THE MIKE LONGO TRIO
A Celebration Of Diz And Miles
(CAP)

 

On his 2012 CD, piano virtuoso and keyboard legend Mike Longo performs the music of Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis for jazz piano trio. Recorded live at the Baha’i Center in New York City on June 26, 2012, the 21 track CD, A Celebration Of Diz And Miles is an excellent instrumental music snapshot of Longo’s legendary piano skills in a jazz trio setting and the results are both timeless and spectacular. Commenting on paying tribute to these two legendary jazz artists, Longo adds, “With Dizzy and Charlie Parker came a new language. An organic change in music occurred and a new way of making melody was born. Miles was a disciple of this approach and developed his own unique way of expressing it. Nothing like this innovation existed before this breakthrough, and it is still not fully understood even today. Being around Dizzy and playing with him was pure magic! He was the most amazing human being I have ever encountered.” In the spirit of the finest sounding piano based live jazz trio albums, Longo’s grand piano is perfectly recorded, creating a sonic aura at times. Longo’s trio, including Paul West (bass) and Ray Mosca (drums) are totally in sync with the sparkling bop-jazz piano sound. Tastefully produced by Bob Magnuson and featuring the work of expert sound man, Al Perrotta, A Celebration Of Diz And Miles also features prominent CD packaging and informative liner notes by Mike Longo. www.jazzbeat.com


mwe3.com presents an interview with

MIKE LONGO


mwe3: Can you say something about where you were born and I know you came from a musical background and I also read you grew up in Ft. Lauderdale Florida which is right next to Pompano Beach. What was Florida like back then? When did you first come to New York and long have you now lived in the NYC area?

MIKE LONGO: I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio but my family moved to Ft. Lauderdale when I was 8 years old. I grew up there through high school. Back then Ft. Lauderdale was this little naval air station town and very rural. Downtown Ft. Lauderdale was the hub for all of the activity, with its waterfront on New River and the fleet of fishing boats and local cruise boats. There were two strip clubs—the club Aloha and the Doll House. This was the only place at the time where jazz was played. Groups would play the show for the strippers and then play jazz between the shows. Cannonball Adderley was the band director at Dillard High School and I met him at a jam session at the youth center in Hollywood. There was a local disc jockey by the name of Leonce Picou who had a midnight to 6 AM jazz show on WFTL. He had been putting on jam sessions in youth centers to help stem teen age drinking which was claiming a lot of young lives in DUI accidents at the time. My dad had a club date band, and I told him about Cannonball, and he began using him on club dates. Cannon got me and a drummer by the name of Pete Helmintoller, also a school mate of mine in the 10th grade, a gig with a rhythm and blues band led by a trumpeter named Harold Ferguson. We played up and down the coast on what they used to call the “Chitlin’ Circuit”. After graduation from Ft. Lauderdale High my dad asked Cannonball to recommend a college for me and he recommended Western Kentucky University because when he was in the army stationed at Ft. Knox in Louisville, Kentucky, he would travel to Bowling Green to study privately with Roy Harris, the composer, who was head of the music department there. After graduation from college I didn’t have a dime to my name, trombone player, Bill Bartell, recommended me for a gig with this trad band by the name of The Salt City Six out of Syracuse, NY. I walked off the stage with my degree in my hand and jumped into a car with my girlfriend who drove me to Buffalo, NY where I opened with The Salt City Six the next night. I toured with them for two years. A few times they would play the Metropole in New York where I made some friends. Finally on one of the Salt City Six gigs the Metropole offered me a position as one of their house pianists. I left the Salt City Six and stayed on at the Metropole for the next two years.
I was playing a double shift as they had six bands a day working there, two downstairs during the day and another two at night and also another two on the second floor at night. I was working during the day with the older cats like Tony Parentti, George Wettling, Coleman Hawkins and Zutty Singleton from 2:00 in the afternoon until 8:00 PM and then from 10:00 PM until 4:00 AM with Henry Red Allen or Sol Yaged and sometimes Gene Krupa. I was staying at the Belvadere Hotel which was just around the corner. Just soaking up everything there was to learn from these musicians. I was the young kid on the block working with the old timers. While working there, an occasion arose when Dizzy Gillespie was playing in the Modern Jazz room on the second floor. When he would go on a break he would have to walk past where we were playing downstairs. I got a call from a bass player in Ft. Lauderdale a couple of months later asking me if I had seen the interview with Dizzy in the International Music Magazine. Apparently Dizzy was asked if he had heard any young musicians that impressed him and he mentioned me. While working there trumpeter Jimmy McPartland asked me to play two weeks with him in Chicago at a place called Bourbon Street. I went and while there met Oscar Peterson at the London House. He heard me play and asked if I would like to study with him. I jumped at the chance and spent the next six months in Toronto as his student. I returned to New York in 1961 and have lived here ever since.

mwe3: Can you say something about the significance of both Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis on the jazz world and the world of 20th century music? Some listeners and musicians alike who weren’t born during their lifetimes might not have yet discovered them yet.

MIKE LONGO: With Dizzy and Charlie Parker came a new language. An organic change in music occurred and a new way of making melody was born. Miles was a disciple of this approach and developed his own unique way of expressing it. Nothing like this innovation existed before this breakthrough, and it is still not fully understood even today. It has deep spiritual, psychological and physiological significance and the ability to transform people, who listen to it and understand it, into an alternate universe kind of existence.

mwe3: Performing with Dizzy Gillespie when you were younger must have been amazing. How would you describe Dizzy as a musician and as a friend of yours, what was his personality like? Also where would you recommend that newcomers start to discover Dizzy’s music on record and video and what are a few of your favorite albums by Dizzy and Miles?

MIKE LONGO: Being around Dizzy and playing with him was pure magic! He was the most amazing human being I have ever encountered. He knew something the rest of us need to find out about, as I never saw him depressed. He was a creature of joy every waking minute of his life. As a musician he was a profound genius in touch with a certain aspect of Divinity. For newcomers I would recommend listening to an album called For Musicians Only featuring Diz with Sonny Stitt, Stan Getz, Ray Brown, Herb Ellis and Stan Levy. Also check out a recording called The Gifted Ones with Dizzy and Count Basie. It is listed as a Count Basie recording but pay particular attention to a track called “Constantenople”. Dizzy On The French Riviera is another enjoyable experience and one that I am on called Swing Low Sweet Cadillac. With Miles I think Kind Of Blue is a must as well as the collaborations he did with Gil Evans. Also I would recommend Birth Of The Cool.

mwe3: What were the events that lead to you recording and recently releasing your new CD with The Mike Longo Trio, A Celebration Of Diz And Miles and can you say something about working with CAP Records, and how long have you been involved with that legendary label?

MIKE LONGO: It wasn’t a planned recording. I run a weekly jazz series in the John Birks Gillespie Auditorium in the NYC Baha’i center and about every 5 weeks or so I perform there with one of my groups. I have the big band known as the NY State of the Art Jazz Ensemble. I also have a funk band and my trio. We have noticed of late that theme based concerts draw larger audiences so I decided to do a tribute to Diz and Miles on June 26th, 2012, with my trio. Bob Magnuson, the lead alto player on my big band, has professional recording equipment and decided to record the concert. It came out so well that we decided to release it on CAP. I have been involved with CAP since 1979. It started out as a very small label but now has grown to a catalog of over 150 releases. The great thing about CAP is it leaves the entire creative control to the artists themselves. What you hear on a CAP recording is exactly what the artist wanted you to hear, unlike many labels who have producers, some of who are failed musicians, trying to make creative decisions as to what an artist should record and how it should be recorded.

mwe3: You recorded your Celebration Of Diz And Miles album at the Baha’i Temple in on 11th street in Manhattan and in the CD liner notes you single out the Yamaha C1 Baby Grand piano as being essential to the making of the CD. Can you say something about that piano, what about the C1 sound that is so captivating, as well as discussing your other pianos that you enjoy performing and recording on. Are some pianos better for live concerts and others better for recording? My dentist had an office on the 11th floor in the Steinway building on 57th street overlooking Horn & Hardart. I guess Steinway owned the whole building. Steinway is certainly an amazing story.

MIKE LONGO: Actually, I am a Steinway artist and have been for about four years now. It just so happened that a couple by the name of Kate and Rich Weisman donated the Yamaha C1 to the jazz series at the Baha’i center and that is why it is on my recording. I have recorded often on Steinways, not to mention Baldwins as well. I think people make a mistake, generally, in the questions posed here because a pianist’s touch is a very personal thing relative to his or her identity and often times these qualities are attributed to the piano being played instead of the source of the tone produced by the individual’s touch. For example you could take the exact same instrument and after a few notes identify that as Bill Evans or Erroll Garner, or Oscar Peterson, etc., even though they all are playing the same instrument.

mwe3: Speaking of the album recorded at the Baha’i center, what was it that got you interested in the Baha’i religion and what led to your “Jazz Tuesdays” series and is it still ongoing ?

MIKE LONGO: When I first went with Dizzy the country was in the grips of a social crisis. Race riots were happening as the civil rights movement was taking shape. At the time, to my knowledge, I was probably the only caucasian musician working in an all black group. Things got pretty scary at times and I even got hit with a bottle on stage in a concert in Pittsburgh. Dizzy and I became close friends along with James Moody and me. Dizzy shared my belief that things didn’t have to be that way between whites and blacks and concluded that there had to be another way. When Diz found out about the Baha’i Faith it turned out to be “the other way” for him as one of their primary goals was race unity. He started to turn me on to their literature and on the day after Martin King was assassinated Diz declared himself a Baha’i. It took me another five years to accept the faith and then I declared as well. After Dizzy passed away in 1993 I recalled how back in the 1960s there used to be this loft scene in New York whereby the upper floors of industrial buildings were being converted into concert venues where people could hear jazz at nominal fees. The music could go on into the wee hours of the morning since they were not in residential areas but commercial areas. I recall a bass player by the name of Jimmy Stevens had a loft down in Soho where he would have jam sessions. I played there all night from about 8:00 PM until 11:00 AM the next morning with George Coleman, Chuck Mangione, a drummer by the name of Vinny Regerio and the bass player from Lionel Hampton’s band by the name of Benny. We would do that on a regular basis just to practice and play together with no audience. Just five musicians groovin’. I began thinking in 2004 that there must be a way to have something like this today as it is really needed. The musicians weren’t playing enough and the prices in the major jazz clubs, due to the high rents, were out of reach for the average jazz fan. It suddenly occurred to me that the Baha’i Center had this beautiful 160 seat theater within it that was being used on occasions to hold religious services but for the most part being unused. I approached the Baha’is about starting a weekly jazz series in Dizzy’s name and convinced them to officially name the theater the John Birks Gillespie Auditorium. They thought it was a great idea since both Dizzy and I were Baha’is. I got permission from Lorraine Gillespie to use Dizzy’s name and the series started on January 6th, 2004, the one year anniversary of Dizzy’s death and ironically the birthday of Lorraine Gillespie, his widow. We have been operating ever since. One of my three groups performs there about every 5 weeks and the other weeks I book other world class jazz artists there. The set lists are entirely up to the musicians performing and all the proceeds from the box office go directly to them.

mwe3: One thing that really stuck out in my mind after hearing the Celebration Of Diz And Miles CD was the amazingly well recorded sound which was quite clean and distortion free. What was the recording process like and what role did producer Bob Magnuson have in the making of the album?

MIKE LONGO: As I mentioned earlier Bob Magnuson is the lead altoist on my big band but is also one of the most successful studio musicians on the New York scene. He is also a producer and runs his own jingle production company out of his office and is quite skilled with recording techniques. It should also be mentioned that the sound of the recording was also due to the skills of Al Perrotta who did the mixing and mastering. He and Bob collaborated on my last three releases. Al was with Tony Bennett’s son’s studio in New Jersey until it closed recently and now works on a freelance basis. He is a master of his craft as is Bob Magnuson. Also Bob is a great musician and can hear the music properly and knows how to record it to get it heard as it was intended.

mwe3: How did you go about deciding what tracks you would record on the CD from the repertoires of both Dizzy and Miles? Did you have some parameters during the making of the album and what other “Celebration” series albums might you consider releasing in the future?

MIKE LONGO: As I said earlier, we did not intend to make an album. I just picked some of the tunes they wrote or recorded that I like to play, I gave the bass player and drummer a list, and we counted four and started blowing. I am toying with an idea to do a Wayne Shorter tribute album as he is one of my favorite composers.

mwe3: Can you say something about your upcoming 4 DVD instructional series The Rhythmic Nature Of Jazz and when will is be released and what company is putting it out? Are you still involved in teaching and what courses do you most enjoy teaching?

MIKE LONGO: I have two new DVDs out now called The Rhythmic Nature of Jazz Vol. I and II. There will eventually be four volumes and they are based on the rhythmic concepts I learned from Dizzy which are profound. They are available at www.jazzbeat.com. They are also put out by CAP. I teach privately three days a week from my studio in New York when I am not on the road. I am also on the faculty at Sarah Lawrence College. I have a variety of students, most of them pianists. I also have horn players, bassists, drummers and singers as well who study the jazz concepts I teach. I also teach composition and arranging. I teach everyone differently depending on their needs. My approach is to ask myself, “What is this person trying to do and how can I help them do it”, and we proceed from there.

mwe3: What are some of your other interests outside of the music world?

MIKE LONGO: Music consumes most of my time but I do enjoy bass fishing as a hobby. I am also a football and boxing fan and watch games and sporting events frequently on TV.

mwe3: What are some of your upcoming plans in 2013 as far as writing, recording and also performing music?

MIKE LONGO: I am planning to do a kickstarter campaign to help fund a recording of my big band. Since our last recording I have written over 30 charts that have not been recorded as of yet and would like to see this come about. I am performing with the big band this coming Tuesday, 01/22/13 at the John Birks Gillespie Auditorium in New York and then on the following Saturday, 01/26/13 at Trumpets Jazz Club in Montclair NJ. On February 26th I will be performing with the trio doing a concert of “The American Songbook” at the Gillespie Auditorium and we are also playing a concert in April at Rockafeller University in New York. I will be doing some traveling on my own as well as I frequently do master classes and concerts at different universities with groups comprised of the students there. I play several times a year with either the big band, trio or funk band at the Gillespie auditorium as well. So far in 2013 I have composed two new compositions and arrangements that we are performing this coming week and I have jotted down notes on different motifs I plan to incorporate into large scale works for the large ensemble throughout the year. I will also be recording another trio CD this summer with Bob Cranshaw and Lewis Nash. All in all, it is shaping up to be a pretty busy and creative year.


Thanks to Mike Longo @ www.jazzbeat.com

 

 
   
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