I recently completed a year-long project, working to develop my own customized trumpet mouthpiece - one that would allow me to switch from trumpet to trombone embouchure without compromising my sound or endurance on either instrument. Here is a short video clip that describes elements of that process.
Two Recording projects with my original arrangements
Both of these tunes are arranged by me (and I'm also performing on them)...
After studying trumpet with Jack Coleman and Rubin "Zeke" Zarchy, I went on to USC Music School where I studied with the late James Stamp and Robert Marsteller. I found jazz and latin music a lot
more stimulating, and jumped ship before completing my studies at USC. I had already been playing jazz gigs with a local group of young players headed up by pianist Larry Nash, called the Jazz
Symphonics. We had some great moments, including playing opposite sets with Miles Davis' seminal group at Marty's on the Hill in Baldwin Hills, back in '69.
I remember the day that I first "discovered" típico Cuban music...I was working as a shipping clerk under the direction Lazaro Valdéz, a Cuban conguero who was at that time gigging with a locally popular Cuban singer, Dandy Beltrán. Lazaro had this old portable 33 rpm self-contained FUNKY record player. It had the sound quality of those early transistor radios that were manufactured by Matsushita Corporation back in the early sixties. Nice. Anyhow, he brought in this very scratched up LP by Niño Rivera, one of the “Cuban Jam Session” series. I think the trumpet player was El Négro Vivár. I remember listening to "El Panquelero." Man that stuff was SMOKIN'! And not long after, I dropped my jazz gig like a hot potato (Baked Potato?) and went down to the Chez Pico club next door to that legendary Cuban restaurant, El Colmao, and started gigging. My North Star shifted from Freddie Hubbard to Chocolate Armenteros. I soon found myself in local group that included the late Raul Travieso Rodríguez (Arsenio's brother). I never obtained photographs of that group, but do have a photo of the other trumpet player, Orlando "Alexis" Fernández, who mentored me during those early days.
A few years later, while slaving away at various tedious and uninspiring dayjobs, I began working with various other bands around town, including Orlando Lopez "Mazacote," Johnny Nelson, and Johnny "Chano" Martinez.
The above two photos were taken by the late, great, Silvio Alava, who was a multi-talented man who really loved and understood the music. He took over the management of our band for a couple of years, which were truly two of the best years I've ever had on any band.
There is no surviving video from the Johnny Nelson days, but I did rescue some audio. And more can be found on my Youtube page, under the Johnny Nelson playlist.
With Papo Rodríguez y la Sorpresa
Many good memories with this group, directed by José "Papo" Rodríguez. I have two surviving videos...
When Camilo "Azuquita" re-settled in Los Angeles during the early eighties, I became a part of his group and at one point was handling the musical direction duties. This led to one of the high spots of my musical life - a three-nighter as one of the added Los Angeles musicians during a visit to town by Tito Puente's large group. Azuquita invited me aboard so that I could give the cues. In addition to being a high spot, it was also somewhat unnerving, because I realized that I was "out of my league," so to speak, playing with musicians who were at a much more developed level in that genre than I could ever hope to reach. I am fortunate to have some video and audio from my time with Azuquita. Here is an example; more on my Youtube page at www.youtube.com/garyeisenberg, under the Azuquita playlist.
After Azuquita moved back to Paris, I got together with my dear friend Eric Matos (who had worked alongside me with Johnny Nelson for years), and we did our own band - "Orquesta Caliente" (not the most original name in the world, but we didn't want to spend too much time dealing with name branding) - with the Horn Section in Front! We had a great time with that group, and were lucky enough to have top-flight musicians. The roster included Victor "Negrito" Pantoja on congas, Kevin Ricard on timbales, Ramon "Mongo" Ramos on bongo,Tavio Figueroa (and for a while there, Kathy Allmond) on Piano, Georgie Lopez on bass, Phil Robinson on vocals - and on trombones, Eric Matos, Mike Daigeau, and yours truly on valve bone. We had the opportunity to back up several legendary performers, including Meñique, the late Daniel Santos, and the late Celio Gonzalez, When Candilejas was sold, we all went our separate ways.
After Orquesta Caliente disbanded, I freelanced with various groups around town, including Johnny "Chano" Martinez, as well as Francisco Aguabella. There have been occasional forays into other
musical landscapes, including a thoroughly enjoyable and enriching experience with "Odara," a group headed up by Guillermo Cespedes, Lazaro Galaraga and Nengue Hernández. Alas, I have no
photographs from that musical journey.
A little humor...I wrote this - but it actually is a true story!
A SALSA STAR IS BORN IN HOLLYWOOD
One balmy Saturday night in August during the late 1970's, a star was born at an L.A. salsa nightspot. And, amazingly, this star vocalist got his first booking immediately after his debut performance! Gather 'round my salsero friends, while I sing you a song of saucy summer ambition in Hollywood. The place was Candilejas. I was working with the Johnny Nelson Orchestra, and we were wrapping up the second set. Johnny decided to rest his voice, and the band began an instrumental rendition of Girl From Ipanema. The piano player was just getting into the second chorus of his solo, when suddenly we had some company. A "guest artist" had invited himself on stage and before we could even blink, he was Singin' it Loud and Proud. Well, at least he thought so. The rest of us were not all that happy about it, including a rather beefy security guard at the club known as "Sarge." Sarge was well over six feet tall and a no-nonsense kind of guy, if you know what I mean. I can tell you this - Sarge was real civil about the whole thing. He very gently suggested that the time had come for Caruso Jr. to say goodbye to his many fans and make room for the next act. Caruso apparently wasn't going for it. As he prepared to jump on in for another chorus, Sarge provided him with celebrity escort service. Out the door.
We finished out the set the best we could, then rushed toward the door to see what was happening. As we hit the sidewalk, we found Caruso smashing his fist through the second cowl lamp in front of the club. We couldn't help but notice that he had already totally decimated the one next to the main entrance. Within moments, Sunset Boulevard became transformed into a kind of drive-in-theater. Horns were honking, necks were stretching, and there was blood on the sidewalk. El Maestro seemed to be attracting quite a crowd, which soon included several LAPD squad cars, a couple of helicopters, and a fleet of unmarked METRO squad units. All RIGHT! Fun for a Friday night! We knew that things were going to get interesting when two plainclothes detectives sauntered up to have a little talk with the evening's Featured Attraction. These boys took a somewhat different approach than Sarge, as they began to talk turkey with Mr. Talent.
That was when we figured out that Caruso was going to set a kind of world's record. He was booked for his first engagement, only moments after the debut performance! These funny-looking dance promoters simply refused to take "no" for answer, as they whisked Mr. Entertainment into the black-and-white limo. With broad smiles on their faces, the Dance Promoters in Blue encouraged the Star to get into the squad car, fast, assuring him that his many fans downtown were waiting impatiently.
The band returned to the stage to finish out the night. But you know, it was kind of hard to get going after that. I mean, that was one hell of an act to follow. The weeks and months passed. Then, one winter night, El Cantante entered the club. Wow, I thought, he's back – by special request! Well, sort of. As it turned out, Mr. Suavecito appeared to be handing a sizable wad of money to the club owner. That was some booking agent this guy must have had. You're probably wondering whether El Maestro hit the stage for an encore. Hey, this is a big town. We saw him heading east on Sunset Boulevard. If he could manage to miss any red lights, he might just make the second set at Virginias!
After Johnny Nelson's band broke up, our excellent bongosero, Jose "Papo" Rodriguez formed his own group, and I was with him throughout that period of time.
Octavio Figueroa y la Combinación
For more than a decade, I have continued to work with Octavio Figueroa y la Combinación. In the center of the above photo is the legendary percussionist, Victor "Negrito" Pantoja. He was a remarkable musician and a remarkable man. I miss him. We threw a benefit concert for him just before he passed away. Tavio's group is constantly evolving; it is always a pleasure to share the stage with him. I have many video and audio clips on my Youtube page, under the Octavio Figueroa y la Combinación playlist:
Below is one of the many clips you'll find at the above link...
A couple of years back, I did a few gigs with a fine percussionsist by the name of Carmelo Garcia, who put together a nice group but couldn't find enough work to keep it going. Below is a link to a video that was made at our last gig before Carmelo relocated back east.
I had the honor of working with this legendary conguero during two periods of time. He recently passed away but left us a great legacy...This photo was taken by Silvio Alava during our performance at the John Anson Ford Theatre, sometime in the 1980s.