I was born on August 16th, 1977 in Buffalo, NY half-Sicilian half-Croatian. At around age 4, I realized I could get a buzz by drumming on this furry yellow chair. A fun feeling ran though my veins that made me want to keep banging. Only thing was is that I couldn’t figure out how to beat my hands together, it was confusing.
Before I was even aware of any musical love. I used to enjoy picking fuzzies from in between the rug and the base board with my grandmother at her house. I had a little yellow shovel and rake that were perfect tools to get the job done.
Around age 9, I signed up for the school band, I wrote on my application that I wanted to play drums. My balloon was deflated when I showed up for my first lesson and was given a cornet. I remember bringing the old case home saying to myself “this is NOT what I want to play”. In retrospect I am extremely grateful that Mrs.Grabowski’s instinct for me was the trumpet, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Mrs. Grabowski is one of the finest music teachers ever!
Around that same time I joined the chorus led by Mrs. Applebee. I really enjoyed singing, it felt really good to push sound out of my head. I was the shortest kid in the chorus. It worked out nicely cause Mrs. Applebee got a drumset so I got a chance to play with the chorus on a couple of songs. Her musical diversity, energy and passion was very inspiring.
Music education is such an important part of the the world. As a listener or a player please support specialized early education. If you don’t future generations will be indecisive boring clones. Exposure to art and technology at an early age is mandatory and should be on all of our minds all the time.
One of my biggest influences as a young adult was Floyd Fried (High School), he taught me oodles about leadership, professionalism and music through example. He is a realist and a believed in hardwork, I was old enough to understand his dedication and symbolism. I would get to school an hour before before band practice and do a round of practicing. Mr. Fried was always two hours early to work. He is the reason I play the horn I play.
Another important teacher was saxophonist Ron Paladino. One of Buffalo’s finest teachers. He pushed me to think in all twelve keys. He showed me the importance of writing and memorizing my own solos.
So in High School I continued to play in the Jazz band, Concert Band and Marching band. Something happened during my sophomore year where I became very focused. I began practicing an average of 4 hours a day, sometimes 9 hours a day, mostly playing along with records.
At this time I was inspired to study with Chuck Gorino because of his exceptional student Don Jones. Chuck turned me on to my favorite record by Chet Baker called She Was To Good to Me. Chuck’s love for music was taught me how to listen closely.
By my Junior year I had co-founded a local Buffalo band called Straight Forward. Our first show was opening for the late Grover Washington, Jr. We were surprisingly relaxed considering the magnitude of the engagement and our inexperiece. We continued playing together for the next 4 years.
After High School I attended the Universtiy at Buffalo for a year where I considred studying Mechanical Engineering. My addicton to music had grown too intense to deny.
That year I devoted to getting good enough to transfer into a conservatory atmosphere. The following year I restarted my college experience at the Eastman School of Music where I performed with The Eastman Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Small groups, Small Medium And Large and my band called Beyondo.
I studied with Ralph Alessi, Doug Prosser, Harold Danko, Jeff, Fred Sturm, Mike Kaupa and Martin Hodel.
During my sophomore year I started a 15 piece Big Band called The Calumet Jazz Orchestra. We played every Monday at the Calumet in Buffalo, NY during the summer of 98. We used to party like freaks in my back yard after shows!
In the summer before my senior year I attended Banff Center for the Arts under direction of the great Kenny Werner. It was artist friendly paradise. It reminds me of how much freedom our minds can create. It gave 75 musicians from around the world a chance to access one another. Kinda like dogs sniffing each others butts. Meow!
At Banff I met Dave Douglas and he recommended I get my chops together with Laurie Frink. Little did I know the trajectory of my trumpet playing. Actually I still have know idea when I’ll hit my next growth spurt. I brought my endurance-less little ass to Laurie’s house for my first lesson in 2000. I can’t put into words the how much she has changed my relationship with the trumpet. She could calm a flaming banshee and teach it how to play a trumpet.
I moved to New York in June of 2000. Desperate for work I got a job at Barnes and Noble. I took the job not because it paid great (7p/h), But because the hours were from 6am to 2pm…..these were perfect hours for a musician. It gave me freedom to sleep deprive myself if I got a late nite playing opportunity. Needless to say getting up at 6am is for the birds, anyway you look at it. Another good thing was that the job was in my neighborhood so I could bike there, which saved me money on subway fares. When I got really tired I would go home on my lunch break to catch a nap.
While working at B&N I started The Teo Macero Big Band. I had the great fortune of meeting Teo at Eastman. Teo is an amazing producer who worked with Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and more. He made hundreds of records for Columbia over the years. He is so passionate about the energy that goes into music, He can’t help himself from yelling in the studio, raising your heart rate making you feel alive. His ideas on energy, sound and musicianship are not to be challenged!
Around this time my friend Tim Keiper invited me down to a session at the Pink Pony where I met bassist William Parker and violinist Billy Bang, I was very lucky to be a part of the avant-grade play Crystal scored by William Parker. The music was pure and warm!
Also I around this time I through Tim Keiper I met saxophonist Andrew D’angelo, I had the great fortune of playing trumpet/Beatboxing in Andrew’s Big Band.
Then one day I was flipping through the village voice in the break room at Barnes and Noble and I see a classified that says “trumpet, trombone and sax needed for 2001 Monkees Tour”. I said “is this the real Monkees?”
So two days later I’m at Ultra Sound studios in new york auditioning for The Monkees reunion tour in front of Jerry Renino (R.I.P) and Wayne Avers.
Two days later I was asked to play and I committed to a six month run. I quit my job and hit the road! We traveled for the next three years across the US and the UK.
I think the highlight of the tour was a 14 day run at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. I can barely remember it, but I do remember staying up for days drinking so much I lost my vision in one eye!
In 2003 I began playing with Antibalas . With Antibalas I have traveled around Japan, England, Germany, Spain, Ireland, Canada and the United States.
Also in 2003 a portion of I song I wrote called Your Daughter was licensed by singer/songwriter Regina Spektor on Warner Brother Records. This recording was released in 2005!
In 2005, nothing compared to my experience performing in the Antibalas horn section for Sinead O’Connor, Burning Spear and Medeski, Martin and Wood. We played at the 3rd Annual Jammy Awards at Madison Square Garden.
Also in 2005 I played trumpet on a Fruit By the Foot commercial (featuring a barking dog) and I wrote horn arrangement for The Hulk re-run commercial on USA network!
In Febraury of 2006, I performed as part of David Fishof’s Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp (Los Angeles). I put together a hornsection (Sam Albright, and Trombonita) to support the camper ensembles which performed with legendary Rock Celebrities such as Mark Farner (Grand Funk Rail Road), Roger Daltrey (The Who), Kip Winger (Winger), Jerry Renino (The Monkees Musical Director), Bruce Kulick (Kiss), Gary Bury (Carly Simon), Derek St. Holmes (Ted Nugent) Simon Kirke (Bad Company) and Jack Blades/Kelly Keagan (Bad Company). A highlight of the week was performing We built this city on Rock and Roll with the Mickey Thomas from Jefferson Starship.
While in L.A my buddy Todd Simon hooked up a recording session with London based producer Will Holland (Quantic Records) we recorded two of Todd’s arrangements for legendary soul singer Spanky Wilson.
In the spring of 2006 I was lucky to record with Massive Attack, TV on the Radio, Zack de La Rocha and Stephonik thanks to producer Dave Sitek, Stuart Bogie and Martin Perna. I can’t even remember what happened!)
In the Spring of 2008 I’ve been in the studio alot with bands Bermuda and TV on the Radio. Also playing a mini tour with the band Spoon!)