”). When he covers the melody, Zottola gives the marvelous illusion of singing via his horn. And, his well-thought out improvisations all gravitate from a melodic core. The entire effort is a rapturous dream. Ben Webster is still revered worldwide and especially in Denmark where there is a street named after him (as well as a foundation that awards scholarships to young jazzers). However, I’m dead-certain that when the Danes get a hold of this effort from Glenn Zottola, they might consider getting a second street sign ready for another superb tenor man.

Glenn Zottola “My Life In Jazz” The Bossa Nova Story Stan Getz and Jobim – Episode 20

Glenn Zottola: The Bossa Nova Story, Glenn Zottola, Salutes Stan Getz review By EDWARD BLANCO in All About Jazz June 6, 2014 6683 Views

Trumpeter and saxophonist Glenn Zottola has been a serious part of the music business for more than four decades, recording over 50 albums as a sideman and leader as well as adding Broadway and TV show musician to his resume. In 2014, Zottola decided to embark on the tribute circle recording a series of homage albums for the Classic Jazz Records label such as (Clifford Brown Remembered (Classic Jazz Records, 2014), Reflections of Charlie Parker (Classic Jazz Records, 2014) and now, The Bossa Nova Story, Glenn Zottola, Salutes Stan Getz. The album is a combine tribute to Getz’s involvement in the bossa nova, the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Brazilian jazz in general. The result of course, is a warm and beautiful portrait of the bossa style from the perspective of the tenor saxophone and the everlasting influence Stan Getz left on the music. The world first learned of the samba and bossa nova from the 1959 film Black Orpheus by French director Marcel Camus where the original sound track had a Luiz Bonfa composition “Manha de Carnival” represented on this album as simply “Black Orpheus.” The album starts off with the Orpheus song led by a gorgeous introduction from Argentinian guitarist Marcelo Berestovoy leading to Zottola’s masterful solos on the piece. There have been many interpretations of Jobim’s signature piece, “The Girl from Ipanema” but somehow, Zottola’s Getz’s impersonation, along with Tom Hartman’s string arrangements, elevates this one to elite status. On the fiftieth anniversary of this classic and the twentieth anniversary of Jobim’s passing, this seemed a perfect inclusion to The Bossa Nova Story. The Getz/bossa homage rolls right along with delightful treatments of such classics as “Gentle Rain,” “Once I Loved” and Zottola’s superb interpretation of Jobim’s “One Note Samba” equally as enchanting as the famous Getz instrumental rendition. Other immortal Jobim classic such as “Dindi,” Meditation,” and “Triste,” are all presented with the saxophonist leading the way with tasteful accompaniment from a stellar cast of players and a delightful string section. Also Included in this tribute album are non-bossa standards like Cole Porter’s “I Concentrate on You,” and the Robert Wright/George Forrest classic “Baubles, Bangles and Beads”—both transformed into bossa songs on the Grammy—nominated Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim (Reprise, 1967) recording. The program ends as it began with a delicious interpretation of another Bonfa standard “Samba de Orfeu” where the saxophonist’s high flying solos are splendidly supported by guitarist Berestovoy with a little help from percussionist Emiliano Almeida capping off a memorable taste of Brazil. As tribute albums go, Glenn Zottola’s The Bossa Nova Story tells a tale of a jazz icon whose saxophone changed the music and of a musical style that changed the world. The great Stan Getz and Antonio Carlos Jobim are no doubt, smiling from heaven after hearing Zottola’s graceful treatment of their enduring music, well done!

Glenn Zottola “My Life In Jazz” Clifford Brown – Episode 19

GLENN ZOTTOLA – CLIFFORD BROWN REMEMBERED Review by NICHOLAS F. MONDELLO in All About Jazz May 6, 2014 7980 Views

The trumpet is a cruel—yet loving—mistress. It can announce the slightest executional blemish, instantly betraying its player’s most sincere efforts, while also allowing its lover to express every possible nuance and emotion. The greatest Masters of the instrument in jazz—Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Chet Baker and others—all could brilliantly deliver expressive emotion. Of those in the trumpet’s pantheon, Clifford Brown, by virtue of his genius and enhanced by his mythology, stands out. Any attempt by a trumpeter to emulate Clifford would have all the risk of a tightrope walk across Niagara Falls. With Clifford Brown Remembered, trumpeter Glenn Zottola takes up the Herculean task of playing tribute to Brownie in the most extraordinary manner. He’s taken the classic Clifford Brown with Strings recording (EmArcy, 1955) and, deploying his own formidable talents, recreated the recording in a musical salute. And, he’s done it marvelously. The dozen selections (with an added cover of Dinah Washington’s recording of Benny Golson’s, threnody, “I Remember Clifford”)—were originally drawn primarily from the GAS (“Yesterdays,” “Embraceable You,””Stardust”) and are performed here in the same sequence as the 1955 recording. Zottola, well-respected as a mainstream and swing performer, interprets the Brown ballad performances with reverence and interpretive artistry. His lush sound is warm and inviting, and nearly as resonant as his idol’s. He possesses a fine vocalist’s sense of phrasing and lyric savvy. While there may be understandable comparisons to the original, Zottola’s ease of playing, technical and articulation skills, and superlative dynamic control make this recording shine. Incredibly, in this recording, Zottola re-creates the legendary session performing it completely from memory, interpreting Clifford’s playing by ear. The original string charts (by Neal Hefti) were transcribed by Mark Stallings and are superbly performed. Given that the original recording was done in 1955, the music’s beauty withstands time’s test and glows yet again. Rarely does a performer rise to a level of excellence as that of the artist that he or she salutes. Zottola certainly comes close. Be that so, while Clifford Brown remains to this day, nearly 60 years after his tragic death, an influential voice in jazz trumpet, the adulation that is performed here is indeed apropos. Glenn Zottola portrays himself not only an adoring acolyte, but a superlative and sensitive trumpet artist in his own right. And, just as Brownie did, Zottola certainly speaks. Track Listing: Yesterdays, Laura, What’s New?, Blue Moon, Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man of Mine,Embraceable You, Willow Weep for Me, Memories of You, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, Portrait of Jenny, Where or When, Stardust, I Remember Clifford. Personnel: Glenn Zottola: trumpet. Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Classic Jazz Records

Glenn Zottola “My Life In Jazz” Charlie Parker – Episode 18

Review by Geannine Reid in All About Jazz 10,589 views

On “Moonlight in Vermont,” Zottola’s warm alto captures the spirit of Bird’s unique rhythmic and harmonic lines without cliché imitation or ‘licks.’ Zottola’s playing is full of fresh angles to the bebop language; lagging slightly behind the beat for some phrases, high accented notes are derived from the melody with complex melodic lines underneath, a rhythmic feeling that falls into double time and a high use of chromatic embellishments all without ever losing the sense of swing and melodic continuity. The orchestration is full and supportive of Zottola’s melodic explorations through the harmonies while the backing lines have multiple layers and counterpoints; they never distract the listener from Zottola. Zottola explains, “This album is not a re-creation of anything Charlie Parker did which would be pretentious and silly on my part. Bob Wilber once told me Charlie Parker was the last great swing player and true enough if you listen to his early recordings with Jay McShann, you will hear he is straight out of the Lester Young school. I did many festivals with Jay and spoke to him about Charlie Parker who was in his teens when he played in Jay’s band. Actually there is a Charlie Parker solo where he quotes the entire intro to Louis Armstrong’s ground breaking “West End Blues” from the 1920s, so his roots go back for sure and Charlie Parker was one of the great improvisers of the 20th century along with Louis Armstrong in my opinion. What I would like to pay tribute to is how he “culled together” everything before him, making it work in whatever setting he was in, putting a glorious final stamp on what was the Golden Age of Jazz that started with Louis Armstrong in the 1920s and ended with Parker in 1950 which was the great Renaissance in Jazz that sadly America has still not acknowledged. Most important to me is “Bird’s” aesthetic and beauty in everything he played whether it was fast or slow and that comes from the soul which is so evident in his string album. Just listen to his ground breaking intro on “Just Friends” on his string album, total aesthetic beauty.” Reflections of Charlie Parker is not just slow ballads, Zottola has wisely placed a few mid-tempo swingers in to add tempo variety; “Oh, Lady Be Good!,” “I May Be Wrong,” “What is This Thing Called Love” and “Three Little Words” and he has also chosen to scale down the ensemble to just a quintet. “Oh, Lady Be Good!,” “Embraceable You,” “I May Be Wrong” and “Three Little Words” are presented in a quintet format with Don Abney on piano, Jimmy Raney on guitar, Oscar Pettiford on bass and Kenny Clarke on drums. “What is This Thing Called Love” has Nat Peirce on piano, Barry Galbraith on guitar, Milt Hinton on bass and Osie Johnson on drums. “What is This Thing Called Love” has a wonderful chorus of Zottola and Hinton trading fours and Raney’s guitar solo on “Three Little Words” is a treat to hear (ending the CD on a mid-up tempo swinger). Zottola’s soloing on each track is deeply steeped in the bebop tradition, but highly melodic and always swinging. Zottola speaks further about his thoughts about Parker, “Also, Charlie Parker in many ways took Jazz from the dance hall to the concert hall. The two major influences for me in creating my own jazz style was Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker, the alpha and omega in jazz in my opinion. Miles Davis summarized jazz in two names Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker. If you just listen and get the concept of how Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker approached music as improvisers in a ‘general sense’ it will organically seep into your own style and that is all I did. Basically with this tribute I just wanted to acknowledge Charlie Parker in my own way for pointing the way for all of us.” Reflections of Charlie Parker is highly recommended, you won’t be disappointed on this one! Personnel Glenn Zottola: alto saxophones; Don Abney: piano; Jimmy Raney: guitar; Oscar Pettiford: bass; Kenny Clarke: drums; Nat Pierce: piano; Barry Galbraith: guitar; Milt Hinton: bass; Osie Johnson: drums.

Glenn Zottola “My Life In Jazz” The Final Phase – Episode 17

CJ 16 Glenn Zottola Too Marvelous for Words by Jazz Writer Nick Mondello

Going back to the Ancients, those who wrote – or verbally passed on – about Man were wise to have their subjects appear, act and react greater than life. Whether describing Gods or Heroes, the sagacious story-tellers knew that amplifying mortals was a way of garnering interest and inspiring listeners. When it is Glenn Zottola, this writer has no need for amplification or exaggeration. The guy is indescribably talented at a level that astonishes and leaves heads shaking 180. Not only is Zottola an ace trumpeter, having performed worldwide with Benny Goodman, Bob Wilber, and other jazz Pantheon residents, not only is he a superior sax man (as demonstrated here), the guy, completely self-taught, does it primarily by ear, brain and most of all – heart. He’s off the planet talent-wise. With “Too Marvelous for Words” Zottola grabs his tenor and sets off to superbly cover 10 GAS sides (performing with previously recorded rhythm section backing) that are absolutely beautiful, swinging, and as tasteful as anyone, be it Getz, Hamilton, Webster could deliver. He’s that good. Zottola’s sax sound is classic – restrained, baby-butt smooth and reeking of lyric love. I don’t know if he sings, but, the guy certainly “vocalizes” his melodies (and his solos, for that matter). It’s almost magnetic, especially if a listener would already know the lyrics. Are those words flowing from his axe? It’s a grand “Grand Illusion,” for sure. Furthermore, performing across already recorded material, an artist can be easily constrained to accommodate that which cannot accommodate him. Shrewdly, Zottola, ever the “ear-man,” is so in synch with the three different All-Star rhythm sections that, unless the liners indicated it, you’d never know it. Glenn Zottola’s “Too Marvelous for Words” certainly lives up to those words. Frankly, it’s another in a long line of examples of his being not one of us.