Archive for the ‘Stuff’ Category

The Future is Now with Teddy Charles

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

Vibraphone Grandmaster Teddy Charles has been in retirement from jazz recording and performance for more years than he was active. Even so, he remains one of the very best vibraphonists in the world. I have to suppose this is the essence of what it means means to be a legend, and also what it means to be very old which Teddy is at age 86.

But let me back up  and explain how I came to meet Teddy Charles. For musician this is hard to admit – I knew very little about Mr. Charles or jazz itself until late last summer.

To be honest I did not know who Teddy Charles was until Steve Witthoft, happened to invite me to a Wednesday night jam at Teddy’s house. I met Steve while playing in a local big band. He is an excellent trombone player and more about him in a future post. If it weren’t for his invitation, I would still be “jazz ignorant” about Teddy.

When I mentioned the name to Bo he flipped out. Turns out Bo heard about Teddy and was a great fan.

The real inspiration for YDKWLI happened when my two sons and I were over at Teddy’s house helping him archive his life’s work.

We cleaned the piano!!

A job well done!

The Strut, by Benny Golson
The original music for The Strut, by composer and saxophonist Benny Golson, who is a year younger than Teddy. The number eventually debuted as “Strut Time” on the 1958 album The Other Side of Benny Golson.

“Unburying the piano” would be another accurate way to describe that afternoon. Anyway, at some point the four of us came upon an unmarked cardboard box. Inside? Pure treasure.

1955 Screen Blues

Original folio for 1955 Screen Blues

Now some words about seeing the music in the box, and how holding the original paper and seeing the pencil marks brought you closer to feeling. Closer to understanding the nature of Jazz. You passed your inspiration on in a follow-up phone call to Bo

Jazz Hall of fame vibraphonist Teddy Charles played with Charlie Parker 60 years ago. He wrote the arrangement to Miles Davis’s “Nature Boy”, and the list of people he recorded with sounds like a “who’s-who” of Jazz and Blues hall of fame. Coltrane, Mingus, Roach, Cannonball Adderly… drop a name any name…  In 1964 he played with Aretha Franklin on “Unforgettable: A Tribute to Dinah Washington”, that is close to 50 years ago!  His biggest album was going to be “Russia Goes Jazz (Teddy Charles)“, United Artists UAL 3365. He hired the best of the best musicians of the time for this project: Zoot Sims, Pepper Adams, Eric Dolphy, Hall Overton to name a few. Alas, in an a unfortunate turn of events an unknown group released its debut album the same day he released this album. Under the same label, no less. Their name? “The beatles” (!)

For many years he was first on call for playing the vibes here in New York. This fell out of favor when synthesizers went big during the late 70’s and early 80’s. He was also busy sailing his historic scooner, the “Mary E”  – a 75 foot authentic clipper built in 1906. In 2008 he began a come-back with help from many friends and colleagues  including Chris Byars and many others. Apparently he outlived all the people he thought would go before him, such as his manager and many of his friends. I suspect that it is his sense of humor that keeps him going strong at 83 years old.

I have been playing and learning a heck of a lot from him for a while now. While producing “You don’t know what love is” for English blues phenomenon Wily Bo Walker and his quintet, I thought that it would be an opportunity for Teddy to shine again with the magic touch of a true vibraphone master. These with fake B3, fake pianos, fake brass, fake strings, and fake slide whistles, I thought it could really be great if we used a real vibraphone.  Bo was excited to play with a true giant, and this turned out as a huge success! As of now (3/2/2011),  The track, is now topping the US, UK and Global Jazz download charts on

For nostalgia’s sake, here is Teddy playing the vibes with Aretha Franklin’s 1964 recording of “Unforgettable”. The song was recorded as part of her tribute to Diana Washington. After the release of this tribute album, Columbia drifted away from their early jazz dreams for Aretha:

How high the trumpet?

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

During the recording session for “All of the lights” at Ken Lewis’s I caught this take one on my cam. If you raise the volume you can hear the track …the next take was perfect. Tony is one of the short list of trumpet lead players who commands the extremely difficult ultra high trumpet range. Of the current list of high note players, four of the world’s greatest players: Tony Gorruso, Mike McGovern,  Dave Trigg and Don Downs all play with

Incidentally,  many people do not understand (or care about) the difference between a lead player, solo player and second player. For those who do care, the main difference is sound. The lead player provides the bright shiny “sparkle” on the top. The second trumpet’s purpose is to deliver the “golden glow” – a phat sound – delivering a “punch” to your face when you listen to a brass track. I have seen time and time again where contractors and arrangers misunderstand the roles and hire the wrong guy for the job, only to complain bitterly later on :)

You Don’t Know What Love Is (part #2)

Friday, February 11th, 2011

I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before, but Wily Bo Walker’s voice is stratospheric.

The man with the pipes

The more I listen to him sing You Don’t Know What Love Is, the more I understand the subtle interplay between melancholy and passion, the yin/yang at the heart of this Jazz Standard. Earlier this morning I had been waiting for the kids to come downstairs so I could take them to school. I hit play on You Don’t Know What Love Is while flipping through an old Forbes magazine, and at 1 minute :30, I became aware of having been transported into an intense state of relaxation and mindfulness. Was that me getting all sentimental over a Verizon ad on page 7 featuring a father and son telephone reunion?

That’s what a good song does; it takes over, and the listener welcomes the transcendence.

Click to play: You Dont Know What ♥ Is

I hope we’ve been able to bring something new and fresh to Don Raye and Gene De Paul’s masterpiece.  You can purchase this track (Wily Bo Walker Quintet/Heartbeat Records) on iTunes and However, we are offering it on the above downloadable link for a limited time. Right click and download You Don’t Know What Love Is onto your iPod or Zune or whatever you’ve got. Give it a listen. Put it on the mixed tape for your Valentine. But most importantly, please let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Scottish blues impresario Wily Bo Walker records under his own name, and also with his group Rattlin Bone. (He’s followable on Twitter.) The vibraphone tracks were offered courtesy of the Grandmaster on that instrument, Mr. Teddy Charles.

Teddy's 1957 Vibe-Rant

A few months back I jumped at a chance opportunity to join in his semi-regular Wednesday night jam sessions at his place out on Long Island. Enjoy lots of jam photos on Flickr here.

Take a look at Teddy’s extensive discography with the likes of giants including Charlie Parker and Ella Fitzgerald via jazz historian Noal Cohen.

You are also hearing pianist Ruslan Agababayev, Marco Panascia on bass and Eran Asias on drums. That’s me on Trombone.

Thank you music appreciators. We look forward to your comments.

Thank you, and again, thank you!

Tony Gorruso with Buddy Rich

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

Ah… Those were the days… Roaming around on YouTube I found this clip, posted by saxmac. Tony Gorruso plays a mighty solo at the end. Tony is one of our lead players here at You got to admit that he has nerves of steel to stand in front of  Buddy, Phil Colins and such a crowd. Or perhaps it is the invincibility of young people… Anyway, Nostalgia!

I was enjoying it so much that here is another random one with Phil Colins.(Remember him? Sic transit gloria mundi…) Tony isn’t playing on this one. But the big band sound is great.

Wednesdays, by Teddy

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

Every Wednesday Jazz Legend Teddy Charles and friends perform in Teddy’s living room in Riverhead, Long Island, NY.

Teddy Charles and friends

Teddy Charles and friends

Its a time of good wine and music and memories… Teddy who is in his 80s is still a grandmaster! Lots of musicians come from near and far to play with one of the last lions of the golden age of Jazz. Teddy played, arranged and recorded with Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Mingus, Ella Fitzgerrald and many other giants. Was first on call for most jazz and RnB gigs in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Standing with Teddy is Daniel Flam on trombone and Mark on the bass.

Captain Teddy Charles' Hat

Visible is Capt’n Teddy’s hat. We were playing “Darn that dream”, after we played he made some comments, which I judiciously wrote down. Teddy was telling me how Mingus performed it…

Then writing it down

Here is another view of Teddy on the Vibes:

This man played with Charlie Parker! Jazz vibraphone legend Teddy Charles

“In the early 1970’s Teddy Charles, a famous jazz vibraphonist, found himself behind the wheel, steering her toward the New York area from Boothbay, Maine.”

The “Mary E” was one of five traditionally rigged sailing vessels that Captain Ted had owned (Tiki, Golden Eagle, Barbara, Valente, and the Christeen). In 1990, Captain Ted moved the vessel to Greenport, NY, where she sailed until 2006.
At the start of the season in 1994 she suffered a fire below decks during the night. Her crew worked hard and rebuilt the charred interior.

With Captain Ted at the helm the “Mary E” sailed winter voyages to Key West, Florida in 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000 and 2001.

Teddy many pictures and paintings of the Mary E. This water color was in the stairwell.

The "Mary E" built in 1906 by Thomas E. Hagan

What’s a 2 X 4?

Monday, January 17th, 2011

What's a 2 X 4?

It’s like a 4 X 8 … but smaller.

Most people, including brass players use the words Sousaphone and Tuba interchangeably. But let’s face it, Sousaphones are just so  – epic.  They are so large that you have to stand and “wear” it while playing.  The care and storage of a Sousaphone can be a challenge for the unprepared. My Sousaphone resides on an old store mannequin at home.  This garden hose reel is also a quality choice for break time.


"Off Duty"

I drove three hours upstate to get my Sousaphone from an exasperated guy who didn’t want it in his garage. “Come up here as fast as possible” he said, “I can’t stand to look at it anymore and it takes up too much room.” When I got there the instrument was lying on its side in the driveway; the first valve had been wound with duct tape. It seemed that this poor guy probably enjoyed playing it at some point in his past. Anyway, I fixed that valve and re-welded a few other trouble spots.

All-in-all this SousaPalooza is holding up very well.

Whadya know! Album of the year, no less!

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

Best album of 2010

According to the December issue “Rolling Stones Magazine” we are playing on the best album of 2010!

Album of the year

A 1924 Surprize

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

I was browsing Ebay and saw this 1924 Conn trumpet selling for $125.

On EBay it looked like this:

1924 Conn 24B by NewYorkBrass, on Flickr

Since I was looking to have a horn with the “old-school” sound, it was a no brainer for the price…  After cleaning and considerable mechanical work it looks like this:

Conn 24B or 22B by NewYorkBrass, on Flickr

At the time the Conn Company was the leading company in making high end trumpets. (FYI: “High End” means sounds good and looks good.) This trumpet has an advanced valve system that was removed after the great depression. The Conn Company would make hundreds of trumpets, and the ones they thought had a special tone would be set aside for special treatment. This one had 24 carat gold plate trim and a gold wash inside the bell. They sold for $2500-$3000 which at the time, was comparable to the price of a car. This is where curious minds should go for more information about Conn instruments to The Conn Loyalist website. A brief history of is also available here.

So how does it sound? See

sudan trombone

Thursday, January 6th, 2011
Sudanese trombone player
Sudan trombone player by Spencer Platt

According to Mark Bixler of CNN it’s a historic day in Sudan as the north part of the country may choose to vote for its own independence. What better way to commemorate this potential birth of a new nation than with a trombone serenade. I like democracy. I like brass. This picture sums it up.

My Beautiful Dark Twisted New York Brass

Friday, November 5th, 2010

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – All of the lights

I’ve been under a gag order not to talk about this until the the all-clear signal for the official release date. This has not been an easy task. I’m a gregarous person by nature as it is, but not being able to tell people that I recorded something for Kanye West!

Countdown sequence

Whoops –  cat’s out of the bag. But it’s OK.

Yes, the recording that Tony and I did back in May (featured in this blog post) was the brass for Kanye West’s “All of the Lights.” This track features Rihanna as well as cameos by John Legend, The-Dream, Fergie, Alicia Keys, Kid Cudi, Elton John (on piano), Ryan Leslie, Charlie Wilson, Tony Williams and La Roux singer Elly Jackson.  That’s a whole lot of WOW.

Kanye’s official video can be seen here, and it looks awesome.  However,  I think this version sounds great too.

All Of The Lights


Thursday, November 4th, 2010

I recently acquired a 1924 Conn 24B trumpet on EBay. I have a bunch of old trombones I had lying around – including a French trombone from World War I era, and others, and record an arrangement of “Oh Danny Boy” in a brass band style – to recreate the brass sound of the times. I also threw in a vuvuzella. I quickly jotted down an arrangement and proceeded to record…

Originally trumpet player Tony Gorruso recorded the solo, and I played the rest. However, as I was recording the guide track – my daughter showed up. The footage is so cute, that despite the trumpet playing, I decided to keep this one, and rename it “Oh Maya Girl!”


Thursday, November 4th, 2010
Comet Heartly 2 as seen by NASA's Epoxi probe

"Bone" like Comet Heartly 2 as seen by NASA's Epoxi probe

NASA’s EPOXI mission successfully flew by comet Hartley 2 at about 10 a.m. EDT) today, and the spacecraft has begun returning images. Hartley 2 is the fifth comet nucleus visited by a spacecraft, which is pretty darn cool. My friend Adam Dichter, who dabbles in sax playing, when he is not reporting news, pointed out that the comet Heartly 2 really looks like a big “bone”.  That this is a huge spinning space iceberg, about 1.4 miles (2.2 Km) long and weighs in at about 280 million metric tons.  It is about About 4.6 billion kilometers (2.9 billion miles)  away. Wow billion and billions of miles away and you still can’t get away from a bone player…

TheDocBongo records at Brown Sugar Studios

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Blue and I watching something on screen

The Doc Bongo is recording a really great new album at Brown Sugar Studios in mid-town Manhattan. Here are some really nice pictures of the studio as we were preparing the tracks for brass overdubs…

Blue and Walt

Here is Blue Tha Engineer with yours truely at Protools HD  mixing board as we prepared the tracks:

Blue and Danny

This studio has one of the sweetest sounds I know, Walter invested many hours of thought in creating a very nartural sounding recording room. The vocal booth on the left allows to record a full rhythm section live, whilst (I always wanted to say whilst) maintaining full isolation of singer. The recording room has each wall coated with a different material. The effect makes the recorded results sound open and unforced, as if you are recording in a top of the line hall, such as Lincoln Center, but hey! This is a top of the line studio!  As a matter of fact, we recorded some incredible tracks here for Willy Bo Walker‘s up and coming albom “Moon Over Indigo”. The studio always feels like home.  As we were preparing the brass tracks, Walter was presiding over the drums, getting ready for next day’s session:


As I mentioned before the studio is located in midtown Manhattan, NY on 315 W. 39th st:

Entrance to building

Here is a link Recent video of Brown Sugar Studion on MTV

Do Whatcha Wanna – Rebirth Brass Band at Martyrs’ in Chicago

Friday, October 29th, 2010

I saw Rebirth Brass Band in Chicago recently (10/9/2010). What a night!  RBB’s brass wailed with abandon within the framework of the Keith Frazier/ Derrick Tabb tight backline. Before tonight I’d never witnessed a New Orleans rhythm backline doing its thing at a club. Every single person in the place secured their own little bubble of space to stomp and dance.

Check out the rest of the photo set here.

Slide walking

Slide Walking

Undeniably danceable gumbo

Undeniably danceable!

Turning ears and shaking hips wherever they perform

Turning ears and shaking hips wherever they perform

C-town Stomp Down

C-town Stomp Down

Who doesn't love a stage full of horns?

Who doesn't love a stage full of horns?

Do Whatcha Wanna

Meeting bass drummer Keith Frazier after the show

Teenage Fanclub Part Deux

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Last weekend we ran into band-members Teenage Fanclub at a rest stops in Northwest Ohio (near Sandusky) on our trek from Erie, Pennsylvania to Chicago.

You are here. Here you are.

You are here. Here you are.

Tour Wheels

The band is on a  North American tour making their way from gig to gig in a cool black Sprinter Minibus.

The quintet is from Glasgow, Scotland. (Glaswegian?) We were fourth in line behind them at a truck stop Starbucks  and the surly barista was having A LOT of trouble understanding their brogue.  Things snowballed into comedy when Norman (vocals, guitar) pointed to an unclaimed cup on the counter and asked if that was the Cappuccino he had ordered. Exasperated and not understanding one word, the barista shot back with a mouthful of Clevelandeeze “CappuCHEE-Noe is cawfee and steeeeemed milk and NOTHING on top.”

Obviously used to this kind of communication breakdown, the guys just smiled and nodded graciously. We struck up a conversation with them at the milk and sugar DIY counter. Their manager (who looked just like the actor David Tennant) invited us to either of their two Chicago shows. LA-indie rockmates Radar Brothers were to open for them. Unexpected live indie music on a Tuesday night?  You bet.

Teenage Fanclub

Not surprisingly, Teenage Fanclub’s latest album Shadows was sold out by the time we found the sales table at Lincoln Hall. should be delivering the goods shortly.

Here are some pictures from their incredible 10/5/2010 show. (more…)

Teenage Fanclub

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

Driving west on I90 on the way to Chicago, we bumped into members of the band Teenage Fanclub at a rest stop in Amherst. I went to the travel plaza’s gadget store to buy an FM transmitter and returned to find Erin waiting in line with the band at Starbucks, where the barista was telling them loudly “Cappuccino is cawfee and steeeeemed milk and NOTHING on top.”
They’re performing at Chicago’s Lincoln Hall the next two nights – we’re definitely going!

Mayhem at the NYC Maker Faire

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Sunday I went to the New York Maker Faire at the New York Hall of Science. It’s the perfect Opportunity for adults to be a kids again. Full of stuff, freethinking, technology, music, and stuff. Ah…. Heaven.
In this photo I am standing in front of a select group of the finest musicians second only to the Ohio State Marching Band. You can tell my daughter is admiring the refined music.

for more pics see

Star-struck over silent film ‘Louis’ at the Apollo

Friday, September 3rd, 2010
Going to see 'Louis' at the Apollo Theater in Harlem

It's showtime!

A couple of weeks ago Erin sent me this article in the New Yorker about a Marsalis CD in production. I was delighted to see some familiar names mentioned, and that Andy Farber was conducting the music on the CD. I have to admit though that I only l i g h t l y skimmed the article the first and on the second times around I saw Andy Farber’s name.  Long story short, a phone call to Maestro Farber pointed me in the direction of It was only after I had decided to buy tickets that I discovered we had GREAT seats to see not just a jazz concert, but a new silent film accompanied by Wynton Marsalis, pianist Cecile Licad and a 10-piece all-star jazz ensemble at New York’s famous Apollo Theater. Fantastic! Shot by Academy Award-winning cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond (Deliverance & The Deer Hunter)  ‘Louis’ is a semi-fictionalized account of a young Louis Armstrong and his first cornet. It stars a wonderful young actor named Anthony Coleman, who was in the audience that night. (more…)

A Brass Section Of A Lifetime

Sunday, June 6th, 2010
Thursday night (June 6, 2010) was the “Lineup of A Lifetime” concert – a tribute to 30 years of composing and arranging by Moshe Laufer. To those of you who aren’t familiar with Jewish music, Moshe Laufer is one of the three people (together with Mona Rosenblum and Israel Lamm) who shaped Jewish music in the past 40 years. These days Jewish music sounds more like pop/rock rather than Klezmer, and Moshe wrote hundreds of tunes. The night was a night to remember as the biggest names in Jewish music from near and afar were on stage to honor him. Photographer Baruch Ezagui , and provided these snazzy pictures!
Brass Section Of a Lifetime

Brass Section Of a Lifetime


Next year remember to bring noise cancelling headphones, sunblock and trombone

Sunday, June 6th, 2010



Amped for my first Indianapolis 500.

Sure I like the song Back Home Again in Indiana but I’d love to do a full brass rendition of Mission Impossible during the final fifty laps. Maybe next year …