How did your trumpet career begin?
After college I was playing around the Boston, Massachusetts area with my quintet quite a bit. We would play at many of the top jazz venues around town. My name got around and I started to get calls for sideman gigs, playing with different jazz groups, funk/rock bands that came to town for a weekend, and a lot of wedding band work as well. I moved to New York City back in 2013 to expand my music career. I was told that if you can do it in NYC, you can do it anywhere! After hearing that, I packed up my stuff and made the move to the “Big Apple” with my buddy Kyle who’s a sax player here in NYC. I knew it was going to be like starting from the ground up and I was going to have to hustle hard. I networked, practiced my ass off, and now feel like things are going great.
I’ve performed with two national Broadway tours, one being Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway which performed around the whole country for 9 months (the end of October 2015 to July 2016). The other tour I was on was Elf The Musical, at the end of last year, as it’s a holiday musical. The tour performed in Toronto at The Princess of Wales Theatre, Boch Center in Boston, and a three-week residency at Madison Square Garden here in New York City. Both shows were an amazing opportunity! I feel like if I didn’t make the move to NYC, both these opportunities wouldn’t have happened for me.
I now perform at many different venues weekly in the city with my quartet and organ trio I lead and compose original music for. We have performed at some of the most prestigious venues in NYC such as Blue Note, Minton’s Playhouse, Cornelia Street Cafe, and Smalls Jazz Club, to name a few. I get called for some sideman work time to time too as the opportunity came about to perform with Grammy-Award Winning Morgan Heritage at Central Park SummerStage a year ago or so.
When did your interest for jazz begin?
It all started sophomore year of high school, playing in the Beverly high school jazz band. We had a really great band teacher, Ray Novack who really cared about the program and made it fun for us. We competed around the country on our annual band trips each year while also competing in the IAJE conferences (International Association of Jazz Educators) where we always placed extremely well.
Were you initially self taught or did you have a teacher?
Every Saturday morning, my mom or dad would drive me to a great trumpet teachers house for private lessons. His name is Garret Savluk from Wilmington, Massachusetts. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be half the musician I am. He really showed me a lot when it came to jazz improvisation and trumpet technique.
What other musicians or bands that you have worked with have inspired you the most?
While in college I used to sit in with a local jazz/funk group in Boston, Massachusetts called The Boston Horns, which my trumpet teacher at the time, Garret Savluk used to lead. They really inspired me to put my own group together and also inspired me to become a performer on stage. Let’s say I got rid of the 'stage fright' at a young age thanks to the opportunity they gave me to play with them many many times.
When The Temptations came to town in Boston, I got asked to play in the big band that was backing them up. It was an honor and inspiring to share the stage with such amazing legends.
What should a jazz trumpeter practice on a day-to-day basis?
In my opinion, because this is what helps me, long tones. Play them nice and soft, hold them out till you run out of breath support. You want the sound to be focused and round. I know I talk about the 6 magic notes (long tones) in one of these video lessons you will see, that’s what I use to warm up most days. I find that it really helps your tone and endurance on the horn.
Can you give us any advice to develop the ear and the ability to improvise?
Transcribe! Listen to the greats, hear and see what they are playing over the chord changes. Incorporate it into your playing, then make it your own meaning developing your own sound. It all takes time and hard work, there is no magic. Freddie Hubbard was and still is a huge influence in my playing. I would sit for hours in my room listening to Freddie trying to transcribe his solos and trying to emulate what he was doing.
Start with a standard or a ballad and see what he is playing over the changes. Focus in on analyzing how each chord relates to one another within the tune you’re working on. Take what you transcribed of the player and see why/how it fits over each of the chords the way it does.
What are the steps to study a new piece?
Play through it slow. Take your time with it. Maybe even work it section by section. Keep on repeating till you feel comfortable with it and you know it sounds good. I like to say, “Be performance ready”.
Recording session or concert, which one do you like the most? How do you prepare for them?
I enjoy performing at a live concert better. Recording in the studio can be stressful because you’re on the clock and need everything to be close to perfect, if not perfect! You have to be prepared equally for both situations though, concert and studio sessions. Both should not be taking lightly, and you should strive to do your best for each.
For preparation, and this goes for both studio and concert, make sure you’re ready to go. Warmed-up, chops are feeling good, and you know what you’re getting yourself into. In other words, be as prepared as possible so there is no surprises! Nothing worse than going to a session or concert not ready to play. Be prepared for the playing situation you’re getting yourself into. Some recording sessions require seeing the music for the first time at the session. Practice your sight reading chops, make sure you can be put into a situation where you are not able to practice the music before the recording date because it wasn’t given to you. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to be able to site read. If you’re a professional musician, you WILL 100% be put into a situation where you weren’t given the music and will have to site read somewhere along your path of your musical career. Very important.
If you were a 20 year-old, where would you go to study jazz trumpet?
Either where I went, Berklee College of Music, or maybe Manhattan School of Music in New York City.
Is it important for you to combine study with other fields as, for example, classic or natural trumpet?
It’s great to be diversified on your instrument. Playing all genres of music.
What kind of mouthpiece and trumpet do you use? Why?
I play a custom Big Bell Stomvi Bb trumpet, and a Stomvi Titan flugelhorn with a copper bell. For mouthpieces, I use a 3B mouthpiece made by Austin Custom Brass (ACB) and a MV 3F flugelhorn mouthpiece which is also made by ACB.
What would you recommend to a young person who wants to devote themselves to jazz?
Do as much listening to recordings as you can. Hear the greats as I mentioned above. The more time you put in, the better you will become as a player.
Have you ever had a bad experience on stage?
Yes, we all have! For anyone who tells you they haven’t, they’re full of sh*t!
How does one need to take criticism?
There is always going to be people who like your playing, love your playing, and despise your playing. Don’t let it get to you or get worked up about it, that’s part of “The Game” of working in the music industry. The way I look at it is like this, whether people are talking good or bad about you as a player is great, because they’re still talking about you. When people are not talking about you at all, that’s when you should start to worry! ;-) Be easy to work with.
It seems that for jazz musicians that so-called ‘performance anxiety’ barely exists; is that possible?
Jazz is a creative genre of music. If you get uptight and stress, you’re putting anxiety on your playing and your creativity starts to lack. That’s just my opinion of course.
Any advice for the moment of stepping onto the stage?
Have a blast and kick a$$!
What sonorities and colors of trumpet in jazz do you like more? What style do you like more?
I’m a big fan of straight-ahead post-bop, bebop, and modern.
What are your favorite jazz musicians?
If we are talking just trumpet: Freddie Hubbard, Bill Hardman, Sam Noto, Kenny Dorham, Jim Rotondi, Nicholas Payton. I listen to a lot of sax players: Clifford Jordan, Hank Mobley, Junior Cook, Dexter Gordon, Harold Vick, Charles McPherson, Booker Ervin, Gene Ammons, Harold Land, Eric Alexander, Bob Berg, Michael Brecker.
What is your favorite jazz piece?
There’s so many I love! If I had to pick one I would have to say You’ve Stepped Out of a Dream.
What is your favorite non-jazzy piece?
Half A Mile Away — Billy Joel (52nd Street Album).
Sharing exercises with Trumpetland
Do you have any exercise you would like to share with the Premium members of Trumpetland?
6 Magic Notes (Warm-Up) — You want to make sure before you start to keep in mind that this exercise is to be played at mezzopiano to piano. Make sure you do NOT take the mouthpiece off your chops until the exercise is completed and to breathe through your nose between each note. You are going to start on G, second line on the staff and go up chromatically to C, third space on the staff. (G, G#, A, A#, B, C). Each note should be held for a total of 8 beats or you can hold each until you run out of breath support. Make sure each long tone sounds focused, a nice round sound, and no waves. Listen in to the intonation of each note you’re holding and make sure the waves disappear if there are any. Rest for 2 minutes after you play all six notes then repeat the same exact thing. You’re going to play this exercise a total of two times.
I use this to warm-up daily and find that it really locks everything in for me. Mostly used for building endurance and tone quality. Hope it works for you!
Exercise by Joe Pino (PDF 247,66 KB) [Only Premium members]