Mintzer Mania!

I have been for­tu­nate in my musical life to play with many extra­or­di­nary musi­cians. I’m often asked what my favorite band or musi­cian has been to play with. So many come to mind immediately.…anything Rob Mounsey writes, Frank Sinatra, all the vir­tu­osic jazz musi­cians and brass players in New York, Buddy Rich, Bill Reichen­bach and on a cer­tain level, even the Rolling Stones. But I can hon­estly say if I had only one gig left to play for the rest of my life, it would be with the great Bob Mintzer and his incred­ible big band.

I con­sider myself excep­tion­ally lucky to have been a part of Bob’s band for the past 25 years and recorded on a dozen or so of his projects. I know this term gets tossed around quite casu­ally these days, but Bob Mintzer is a genius. Playing his music is the essence of why I became a musi­cian in the first place and I am very grateful to him for the years and years of inspi­ra­tion. I was 16 years old when my dad gave me a copy of Buddy Rich’s Plays and Plays and Plays album for Christmas. I put it on imme­di­ately and was bedaz­zled by this incred­ible com­po­si­tion called Tales of Rhoda Rat by some guy named Bob Mintzer. I believe I wore that track out on the LP by the fol­lowing Valentine’s Day.

This past fall, Bob assem­bled his usual prodi­gious cast of char­ac­ters for his latest project called Get Up! A col­lec­tion of bril­liant com­po­si­tions and arrange­ments inspired by the r & b music Bob lis­tened to as a young­ster. James Brown, Tower of Power, Sam & Dave, Sly & the Family Stone, The Ohio Players, you’ll hear them all brought to life through the pen of the mae­stro. I felt like a kid in a candy shop sit­ting in the middle of this band recording exquisite music, sur­rounded by a sea of vir­tuosi including Will Lee, Will Kennedy, Russ Fer­rante, Tony Kadleck, Scott Wend­holt, Keith O’Quinn, Bob Malach, Lawrence Feldman and the man him­self, Mr. Bob Mintzer. If you want your musical socks to roll up and down in a way they  never have before, I implore you to pick up a copy of Bob Mintzer’s Get Up! in a couple weeks when it is released. Enjoy!!

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The Arranger

Arrangers are my heroes.                                                                                                                      A gifted and artful arranger can take an aus­tere piece of mun­dane music and turn it into pure magic while an arranger of dimin­ished skills can bleed the life right out of a mas­terful com­po­si­tion. Throughout my career, I have had the plea­sure to play many classic arrange­ments by many of the all-time geniuses of the craft, including Nelson Riddle, Johnny Mandel, Thad Jones, Henry Mancini, Billy Byers, Bill Holman, Gordon Jenkins, Sammy Nes­tico, Billy May and Bob Flo­rence, to name a very small sam­pling. More than that, I have been blessed to work on a reg­ular basis with the most bril­liant mas­ters of the pen the musical globe has ever known, namely Bob Mintzer, Gil Gold­stein, Bob Mann, Edd Kale­hoff, Robert Miller, Rob Mathes, to name but a few. Recently, I had the cov­etable good for­tune to work for one of my very favorites and a true paragon of the trade, the great Rob Mounsey. With even greater for­tune, it was for one of my/our favorite artists ever, his emi­nency, Mr. James Taylor.

w/the great Rob Mounsey; James Taylor ses­sion — NYC — 5.13.14

The James Taylor ses­sions for Rob reminded me how extra­or­di­narily impor­tant arrangers are, how they are often under rec­og­nized, some­times under appre­ci­ated and fre­quently under paid. Without arrangers and their genius tal­ents, the music simply wouldn’t come to life. It also reminded me that the elite of this noble craft can make any­thing dance, a sub­lime example being how Rob used the unyielding eupho­nium on one of the JT ses­sions. As if this wasn’t enough to send us all run­ning to the phone to pro­fusely thank and honor our own per­sonal favorite, a master like Rob Mounsey can arrange and enhance music in absolutely any style. You say you want it to sound like Mahler, Basie, James Brown or Taylor, Jay Z, John Philip Sousa, the USC Trojan Marching Band, the Sound of Music or the Sound of Silence, Rob and the true mas­ters will make it happen.   Long live the musical king of the forest, The Arranger.

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Viva Vitoria/Super Aarhus

In addi­tion to great food, family and friends, Thanks­giving is always a won­derful time to reflect on the many things we have to be grateful for. While my grat­i­tude list grows longer everyday, two recent events were absolutely sub­lime. In Sep­tember, I had the honor of being a guest artist at the 19th Annual Brazilian Trom­bone Fes­tival. The spirit of the people of Brazil is second to none, and when you com­bine that with a hun­dred or so wildly pas­sionate trom­bone players, it’s a match made in heaven. A week of exquisite music making and ener­gizing trom­bone playing was high­lighted by the final con­cert where all the fes­tival atten­dees marched through the Vitoria town park playing Brazilian folks songs. Two months later, it still gives me goose­bumps. A spe­cial shout out to my new trom­bone brothers, Rafael and Pedro, who made the week one of the best of the year.

19th Annual Brazilian Trom­bone Fes­tival — Sept. 2013 — Vitoria, Brazil

Two weeks ago, I had the equally won­derful priv­i­lege of spending six days at the Royal Academy of Music in Aarhus, Den­mark. I cannot express in words what a plea­sure it is to work with an inspired pro­fessor and vibrant group of stu­dents like those in Aarhus. It gives me a renewed sense of energy and pas­sion for music that I am beyond grateful for. In addi­tion to working with the bril­liant trom­bone pro­fessor Niels-Ole Bo Johansen and his excep­tional stu­dents, I also had the plea­sure of per­forming with the Prince of Den­mark Band, as well as the Aarhus Jazz Orchestra trom­bone sec­tion. Kudos and adu­la­tion go out to all these won­derful musi­cians of Aarhus. The spirit of the Danish people rivals that of the Brazil­ians and their opti­mism is always at the fore­front when they answer ques­tions and state­ments with a bois­terous SUPER! Super Aarhus!!

With the Aarhus Jazz Orchestra trom­bone sec­tion — Aarhus, Den­mark — 11.15.13

Happy Thanks­giving and tons of grat­i­tude to all.

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Trumpets Aplenty!

One of the truly great aspects of being a musi­cian is the inspi­ra­tion that comes from those we are for­tu­nate enough to work with. It recharges musical bat­teries, moti­vates improve­ment and per­sonal growth and gives us an emo­tional zing that few things can. As a trom­bone player, playing with great trumpet players is both a gift and a neces­sity for our own instru­ment to shine. The trom­bone is often called upon to com­pli­ment and sup­port the direc­tion laid down by our treble clef brass brethren. When done cor­rectly, it can feel like the ulti­mate well oiled machine. I recently had a two week stretch where I had the improb­able plea­sure of working with sev­eral of the finest trumpet artists alive today in a variety of attrac­tive situations.

w/Tony Kadleck — Tony Bennett/Lady Gaga recording ses­sions NYC — 7.30.13

It com­menced with 2 days of recording ses­sions in New York for the new Tony Bennett/Lady Gaga CD. At the helm of the superb trumpet sec­tion was the great Tony Kadleck, arguably one of the finest commercial/jazz lead trumpet players any­where in the world. That was fol­lowed with a day of recording my new 10 Minute Warm-Up book/play-along CD with the peer­less Phil Smith, unde­ni­ably the greatest orches­tral trumpet player this side of the late Bud Herseth.

w/Phil Smith — 10 MWU recording ses­sion NYC — 7.31.13

The odyssey con­tinued with two days in Los Angeles shooting two bone2pick inter­views and two Hip-BoneU lessons with the inim­itable and iconic legend Mr. Chuck Findley and the her­culean master of the upper reg­ister, the great Wayne Berg­eron. As if that wasn’t enough to send me run­ning for the prac­tice room like a rotweiller smelling a steak, I fol­lowed that with a week at the Tonica jazz sem­inar in Guadala­jara, Mexico where I had the dis­tinct plea­sure of working with one of the undis­puted vir­tuosi of the jazz trumpet world, Mr. Alex Sipiagin.

Thank you com­man­dants of the bugle for the inspi­ra­tion you bring to all of us every time you pick up the tool of your trade!



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Opening Night

There’s nothing like an opening night. Whether it’s the begin­ning of a Rolling Stones tour, playing with Bob Mintzer’s amazing big band for a week at the Blue Note in Tokyo or the start of a new Broadway show, Opening Night is elec­tric. It’s been a little over a week now since the revival of Pippin opened on Broadway to rave reviews. Many critics have called it the best show of the season.

Opening Night of Pippin — Music Box The­ater — NYC 4.25.13

It has been an absolute delight being involved in this tremen­dous pro­duc­tion, all the way from the bril­liant direc­tion of Diane Paulus, the excep­tional cast — you won’t believe Andrea Martin(!!!), the superb cre­ative music team lead by Nadia DiGial­lonardo, orches­trator Larry Hochman and con­tractor John Miller, to our fan­tas­tical band con­ducted by the great Charlie Alterman. Tickets are already tough to come by, but if you’re in NYC and have the chance, check out this spec­tac­ular pro­duc­tion. You’ll be glad you did!

Opening number of Pippin — Magic To Do

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Brass Bash Beantown & BR

I think as musi­cians we tend to have high hopes for our con­certs and var­ious events we’re involved in. Despite our some­times less than cheery demeanor, we’re an opti­mistic lot who strive to make our­selves and those around us better. It’s just the way we’re wired I sup­pose. Maybe that’s why I love hanging out with musicians?

Last fall, I was con­tacted by the great trom­bonist of the Boston Sym­phony Orchestra, Mr. Steve Lange. Steve is also a fac­ulty member at the pres­ti­gious New Eng­land Con­ser­va­tory of Music in Boston. Steve asked if I would like to be the guest artist at this year’s Brass Bash event at NEC. It took me all of two and a half sec­onds to utter a resounding YES! Per­haps not the best nego­ti­ating stance, but I’m sure Steve appre­ci­ated my enthu­siasm for the event.

with Steve Lange @ NEC’s Brass Bash 2.24.13

Brass Bash took place three weeks ago and was one of the most exhil­a­rating and inspiring events I’ve ever been involved in. Working with the stu­dents at NEC and having them per­form my music, and per­forming with the great BSO sec­tion, was splen­dif­erous. I’m grateful to Steve and everyone involved for the care and pas­sion they brought to the pro­ceed­ings. I would like to make spe­cial men­tion of the vir­tu­osic job Mr. Jim Markey did in per­forming my piece Trom­bone Insti­tute of Tech­nology. At the risk of crossing the ever present line of offen­sive­ness, if the term “bad ass” doesn’t apply to Mr. Markey, it may be time to stricken it from the ver­nac­ular. The evening was capped off with a fan­tastic hang with my bud­dies Steve and Jim from Cape Cod and the omnipo­tent Wes Hopper. Too much fun indeed. A word to the wise, get your tickets early for Brass Bash 2014! It’s awesome!!

From the sub­lime to the ridicu­lous, 30 years ago tomorrow I got on Buddy Rich’s Band. It was always a dream of mine to play on one of the big bands and for that to become a reality is some­thing I’m extremely grateful for, even 30 years later. Here’s to all the dreams, expe­ri­ences and people that help shape our lives and careers. Thank you Buddy!

Buddy Rick making fun of my fear of flying. Dublin 1984

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Lucky 13, NYSSMA & the MD Shires

I hope the new year is off to a mar­velous start for all. For­tu­nately, 13 is my lucky number and after waiting patiently for 51 years for a year to end in 13, I’m antic­i­pating great things. For proof of how lucky 13 is for me, does thou thinkest it coin­ci­dental that my beloved 49ers have just made it to the Super Bowl? Me thinks not! In honor of these titans of the grid­iron, evening ves­pers will be held here at HBM head­quar­ters, cen­tered around my   Joe Mon­tana auto­graphed ball, through the evening of Feb. 3rd for those who would like to stop by and show their sup­port. Here’s to the Niners and to us all for a super suc­cessful and healthy 2013!

The begin­ning of a new year avails us the oppor­tu­nity to con­tem­plate the hap­pen­ings of the pre­vious  12 months. Having viewed 2012 as a year of chal­lenge, I decided to make a list of all the things I loved that took place throughout the year. After reviewing this lengthy list, I real­ized that yes, it did have some ups and downs, but it was def­i­nitely a year of mag­nif­i­cence and one full of things to be grateful for. One of the things I was most grateful for was the oppor­tu­nity to con­duct the New York All-State Jazz Ensemble at this year’s NYSSMA con­fer­ence in Rochester, NY.

New York All-State Jazz Ensemble — Rochester, NY 12.1.12

Having a mere three days to learn mate­rial written for the most elite pro­fes­sional ensem­bles (Bob Mintzer Big Band, Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra, Buddy Rich Band), these tal­ented young people demon­strated a level of ambi­tion and inten­sity that was as  inspiring as it was exhil­a­rating. I was ener­gized for days fol­lowing the end of the con­fer­ence. Kudos go out to the band direc­tors and par­ents who put and keep these bright young people on the right musical and per­sonal paths.

One of the stand outs of the ensemble was a trom­bonist from Long Island named Collin Richardson. A very tal­ented player who pos­sesses an equally strong work ethic and sense of humor. Trom­bone right?? Collin has gone on to become a stu­dent of mine and in addi­tion, thanks to his very sup­portive par­ents, is now the proud owner of a Michael Davis model Shires trom­bone. Every time someone pur­chases a MD trom­bone through my com­pany, I make sure to give the horn a test drive and of course did so with Collin’s. It never ceases to amaze me the quality of these hand crafted instru­ments and the level of crafts­man­ship and con­sis­tency that team Shires puts into each and every one.

Deliv­ering the MD Shires to Collin at Star­bucks in Penn Sta­tion NYC — 12.22.12

For the past couple years, I have mar­veled at this instru­ment and feel grateful to be playing it every time I pick it up. The feeling seems to be unan­i­mous from all who have pur­chased this won­derful trom­bone. For those of you con­sid­ering a new trom­bone in 2013, please take a moment to try this horn. It will be well worth your time and effort. While the MD trom­bone may not be per­fect for everyone, for those it’s right for, it’s big time right!

I’m psy­ched for the great start to 2013 and look for­ward to pos­i­tive energy con­tin­uing to flow and grow. Wishing you all the best in the months and year ahead. Domo shalom!

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Tis the Season

Grat­i­tude and giving. We hear those words a lot this time of year, but they are impor­tant and mean­ingful words any time of year. If we were to incor­po­rate grat­i­tude and giving into our lives on a daily basis, I think we’d all be sur­prised how much better we feel.

I recently read a quote by a gen­tleman on face­book who had just lost his teenage daughter. It read: God has a new Angel and included a photo of his deceased daughter. And my prob­lems are what again?? It put me in a state of grat­i­tude that lasted sev­eral days. I’m grateful to that gen­tleman for sharing his pain in order to help the rest of us realize how much we have. I try everyday to spend 5 or 10 min­utes saying  out loud all the things I’m grateful for. It’s amazing how easy it is to fill up those minutes!

The Cen­tral New York Jazz Orchestra is an orga­ni­za­tion I am very grateful for. I had the plea­sure of per­forming a Rob McConnell tribute con­cert with them on Nov. 18th in Syra­cuse, NY. The band is made up of some of the finest musi­cians in upstate New York, an area with a won­derful tra­di­tion of extra­or­di­nary musi­cian­ship. It was a ter­rific con­cert, with excep­tional playing from all the band mem­bers, won­derful arrange­ments written by the great Rob McConnell and a large, enthu­si­astic audi­ence to sup­port the pro­ceed­ings. Lead by the esteemed Larry Lut­tinger and Bret Zvacek, the Cen­tral NY Jazz Orchestra is a beacon of what an arts orga­ni­za­tion should be.

Cen­tral NY Jazz Orchestra w/Michael Davis — Syra­cuse, NY 11.18.12

As sup­porters of the arts and music pro­grams in gen­eral, it is impor­tant that we all find a way to lend sup­port to the efforts of orga­ni­za­tions like the Cen­tral NY Jazz Orchestra. Even with the for­tu­itous re-election of Pres­i­dent Obama, funding for the arts is on a sharp down­ward slope. In this time of giving, don’t forget to sup­port the arts and music in anyway you can. Go to a con­cert, buy a CD, make a dona­tion, listen to public radio, intro­duce the music of a great artist to a young person, buy a new instru­ment for your niece or nephew.…the list is end­less. It truly will make a dif­fer­ence and make you feel good too.

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Bone Spirit

As musi­cians, we are for­tu­nate to live in a world where we are con­stantly inspired by others who do what we do. Ath­letes live in a sim­ilar world of good for­tune. Having run my own busi­ness for many years, I’ve devel­oped a level of admi­ra­tion and inspi­ra­tion for great busi­ness people and those who pos­sess a great mind for busi­ness. In the world of con­stant change known as the music busi­ness, it is vital to look at our­selves as a small busi­ness no matter what our focus.  Unfor­tu­nately, basic busi­ness prin­ci­ples and philoso­phies are not often dis­cussed in the hal­lowed halls of our great music con­ser­va­to­ries. Even as many music schools begin to add classes and sem­i­nars in entre­pre­neur­ship, most of these classes are taught by musi­cians, not always suc­cessful busi­ness people. It’s always advan­ta­geous to go directly to the source, in this case, great busi­ness people. Inter­est­ingly enough, the more vir­tuosi of com­merce I am for­tu­nate enough to inter­sect with, the more I dis­cover these excep­tional indi­vid­uals often share a pas­sion for music.

CEO Ben Bal­danza w/the Michael Davis trom­bone by Shires

This summer, a for­tu­itous sequence of events took place here at Hip-Bone Music. I received an order for some of my arrange­ments from a gen­tleman named Ben Bal­danza. After exchanging a few e-mails, I learned that Ben had a pas­sion for the trom­bone that was equal, if not greater, to my own. I also learned that he had reached the pin­nacle of busi­ness suc­cess and is the CEO of Spirit Air­lines. Over the course of a few more e-mails, Ben decided to pur­chase the Michael Davis trom­bone by Shires, as well as many of the other books, CDs and arrange­ments in the Hip-Bone Music cat­alog. For that, I am extremely grateful. Fur­ther, I am grateful to have met a gen­tleman whose pas­sion for busi­ness and music can influ­ence what I do in a very pos­i­tive and pur­poseful way. I would like to think my music and my trom­bone will have a pos­i­tive impact on his life as well.

I’m looking for­ward to get­ting to know Ben better in the months and years to come, both musi­cally and as a busi­ness person. When you meet someone with Ben’s level of pas­sion and intel­lect, good things invari­ably happen. As we con­tin­u­ally strive to achieve greater suc­cess as musi­cians, take a look around your own world and notice the suc­cess sto­ries out­side your own area of exper­tise. Figure out what those indi­vid­uals and com­pa­nies have done to achieve great­ness and how it can help you as you strive for great­ness. You’ll be shocked by how much common ground there is between everyone who achieves suc­cess and has pas­sion for what they do.

In the mean­time, I’m excited to announce that in 2013, Hip-Bone Music will start to include select inter­views with out­standing busi­ness people in our bone2pick monthly inter­view series. I’m pumped about it. I believe it will become an invalu­able resource for music stu­dents and pro­fes­sionals alike.  First up, Mr. Ben Baldanza!

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Bone Appetit.….ITF Paris 2012

There’s nothing like an Inter­na­tional Trom­bone Fes­tival to get the cre­ative brass juices flowing. This years fes­tival at the Paris Con­ser­va­tory was no excep­tion. An all-star roster of guest artists and ensem­bles was assem­bled by esteemed host Jacques Mauger and I was hon­ored to be a part of it.

Among the many won­derful things the Inter­na­tional Trom­bone Asso­ci­a­tion does to pro­mote our glo­rious instru­ment is inspire and encourage young players. Over the past sev­eral years, the ITA has added a Junior ITF to the fes­tiv­i­ties. It includes work­shops, clinics, coach­ings and con­certs for young trom­bone players from age 8 to 18. I was thrilled to give a mas­ter­class and have the oppor­tu­nity to work with a young man named Anders who was cel­e­brating his 8th birthday. Hearing him play the alto trom­bone was sublime!

Junior ITF work­shop fea­turing Anders (yellow shirt) cel­e­brating his 8th birthday.

Michael Davis & Bill Reichen­bach (aka Bone­town) live at the ITF Paris 7.6.12

Need­less to say, any­time I have the oppor­tu­nity to play with the great Bill Reichen­bach, it is an inspi­ra­tion and a thrill. Such was the case at the ITF as we were joined by a won­derful Parisian rhythm sec­tion who per­formed our Bone­town mate­rial beau­ti­fully. Another high­light of Jazz Night was the per­for­mance of the vir­tu­osic Mar­shall Gilkes. I believe the term “bad ass” would be applic­able in describing his mon­strous set. For those who have yet to hear this young lion per­form, order one of his CDs today! You will not be disappointed.

Dinner w/Bill, Mike, Amy & Fran — Paris 7.5.12

A trip to Paris would not be com­plete without a little R & R. I was absolutely thrilled that my beau­tiful girl­friend Amy was able to join me on the trip. We enjoyed every minute of our 5 days in this incred­ible city and had an espe­cially good time on a night out with Bill and his lovely wife Fran. Bone Appetit to all!




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