I had a great time on the Suzanne Somers TV show at Universal Studios especially when musicians like Dave Koz showed up to jam. Rarely does a jazz musician get a chance to do that for 10s of millions of people every day which is quite a luxury. Suzanne truly loved the energy and music as you can see here. I felt I had the best band on TV at the time. Doug Walter on piano, Kirk Smith on bass and David Libman on drums and they could play anything I would throw at them in any musical genre. Pretty amazing guys and a real pleasure to work with ! Glenn
It’s obvious watching this Video the fun that Suzanne and I had and she was definetly a great foil on stage. But beyond that on the inside there are 3 elements here for me that are why i got into music and this comes from early Louis Armstrong who was my first inspiration and mentor beside my dad. Louie combined not only being a great and powerful jazz trumpet player (the greatest of all time) but also an entertainer and bandleader with a real element of “showbusiness” as is obvious in his famous 1934 footage of “Dinah” in Denmark something worth checking out on you tube. For me Suzanne and the TV show gave me that type of platform that the straight jazz world didn’t and i had a ball ! Glenn
In my career I have had several what you might call “foils” to create with. These are artists where i had a tremendous rapport right from the start and it was just easy to make music together. In the Jazz world Benny Goodman was one of those artists who I spent 2 years with side by side on stage. Bob Wilber the great soprano player was another and we were together several years and recording many albums. Suzanne Somers was a very special artist and we had a rapport or “simpatico” that was very special from the first moment as is very obvious from this clip. This song one of my favorite standards “But Beautiful” is the one that started that musical relationship with Suzanne that lasted for 9 years and definitely was a high point to an illustrious career for me. This clip is from our live show on a video titled Suzanne Somers Live at Club Indigo featuring Glenn Zottola available on Amazon.
When I moved from Manhattan to Connecticut I wanted to start to cut back going on the road when my daughter turned 2 years old. I started Glenn Zottola Productions and starting booking events , jazz festivals and music along recording a lot. Later after Bobby Rosengarden got me a gig with my big band at the Rainbow Room in NY we became partners and I boomed the business to over 300 events per year !
Bobby and I met on Benny Goodman’s band and became partners in a music production company in Connecticut where we both lived. We had a great time and I truly miss him.
I got a nice response from my “But Beautiful” post and i am looking at more from our show. Basically I improvised this entire show without one piece of music and Suzanne’s instructions where “just do your Glenn thing” . She was a really great lady and having grown up in a very abusive situation had a message to deliver. We truly had a ball and in 7 years not one disagreement. For a jazz player this kind of quality presentation was a joy and it was so pleasurable.
I was talking to a friend telling him about my 9 years with Suzanne Somers which was wonderful. I have played with a lot of great singers starting with sharing the bill with Dinah Washington when i was 13 years old at Atlantic City Jazz Festival and later Sinatra , Tony Bennet , Mel Torme , Ella , Peggy Lee , Joe Williams and Maxinne Sullivan. I actually love working with singers (some jazz players don’t) as they tell stories and that is what I try to do on my horn. Suzanne is known as an actress first but she loved jazz and was a natural. We had a special rapport or “simpatico” as her husband called it and never “collided” musically. I played this track for my buddy Chick Corea and he said something I never thought about before “your comping for her”. Pianists do that all the time (the good ones) but it is a lost art for horn players knowing how to fill the holes. The old greats like Lester Young with Billie Holiday and Ben Webster and Getz with Astrud and Joao Gilberto knew how to do it. This is the track in full that Chick commented on. Amazing as of all the things I have done in my career I am very proud of the “aesthetics” on this one.
The “Martin” Show was taping right next to us at Universal Studios. I was asked to go over to Tisha and Tichina’ s dressing room (the 2 main characters on the show) as they were coming on our show and wanted to sing a song. I spent only about 20 minutes with them going over what they wanted to do to get an idea on an arrangement. I really loved working with the various celebrities and helping to give them a chance to do their thing. Also on our show I had to do such a wide range of music styles that I got a chance to draw off my entire experience as a musician and bandleader. Glenn
Kenny Rogers came on the show with David Foster who had just produced his new album of beautiful standards. During one of the commercial breaks Kenny picked up the bass and swung his butt off on a blues ala Ray Brown ! Afterwards I went up to him and said “Man I have to apologize and confess, I have never been a big country music fan but wow you sound great”. He told me he started out singing and playing bass in a group like the Hi Lo’s. You never know ! Glenn
I have had a lot of high points in my career but this certainly ranks at the top. Great pianist John Bunch called me one day from the Astor Hotel and said Benny Goodman needs a trumpet player can you come down here right away which i certainly did. After spending 2 years with Benny Goodman in his sextet being able to sit in Harry James chair at Carnegie Hall playing lead trumpet on the original 1938 charts and solos was the cherry on the cake. Anyone that was at the original 1938 concert was allowed to sit on the stage that night with the band. As i was playing I could see years dropping off the faces as those people who were teenagers “bobbysoxers” at the time reliving that historic night. The music paper was all brown from the Library of Congress and my parts had little handwritten notes on it from Harry James. At the end Benny’s daughter came on stage and gave Benny’s clarinet to Issac Stern for the Carnegie Hall Archives. Kudo’s to Bob Wilber for putting this together at the urging of his brother in law Grady Jensen the former Mayor of Scarsdale where Bob grew up and making it happen along with the Jersey Jazz Society.
I just received a tape from Bob Wilber I didn’t know existed of that night at Carnegie Hall in 1988. Apparently it was sitting in his archives which reminded me of the story Benny’s daughter told that night about finding the acetates of the original 1938 concert years later in the linen closet. Here is a sample of the Harry James piece i did on “Shine” . The story goes that Harry at 21 years old had tremendous admiration as everyone did for Louis Armstrong and wanted to take a try at a short version of “Shine” a famous Louie piece as a tribute. Bob through me the challenge that night and i took it playing my own solo. Glenn
GLENN ZOTTOLA – “SHINE”
Here is another arrangement written by the great Harry James 21 years old at the time. What a thrill not only playing lead trumpet but the solo ! For all you Jitterbugger’s remember the excitement when this music first hit your ears and feet !!
Life Goes To A Party :
Trumpeter Ziggy Elman did a famous solo on the Jewish classic “Bei Mir Bistu Shein” . I am not Jewish for sure but have done enough Jewish weddings where i was able to get the spirit with my own solo !
This is the famous jam session segment of the concert. What an honor to play with all these jazz legends. I take the 2nd trumpet solo after Doc Cheatum.
This is the intermission that night. It was amazing to find out Issac Stern was a jazz fan and friend of Benny Goodman. He tells a story growing up and listening to Benny and coming to NY and hanging out on 52nd street. Also Benny’s daughter gives an interesting backround on the 1938 recording and gives Benny’s clarinet to Issac Stern for the Carnegie Hall archives. What a night !
Another Celebrity with hidden talents! Turns out Hector was an old be bopper from NY. It was always amazing to me how Suzanne could adapt to any situation! Check out this King Pleasure / James Moody classic “Moody’s Mood for Love”. Glenn
This is promotional clip I made when i started the partnership with my friend and great drummer Bobby Rosengarden. In 1982 i came off the road in Europe and my daughter was 2 1/2 and I decided i wanted to spend more time at home. I moved the family from Manhatten to Darien CT. and started Glenn Zottola Music Productions out of my home. I had met Bobby Rosengarden on the Benny Goodman Sextet earlier and he lived in New Canaan very close to me. Bobby is a great drummer and had his band at the world famous Rainbow Room in NYC. One day he asked me which was very gracious would you like to cover me at the Rainbow Room with Johnny Desmond as I am going to Europe. I told him sure but I don’t have any arrangements, bandstands and have never led a big band. He said you can use all my stuff and i know you will do great. We opened to rave reviews and i ended up rotating my big band along with Bobby’s and other band leaders like Cy Oliver for 2 years. Later i asked Bobby if he would like to become partners and he said sure. Bobby was another “foil” and mentor both musically and business wise and i learned a lot about leading a big band as he was was a master having been the band leader on the Dick Cavet Show and he had lots of funny stories. When i met him he was doing about 35 dates a year with his big band and i was doing about 25 with my small group. In a few years after we became partners i built the business up to over 300 dates a year before i left for LA to be bandleader on the Suzanne Somers TV show at universal studios. Those were great times and very productive with 18 hour days ! I had the band at the Rainbow Room 6 nights a week and was entertainment director at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Stamford CT and the Hyatt Regency in Greenich CT along with doing over 300 gigs including private parties, high end weddings and corporate work plus all my jazz activity and recording in NY. I would finish my last set at the Rainbow Room in Manhatten and rush out to CT to catch the last set of the groups i booked into the Hotels. I never forget the feeling as I was driving up the highway from Manhatten and crossed over into New England only a 40 minute drive late at night but a whole different Vibe. Those were really good times and a great 9 year run !
This is another clip from the pilot. As you can see we really had fun from the start and Suzanne was the driving force behind that as you can see ! Glenn
Playing for some of these acts is like being part of musical Royalty. Whether it is Benny Goodman at Carnegie Hall, Frank Sinatra or Marilyn McCoo and the Fifth Dimension, it really is thrilling to have been a part of this musical history in my career. Glenn
Suzanne loved this song and we are about the same age (although I would say she looks better than me) and we both talked about hearing Eydie Gorme sing this on the Tonight Show growing up years ago. I truly love playing behind singers and for sure Suzanne and I had a very special rapport or “sympatico” as her husband called it. Music and a song are timeless. Glenn
This was our pilot for the TV show at Universal Studios. Glenn
Ben is amazing what a talent ! I worked his act years ago and when he came on the show we had only about 40 minutes to work out a number and I did it without any music. He had previously gotten hit by a car walking on Pacific Coast Highway at night and the doctors said he would not walk again let alone dance. I guess he proved them wrong !!
Check it out !
Patti Austin was a wonderful guest and i am a big fan ! It also amazes me how Suzanne is so relaxed and comfortable in any setting. Glenn
I found many celebrities have talents the general public is not aware of because they have moved on to other things. Nell Carter is a great blues singer as this video shows. What a ball ! Glenn