BOBBY CORSETTI
Not By Chance
(Bobby Corsetti)

 

Long Island N.Y. guitarist Bobby Corsetti has several recent albums out including his 2013 CD Not By Chance. From a jazz guitar perspective, Corsetti keeps the sound upbeat and varied. From smooth jazz and funky grooves to ballads and jazz-rock fusion, the sound of Not By Chance lives up to its title. Bobby tastefully accompanies his guitar sounds with added overdubs of keyboards and drums, getting a full band sound throughout the disc. Speaking about recording the entire album by himself, Bobby tells mwe3.com "Most of the instruments on both of my previous projects were played by me alone, except for a few cameo appearances. Recording Not By Chance was not easy for me. I played all the instruments except the trumpet and flugelhorn which were played by the talented Bill Mobley. Why I played all the instruments on this record is a good question. The number one reason would have to be the convenience of being able to make things feel and sound just as close as possible to what I was trying to achieve. The second reason, honestly, was the financial aspect of it. I work cheap - and sometimes all night!" Another recent CD of note by Corsetti is La Dolce Vita, from 2009. Another colorful snapshot of Corsetti’s eclectic approach to jazz rock fusion, La Dolce Vita kicks off with a breezy, instrumental cover of The Young Rascals’ ‘60s hit “Groovin’” played smooth jazz style and also, amid the originals, is a Corsetti vocal of the 1960's classic “My Favorite Things”. While he might not be internationally renowned, with these two CDs, Bobby Corsetti is clearly a world class guitarist deserving further acclaim. www.BobbyCorsetti.com





mwe3.com presents an interview WITH
BOBBY CORSETTI



mwe3: Can you tell us where you’re from originally, where you live now and what you like best about it?

Bobby Corsetti: I was born and raised in a little town named Bellport, on Long Island New York. It's on the South Shore of the Island, right on a body of water called the Great South Bay. It's one of those places that in some ways has been frozen in time. A place where everybody knows your name. A place where my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all lived on the same block, or not more than five minutes away. A place where the Good Humor Ice Cream man - Charlie would stop his truck and come into my house… in my mother's kitchen, actually (lol) and listen to me play my guitar.

It's a special place and, although the winters are tough, in the summer there’s no better place to be. We have a beautiful boat marina and private beach across the bay. It's known as the halfway point to the world famous Hamptons, where I spent many of my younger years playing music in the local clubs.


mwe3: You often cite guitar players including Wes Montgomery, George Benson and Pat Martino as big influences. When did you really start listening seriously to guitar music and did you immediately gravitate towards jazz or was rock and pop also on the list of your big influences? What other bands and guitarists are on that list?

Bobby Corsetti: It was in my early teens when I started listening to Wes Montgomery, George Benson, and Pat Martino. These guys had a great effect on my playing. There were others also, such as John McLaughlin, Alan Holdsworth, and Joe Pass just to name a few. I also loved the great classical guitar players - Andrés Segovia, Carlos Montoya, Christopher Parkening and many, many others. All types of guitar players - including rock and blues players - are my earliest influences.

I’ve also had the opportunity to study with one of the greatest jazz guitarists of our time, Pat Martino. Pat has probably been my greatest single influence. His personal story is very inspiring - not only pertaining to the guitar, but how he dealt with adversity. Pat's approach to the guitar and his outlook on life is very different than most. I think that's what makes great artists great. It seems to me that we all perceive, learn, and process things differently. Naturally we are all very different. We have different attributes - both mentally and physically. Finding what works best for each one of us individually is where I believe the path to success lies. It also seems to me after studying all of these great musicians that I’ve mentioned, they have one thing in common…they all have their own method and approach to the instrument. That's what I learned from observing Pat.

Pat Martino, George Benson, Wes Montgomery, and all other great artists have their own methodology. Sure, they all borrowed and built upon their predecessors and even their peers' knowledge and creative works. And that's okay…

But eventually, those chosen qualities must then be transcended and brought to life through our own uniqueness, by finding our own way. Even then still, it's about effectively communicating your ideas and emotions, while saying something meaningful, with conviction…musically speaking, that is.


mwe3: When did you start seriously studying the guitar and what were your early music studies like? Do you remember your first guitar or guitars? As you improved guitar-wise, how did your choice of guitars reflect this?

Bobby Corsetti: I was serious about the guitar from the beginning. I was about five, sitting on my bed, when I heard a voice that spoke to me and said… "You will play the guitar". I don’t recall the voice being something that came from my own imagination, but more like a spoken commission followed by a moment of bliss. I knew that this was my calling, my purpose and the direction my life was to take. Those words have been with me ever since.

It was serious business right from the start. First of all, I had to sneak and take my older brother's guitar and music study books from his bedroom. Then I would pull out the dresser - which was mounted in the wall and half in the attic of the house! I was not permitted to touch his guitar, so I would practice in the space behind the dresser… it was dark and about a hundred degrees in there. That's where I hid, and aided by a flashlight, I started practicing the guitar.

I don’t hold it against my parents for not letting me touch his guitar. I was really little, and they didn’t want me trashing my older brother's new instrument. At some point they saw my interest in music and gave in and bought me a cheap little guitar. I think I got my first real nice instrument at about 12 years of age. It was a Gibson SG. I sold my much-treasured coin collection and my parents put up the other half. I remember it was about $260.00 dollars with the tax, a large sum of money in those days.

I started playing professionally a few years later. I had already been playing the guitar for seven years at that time, and could hold my own with the older guys. I played with my brother who had switched over to the bass. We played popular music of the late 1960’s and early 70’s. I had to wear black eye mascara on my mustache as I was only thirteen at the time. Back then the legal age to play in an establishment that served alcohol was 18. I even had phony ID just in case someone asked.

Some time in my early teens, I was invited to a local jazz club to hear a close friend's uncle and his band. They were playing some real cool bebop jazz tunes. Tunes by Wes, Coltrane, some standards, and even originals. I remember how it sounded that day, the atmosphere in the club, and how attentive everyone was of the music. The owner of the club came over to me as I was sitting at the bar and sternly asked me, "Who are you here with, young man? " I said, "I’m a guest of the band leader, Tommy." He replied, "All right, make sure you keep quiet, no talking or getting loud…" and I did as I was told.

After their individual solos were completed I soon learned it was not only permitted, but appropriate to applaud for each one of the band members. I thought to myself, Wow how cool is this… these people are actually listening to these guys play! I was bitten by the bug. The cool guitar chords, the flowing, articulate lines, the complexity of the music, and of course the emotional content – it all just blew me away.

That day was the wakeup call for me. These guys could really play, and I knew I was not yet in their league. I was being schooled. That day put my ego back in check. I was used to people telling me how great of a guitar player I was, and suddenly I realized how much more there was for me to learn. I went home and practiced, and continue to do so as much as I can.

mwe3: What guitars are you playing and recording the Not By Chance album? What are your favorite amps, effects and strings?

Bobby Corsetti: I’m currently playing an Ibanez GB 30 guitar. It's a semi-hollow body and this one is a 1986 model. It's strung with D'Addario flat wound 12 chromes. I plug directly into my Fractal Ultra Axe-Fx Guitar Preamp. In the studio for recording the same setup hits my Universal Audio 6176 Preamp/Compressor before the computer interface. I also use the same setup for my Custom Strat and my Godin nylon string.

mwe3: What are some of your impressions about the guitar and gear world these days? Can great guitars still be made or are the vintage guitars still the most sought after? Is the guitar still the most popular instrument in the world? Even with all the sampling and dependence on computers, is the level of musicianship rising or falling in your opinion?

Bobby Corsetti: Man, there is a lot of great gear being made these days, both guitars and amps. The guitar is holding its own in this computer-based age we live in. Vintage or new? It's a matter of opinion as far as I'm concerned. Just because something is old or new doesn’t make it good. I think it comes down to the individual instrument and builder.

Obviously a special instrument must be built with quality select woods, and attention to detail is of supreme importance. There are still some great luthiers building beautiful guitars.

I remember being in the late great guitar luthier Jimmy D'Aquisto’s shop. He built beautiful guitars. He would work on my guitars back in the day. He was a perfectionist, a very intense guy. He knew all of the popular guitarists and wasn’t afraid of letting you know how he felt about them. He loved Joe Pass. The first time I went to his shop he rolled out this little Ampeg amp and handed me a guitar he had built for Herb Ellis. I couldn’t believe how well it played, and how perfect the intonation was.

With a protractor he explained and demonstrated how the division of the frets was formulated, and why some guitars were impossible to tune if the division was incorrect. Jimmy then offered to build me a solid body guitar and I felt a little awkward because I didn’t have a lot of money at that time. I can’t repeat what he said to me, but he called me a few choice words! He was also very gracious to me, and would come to the club where my band was playing in the Hamptons and work on my guitar on top of the bar… I wish I had a picture of that! I wish I had listened to him and had him build me a guitar.

As far as your question pertaining to the quality of musicianship these days, for sure there are some great young and talented people out there.


mwe3: Why did you decide to play all the instruments on the Not By Chance album all by yourself and how does that compare with working with other musicians in the studio? Who else was involved in the making of Not By Chance? It must be very challenging to coordinate everything to perfectly sync up in the final mix. Tell us about your live band and who else plays with you in a live setting?

Bobby Corsetti: Most of the instruments on both of my previous projects were played by me alone, except for a few cameo appearances. Recording Not By Chance was not easy for me. I played all the instruments except the trumpet and flugelhorn which were played by the talented Bill Mobley. Why I played all the instruments on this record is a good question. The number one reason would have to be the convenience of being able to make things feel and sound just as close as possible to what I was trying to achieve. The second reason, honestly, was the financial aspect of it. I work cheap... and sometimes all night!

Getting a band together for multiple rehearsals is almost impossible without some kind of budget. Of course, it would be wonderful if I had the luxury of having great musicians at my disposal. That being said, these past three records I've made are also not what one would call straight-ahead jazz records. They have a less challenging sound to the average listener. Yes - to the purist - and even myself… things can get a little let's say, homogenized, for lack of a better word. Or maybe pasteurized would be a better choice…

The way I like to describe it, is like the song says... “Just a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down, the medicine go down” ... you get the picture!

I've tried to make my music more palatable to the average listener. I know that doesn’t sit well with a lot of people. I have also tried to be cognizant of the fact that real musicians want to hear you stretch out a bit and still speak their language. It's a tough balance to achieve. That's what the great George Benson has done so well for so long.

Playing live, however, is much different in so many ways. It has a whole different set of challenges - organizing the musicians, being a band leader, giving every member some creative space, coordinating schedules, communicating with club owners, and most of all, being on your game. Being able to give the people something back for taking their time and spending their money to come and see you perform. I take that very seriously.


mwe3: Interesting that you call the recent CD, Not By Chance. Is that kind of a metaphysical way to look at life, in that we’re all here, walking and talking on the earth, not by chance? I like that picture of the guitar player in the booklet, whose outline is covered in stars and galaxies. Why do you think that people don’t take a more... kind of metaphysical view of what we’re doing here on Earth for 70 or 80 odd years?

Bobby Corsetti: Not By Chance is not only the title of my latest CD… it is a surrender and a recognition to the Creator of the Universe - God. The scripture says that God created man in his image. That is precisely why we have the ability to create things. We have the gift of creation in us.

Take a bunch of notes for instance. Put, let's say, twelve different notes into a box. Mix all twelve of them up, real good, and throw them up in the air. Now let's have them land on an imaginary musical staff made up of five lines. Let the notes randomly land on the lines at different times and on different spaces or lines. Now let's play the notes on an instrument. Let's see how many chances it would take to form a beautiful melody, or a beautiful sequence of harmonized notes in chords. How about Beethoven’s 6th Symphony or maybe Handel's “Messiah”? Or even “Twinkle,Twinkle Little Star?” Forget it- it wouldn't happen. Never. Not in a million or ten billion years.

This universe we live in was created by God with design and reason. That's why that Star Man guitar player standing on the edge of a galaxy has the ability to play an instrument and create music. That Star Man could be anyone. A doctor, carpenter, writer, teacher, scientist, inventor, or even a politician… only kidding!

See my point? There is too much form and evidence of intelligent design in the universe to think this all just happened by chance. Why don’t people think about these things more often? Well, some do. Some people are motivated by these concepts. The idea that you can create something from nothing is one of the greatest gifts given to us. It is only surpassed in value by our ability to love one another and do good things with those gifts.

As per your other question, as to why people don’t think about these things, well let's just say that they are choked and consumed by the cares and worries of this world. Maybe they are just unwilling to give credence to a God, who, by His wisdom has seemingly left us to fend for ourselves. You see, faith is of the unseen things, and without it is impossible to please God. And even more impossible to believe in Him. One might ask - what does this all have to do with music and playing guitar? To me, it means everything. It gives purpose and meaning to everything I play, and acknowledges the voice I heard when I was a child.


mwe3: How do you compare Not By Chance with your other albums Cuvée and La Dolce Vita? One thing that strikes me is that on La Dolce Vita is there’s several covers, but Not By Chance is all original music. Also I thought your cover version of “Groovin’” is one of the great pop covers of the decade. I guess you show your 1960s music roots! What did Felix fromm The Rascals think about your cover?

Bobby Corsetti: Not By Chance is a bit more aggressive than the other two records. I wanted to stretch out a little bit more and I think I was able to do that without going too far. My first record Cuvée had its own sound and its own vibe. I used the Gibson Pat Martino model guitar on that recording. It had a bit of a hip-hop feel to it. Before recording Cuvée I was actually, believe it or not, working on a bunch of hip-hop records with Hank Shocklee, a famous record producer who had played a big part in early hip-hop and Rap (Public Enemy) music production. I had signed an artist deal with him as an R&B singer. He was shopping a major record deal for me at the time. Things didn’t pan out as expected and we friendly parted ways.

La Dolce Vita, my second record had a bit of a European flair to it. I played the nylon string Godin on a few of the tunes and really like that sound. On "Groovin’", as you mentioned, and thank you for that nice compliment, I used my Ibanez GB 15 guitar. I'm not sure if Felix has heard it, but if he has I hope he enjoyed it! It's a beautiful sounding guitar and plays as good as it sounds. It has some feedback problems at loud volumes, especially when playing live. I know George uses clear packing tape to cover the 'f' holes on his guitars. I just can’t seem to bring myself to put tape on this beautiful guitar. It really works well for George though... I might have to give it a shot.


mwe3: What other cover songs do you plan on recording one day and how about other songs you cover that are favorites to play live?

Bobby Corsetti: I can’t say on what I'm planning on covering and that's backfired on me a couple of times and my idea was used before I had a chance to record the songs! I was mad at the time, but also flattered that someone actually listened to me and took my idea. Then again, I've borrowed a lot of things from a lot of guitar players, especially George Benson and Pat Martino. I play a number of their tunes live also. Tunes like “Lean Years” and “Turnpike” by Pat, and so many Benson tunes I should have to pay him royalties. I do always mention them at my live shows. Even Wes - whom I've never met, but love his playing and tunes so much.

I always like to play a little rock and roll live. I'll play a Jimmy Hendrix tune or maybe a Jeff Beck or a Clapton tune to change things up and add a little spice to the show. People really enjoy that stuff. I enjoy it also and feel very comfortable playing in that style. That's what I played as a kid.

Man… that was a great time to grow up. So much music, and at the same time there was Miles, Mclaughlin, Herbie, Jaco, all happening at once!


mwe3: Your music is also suited to films and soundtracks. Have you done any film scoring and is that a possibility in the future?

Bobby Corsetti: A few years back I was doing some scoring for films, documentaries for A&E Network and things of that nature. But mostly it was jingles, a lot of jingles. I had creative rolls in a lot of them as well. I did the first E-Trade and Optimum Online commercials. There was a Black and Decker automatic can opener, and everything from king-sized men's clothing to horse racing to automatic cat litter boxes! I even scored for a Sony Electronics promotional. I've sung in Spanish and I don’t even speak Spanish (lol) and I've sung as a lobster who went from a tank into a cooking pot! I could write a book on all the bizarre things I've had to do as a studio musician and singer. The jingle industry has really dropped off these past ten years for me, and that's fine. It was fun and good money while it lasted.

mwe3: What’s new in New York in 2015? What are some your favorite places to perform and play live shows in the NYC and the tri-state area? How would you compare New York with other places in the US and for that matter the world for jazz? Have you played shows all over the world and how can you further spread the word about your guitar playing and recorded works?

Bobby Corsetti: Locally, there are a few things happening on Long Island concerning live jazz. The East End Arts Council (www.eastendarts.org ) organizes the Live On The Vine Annual Music Festival. It features local and worldwide performers playing not only jazz, but blues, rock and many other types of music. There are also a few people out there organizing and hosting live jam sessions.

In the City, many staple clubs – Iridium, Birdland, and Blue Note just to name a few are hanging in there, but now have a more eclectic style of live performers gracing their stages. Personally, I would really love to tour all over Europe, especially Italy. I'd also love to play in Japan.

I have to say that here in NY, even the traditional jazz clubs have had a more eclectic approach as far as entertainment goes. Nowadays even the term "Jazz" means so many different things to different people. It's such a generic term now… as is with so many other things. It's not necessarily a bad thing. Our culture dictates this type of an atmosphere because of all of the diversity we have in it. How can I reach more people with my music? I think I'm going to have to get out and play more. I need to make that connection with my audience.


mwe3: You’ve recorded 3 albums to date and what about plans to record in the future? Are you always writing and recording to get your ideas down for future use? What kind of album would you like to write and record next and what other plans do you have in the works for the rest of 2015 and into 2016?

Bobby Corsetti: I'd really like to make a record that takes my playing to another level. A record that will push me beyond where I'm at musically. I'm always writing and recording new things. I want to showcase another side of my playing. I'm very excited about the future. I'm believing God for good things, not just for myself, but for everyone I meet on this journey called “Life”.

Photo credits top to bottom: 1) Playing my Gibson SG Custom 1975. 2) At Pat Martino's house 2003. 3) playing my Gibson L5-S in the Hamptons around 1977. 4) Brain Waves 2006. 5) Saint Thomas 6) Playing my Custom Strat 7) Playing By the Bay. 8 Not By Chance album cover. 9) Hanging at Birdlland NYC. 10) Jamin with Jimmy @ Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Thanks to Bobby Corsetti @ www.BobbyCorsetti.com




 

 
   
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