Wednesday, October 14, 2020

A Very Candid Conversation with Carl Fischer

Carl Fischer (year unknown)

Carl Fischer has the gig of a lifetime. He is the trumpet player for the Billy Joel Band. He played trumpet in Movin’ Out, a Broadway musical centered on Billy Joel music, and his playing  caught the attention of the Piano Man himself. After Movin’ Out ended, Billy asked Carl to audition for his band. Carl got the gig and has been playing trumpet for Billy Joel ever since. He played the last concert ever held at Shea Stadium, and has had many appearances at Madison Square Garden.

Carl has also played with other talented artists. Early in his career, Carl worked as a stage manager and eventually played trumpet with jazz legend Wynton Marsalis. He also played with another jazz legend, Maynard Ferguson, first as Maynard’s assistant and then as a trumpet player. Carl played with both jazz legends in the 90s. In 1999, Carl recorded his first solo album Organic Groove. Carl promoted his album by being the opening act for Maynard.  

In 2001, Carl moved on to Movin’ Out and then Billy himself in 2005. While with Billy, Carl found time to be part of two major acts: Blood, Sweat & Tears and Diana Ross. He juggled all three major acts together for a couple years before solely focusing on Billy.

Today, with the pandemic, Carl still is busy playing music. He has his own band, Sunshine City Brass, which plays New Orleans Jazz. In addition, he holds virtual jam sessions every Tuesday.

In this candid conversation, we discuss Carl’s career with jazz greats Wynton Marsalis and Maynard Ferguson. We discuss his time with Billy Joel, Blood Sweat & Tears, and Diana Ross. In addition, we look at Carl’s current musical activities during the pandemic. I want to thank Stephen Wright, Carl’s manager, for setting up this interview, but most of all, I want to thank Carl. 

Jeff Cramer: So what got you interested in music?

Carl Fischer: What got me interested in music was growing up on Long Island in a musical household with my dad. My late dad, Charlie Fischer, was a wonderful jazz trumpet player. He always had music on in the house. My mom loved music also, and they were very supportive of me playing.

My dad had a few bands and always rehearsed in our basement when I was growing up in Baldwin, Long Island, so I always had instruments in my basement. I just wanted to be like my dad. He had a quote that I hold dearly to my heart to this day: "When I go to play music, I don't go to work. I go to play. When I get up in the morning at six, I go to work. I go drive a truck. That's work. But when you go and play music, you go play." And so that stuck in my head. That's what got me into it, and the recordings I heard playing in my house of Maynard Ferguson, the band Chicago, and Buddy Rich. I loved Frank Sinatra, and of course Billy Joel was always on in my house too. It was very eclectic, but I was very fortunate to have that in my life. That's why I wanted to play trumpet.

JC: Your first professional gig would be with a circus band.

CF: Wow, you did your homework. [Laughs] Wow. Thank you, man. Yeah, my first score was with a band that had two names: the Holiday Hippodrome Circus and Showtime Follies. That was out of Sarasota, Florida. I joined the band. It was just a Hammond B3 organ, drums, and a trumpet.

It was a smaller stage show—they had some animals. I learned a lot really quick on that six-month stint. Yeah, I ran off and joined the circus. [Laughs]

JC: You were mentioning you learned a lot. What did you particularly learn during that six-month stint?

CF: That the road is not as glamorous as people make it out to be. At that time we traveled in travel trailers. We'd stay at rest stops and KOAs [KOA stands for Kampgrounds of America.] We'd stay wherever we could for free. But if we stayed at a campground, that was a special thing. It was mostly parking lots.

It was a dichotomy of musicians living together and people living together for six months at a clip who were not necessarily there for the music. You don't go to join a circus to play the music, really. You go there because it's a gig.

So I learned really quickly, "Okay, let's become proficient and professional." And it was probably one of the best learning experiences I had. What I also learned from it was stamina. I was the only horn, and I was basically the only melody maker other the Hammond B3 player. He played left-hand bass and his right hand for chords.

I would have to carry the melodies, and there were a million melodies, so the horn was on my face constantly. It was a two-hour show. The stamina of playing two hours straight with the horn on your face is something different from your normal jazz gig or rock gig. So I learned a lot. I learned a lot about myself and a lot about my playing.

JC: What was your next gig after the circus band?

CF: At that point I was living in Florida, and I came back from the circus. The next gig I joined was a local band here in Tampa-St. Pete, Florida.

It was Belinda Womack. She's a jazz singer here in Tampa, Florida. I joined her band. She had a club band, and we worked three or four nights a week in all the clubs. She had a great following.

One of her friends and producers of that band was the late, great, famous Nat Adderley, a great trumpet player. His brother was [jazz saxophonist] Cannonball Adderley. So I got to meet Nat through Belinda. Belinda let me pull solo a lot.

A steady gig in Tampa was nice. I didn't have to travel. I had a steady gig, and I was saving up to move back to my home state, New York. So I guess I did that for a year or two and then went back to New York.

JC: Who did you play with in New York?

CF: An offer came up. A friend of mine asked me if I would like to be a stage manager for the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, which it was their first national tour in 1992. The director of that band was the infamous, wonderful [trumpeter] Wynton Marsalis. I got on as a stage manager, which I never did that. I didn't even know what it was.

That band was the who's who of jazz guys at the time. I was a big fan of the late, great Lew Soloff, the infamous lead trumpet player with Blood, Sweat & Tears. There was also the late, great, and wonderful gentleman and great-sounding trumpet player, Joe Wilder. Then the late, great, wonderful trumpet player Marcus Belgrave. And Sir Roland Hanna on piano. It was an unbelievable band with Joe Temperley on baritone sax.

So I got to learn how to be stage manager really quick, and Wynton heard me play trumpet. It was the second day, and he heard me play trumpet. I brought my trumpet out with me ’cause I wanted to keep my chops up. He heard me play trumpet and said, "Okay, well, you're playing fifth trumpet in the band. We have some extended tunes that have some fifth trumpet, and we'd love for you to join and play trumpet."

Wynton was very influential and was very accommodating. Man, I learned so much from those guys . . . Wynton and all those guys. I have wonderful memories and relationships with them throughout the years. I’m very, very blessed to have that.

I came back off that tour, and the Lincoln Center was getting ready to do another tour and they called me to do it. I got big britches and I asked for more money ’cause I was playing trumpet and being a stage manager. They originally said they were gonna give it to me, but it just didn't work out logistically for them, and they decided to go a different route, which was fine.

At that time, it was very hard for me to take, but within a week I got a call from Maynard Ferguson, who was my childhood hero on jazz trumpet. I got a call from his manager, whom I developed a relationship with, and he said, "Hey, we know you were just out with the Lincoln Center with Wynton, and a position came open for Maynard Ferguson. But again, it's more of a production role being his valet, which is basically Maynard Ferguson's personal assistant. We know you're a player. Maynard knows you're a player. Obviously, there'll be time enough for that, but we really need you to mold to this role."

I told them when and where, and they told me to meet ’em at JFK Airport in a week. JFK was literally eight miles from my house. I went to JFK. After picking him up at JFK, I was on and off with my friend and mentor Maynard for twelve years. He was probably the biggest influence of my life spiritually, musically, and educational-wise, on and off the horn.

Being Maynard’s personal assistant and valet, I learned more about him and his day-to-day and became more friendly with him and seeing how he worked on his craft and his business and how he treated people. To me, there's not a day that goes by that I don't think about and take those lessons that I've learned from him. That was a very good growing time for myself as well. I miss him as well. [To hear Carl’s solo with Maynard’s band, click here.]

Maynard Ferguson(left) and Carl Fischer(right) (year unknown)

JC: During your time with Maynard, you would do your first record, Organic Groove.

CF: In 1999, I put the band together for Organic Groove. I wanted to put a little club band together called the Organic Groove Ensemble. I have a friend who is a Hammond B3 player, and I played with him with Maynard Ferguson. He's one of the best, in my opinion: Ron Oswanski. He’s from New Jersey. He was the impetus of the Organic Groove Ensemble playing left-hand bass on the Hammond B3. I wanted John Scarpulla to play tenor sax. John and I were doing a lot of session works, and John was one of my great friends and still is to this day. I wanted a funky, feel-good jazz bar band—the "organ" was a play off "organic." And I just wanted a funky, feel-good “groove” thing.

So the Organic Groove Ensemble would play these clubs on Long Island and in the city. We played at a little place in the Rockville Centre area. It was called the Vibe Lounge right across the street from the train station on Sunrise Highway.

And the funny thing that ties this whole thing together is we recorded that record at a studio in Oceanside, New York. The studio had just opened. We recorded it, and we did it early ’cause John had to go to Chicago to do the Movin' Out off-Broadway Chicago run before it even got released on Broadway.

Organic Groove album(2003)

The day before John went to open Movin' Out in Chicago—prior to previews—was the day before the last Organic Groove session. So we did that record, and we put it out. I jumped on the road. I went back on the road with Maynard at that time, and I did another year with Maynard.

The record came out, and the album sold really, really well ’cause Maynard let me open. I was fortunate that Maynard let me open his concerts playing Organic Groove music. He also let me sell the CDs at the merch table. Man, we sold quite a bit of merchandise. It was kind of like a grassroots campaign, and Maynard was behind it. [To hear the opening track from Organic Groove, “Renaissance Man,” click here.]

John was already on Movin' Out, and so that's when I left the road when Movin' Out got established. I did a year with Maynard, sold a whole bunch of product, and decided that maybe I should check into this Billy Joel Broadway thing and see what that brings me. [Laughs]

JC: Tell me how you got to be in the Movin' Out production.

CF: Movin’ Out started rehearsing in 2000. John Scarpulla was the saxophone player of that show. Chuck Burgi, who is now Billy's drummer, was the principal drummer of that show.

I got a call around 2001. I was on the road with Maynard. I got a call to sub. They had a principal trumpet player, Barry Danielian, who is a friend of mine. Barry is a wonderful, wonderful, great trumpet player. He did the first couple of years, but when the show first started, Barry made me a designated sub.

So I actually left the road to be a designated sub on Broadway. I wanted to get off the road, and I started subbing quite a bit. Barry was doing a lot of recording sessions and wasn't around for a lot of Movin’ Out. He gave me a lot of his work at Movin' Out, so I was his sub.

Barry had another show coming, and he jumped off Movin' Out to get another show. Tommy Byrnes, who was Billy Joel's music director at the time, was the lead guitarist of Movin' Out. Tommy offered me full time for Movin' Out, and I want to say that was late 2003 or 2004. So I did a year straight on Movin’ Out, and then that's the impetus of joining Billy's band.

Yeah, Movin' Out was great ’cause it was a great band. The wonderful, great Greg Smith was on bass, and Dennis DelGaudio was the guitar player. There was a bunch of us Long Island morons. Wade Preston was a keyboard player in the band and frontman sometimes.

I played a lot with Kevin Osborne, who was the principal trombone player and one of the singers. Then there’s Scott Kreitzer, who is an alto player. I had never played with him up until that time, and we became really good friends. He's a great musician.

Of course Chuck Burgi, the drummer of Movin’ Out, and he’s Billy’s drummer right now. I became a fan of Chuck. I knew of Chuck's playing prior to Movin' Out because of Brand X and his recordings with Brand X. I actually got to the Movin' Out previews 'cause I had to go to the previews as a designated sub. I'll never forget this. I remember sitting in a preview, and the previews were only for certain people before it opened on Broadway. It was in the Richard Rodgers Theatre, and I was listening to Chuck Burgi warm up. Hearing Chuck warm up, I was like, "Man, this is the guy I listened to on these records." Hearing him just get loose on the drums and playing different grooves and how he goes through his whole thing . . . man, and how he gets limber, I was like, "Wow." 

JC: So how did the thing from Movin' Out come to playing with Billy himself?

CF: It was interesting because Twyla Tharp, the choreographer, and Billy Joel put it together. What was amazing is that there was a great energy there. The energy was always at ten, and the audience would go to eleven.


Movin’ Out wasn't your typical Broadway show. The band wasn't in a pit. We were on a travelator [a moving walkway]. We were over the stage. The thing moved, and it moved quite quickly. It moved up sixty feet down to the stage level. It moved all around.

We were part of the show, not like we were sitting in a pit and just playing your part. We had to dance around and we all jumped off the travelator at the end of the show.

We never knew when Billy would show up, and he showed up quite a bit. He'd show up—he'd come in through the stage jump onstage. No announcement. He just had an open-door policy, and he'd play the show with us. He'd play a couple tunes, and the crowd would go nuts.

Billy asked me, "Hey, who are you?" I was like, "Hey, I'm Carl.  I'm a Long Island guy, too, like everybody here. Obviously, I could talk to you about music, but I'm also a big South Shore boat fisherman. I'm a big bike guy, too. I just kind of like what you're about, man." He was like, "Oh, cool." It was just kind of passing.

So jump ahead, and I was running late. I was running up the stairway to get on the travelator like one minute before 8:00 when the show started. And there was Billy. He was like, "Hey, Carl Fischer. How you doing, man?” He remembered my name, which threw me for a loop. I'd met a lot of famous people prior to that, and I was very fortunate too. And for him to remember those things, it was like, "He remembered my name. He remembered the conversation."

My first scary moment with Billy Joel was rehearsing. After Movin' Out, Tommy Byrnes asked me to rehearse "Zanzibar" and a couple of other tunes at Billy's rehearsal space on Long Island in 2005.

So I came, and we played "Zanzibar." We got done, and it wasn't my best. I wasn't proud of what I played. It was okay. Billy looked at me and stopped. He got up off the piano, and he walked out. As he was walking out, he looked at me again and said, "Man, we sound like adults." I was saying to myself, "Oh man, I guess he hated it." Then he came back in and said, "Come on, let's do it again."

By that time his crew and band were giving me high-fives. I was like, "What?" And then Mark Rivera, Billy’s saxophonist, said to the monitor guy, "Hey, put Carl Fischer up in my monitor more. I really want to hear him better this time." What I found out later was that Billy equates “grown-up” music to jazz and classical, not pop. That was a really good compliment that we sounded like grown-ups. And so we did it two more times, and then we had lunch. I've been having lunch for fifteen years, and I eat good. [To hear Carl play with Billy on “Zanzibar,” click here.]

Man, Chuck and I talk about this all the time. I got to know Chuck in 2000, and we're coming on 2021 here. We both joke about having been playing Billy Joel's music for twenty years. We're both coming on fifteen years with Billy, and we had five years with Movin' Out. Crazy. We both pinch each other.

Man, playing in the Billy Joel Band . . .  not only are we all great friends, but it feels like such a great gel. I'm very humbled and honored to be a part of it.

Billy Joel (back) and Carl (forefront) (year unknown)

JC: As you are playing with Billy, one of the things I'm gonna ask about is the show at Shea Stadium.

CF: Shea was a definite time and moment and place, man. I think back on it now and a lot of people still think that it was just one show. It was two shows, which was very interesting and two different concerts totally. I remember even the rehearsing; we made the whole thing grander.

Billy wanted the band to sound bigger, so David Rosenthal, the keyboardist, had orchestrated strings and extra horns. I was so happy that Tommy Byrnes got our Movin’ Out boys back. John Scarpulla and Kevin Osborne came back on horn. Raul Agraz was playing Movin' Out on the traveling shows, also added as a horn. Pete Hewlett added background vocals as well as Kevin Osborne.

The rehearsals were fun, but I remember it was so freaking hot. I remember the vibe of the show when we actually had sound checks for the rehearsals for the guests artists of the day. I guess I had a Yankees hat on at rehearsal at Shea Stadium. I didn't have enough guts to wear it on the gig. Steven Tyler was coming in, and we were playing "Walk This Way," and he wanted horns on it. He came up to me, and I was sweating. He goes, "Hey, man, nice chops. I used to play trumpet when I was young." [Laughs]

I just remember crazy stuff like that. I don’t play on every song, and I have a big horn trunk at back of the stage there. I have a lot of my extra horns, and they're all in that case, and it's a very fragile case.

There was a guy during the show pacing back and forth that I’d never seen before. He had a Mets jersey on, and he was knocking into my horns, man. He almost knocked my horn case over, but he was just pacing. I said, "Excuse me, sir. Can I help you? Are you all right?"

I didn't put it together because we were at Shea Stadium and in the middle of the gig. The guy turned around—I didn’t put it together, but the back of his jersey said "Brooks." It was Garth Brooks. He turned around and looked at me and goes, "Man, Carl. Carl, I'm nervous." I said, "You're Garth Brooks." And he looked at me and said, "Yeah." I said, "You're nervous?" He goes, "Yeah, man. Billy Joel at Shea Stadium has got me nervous." I said, "Man, I know. You almost knocked my horns over." He goes, "Oh, I'm sorry.” I said, "No, I'm just busting you on it. I didn't know who you were." 'Cause Garth didn't make rehearsals. He just showed up.

And then of course the biggest surprise at Shea was having Paul McCartney come at the end of the last night for the last couple songs. We didn't know until the last, last minute. Having him come up was surreal because obviously he played Shea with the Beatles. So for him to close it . . . there were just a lot of great moments at Shea. I'll just leave it at that, a lot of great moments at Shea. [Laughs]

JC: You must have a lot of great moments with Billy at Madison Square Garden.

CF: Yeah, I could sit here for hours and just reminisce. There's so many great moments that have happened that Billy has brought in and brought people together. To me, that's a true sign of a great leader, and that's what I see in Wynton Marsalis. That's what I see in Maynard Ferguson. That's what I've seen in a lot of the people who I love working for, and Billy, he's number one, or if not, he's right up on top there.

Maynard and Billy, those guys know how to put things together. I mean, before a show, you hear, "Sting wants to come? Cool, have him come. Come on in." And it's just like that. Billy’s like, "All right, come on." A lot of the stuff at Billy’s show is very spontaneous, and that's jazz.

JC: One of the groups you got to play with while in Billy’s band was Blood, Sweat & Tears. That band is a combo of jazz and pop.

CF: Yes, sir. That was a fun gig. I got that gig as a lead trumpet player, which was a very demanding job. Again, I had to fill the shoes of the late, great Lew Soloff. Playing Blood’s discography of music is very challenging and fun because I think it was one of the first bands to gel jazz and rock together.

So not only was it great for me to join as the lead trumpet player, I left, and then they asked me back to join again, and not only that, but to be the music director of the band. So that was a very, very challenging and rewarding experience for me, and again I'm honored to be in that and was in that for a while. [To hear Blood Sweat & Tears’ cover of “Got to Get You In My Life” with American Idol Bo Bice on lead vocals, click here.]

Just last year I got a call from Blood, Sweat & Tears, and they asked me to be a special guest artist at a festival in Clearwater, Florida. I was a guest with Blood, Sweat & Tears because they were opening for Chicago, which is another great horn rock band.

Those two bands—Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears—and opening for Chicago, and being a guest artist and a music director for Blood, Sweat & Tears for three years prior, I said, "Man."

I really got to look at the situation. I grew up with this music. It's in my soul, and I just love sharing it with people, and I love that people enjoy it. I just like to keep the ball rolling. That band is still rolling along, and I spoke to the road manager tonight, actually.

JC: Really?

CF: Before I spoke to you, I spoke to the Blood, Sweat & Tears’ road manager. Every gig I leave I try to leave in the best possible way because the world is small, and we need friends not enemies.

JC: You also got to play with Diana Ross.

CF: Yeah, she was a trip. Diana Ross is definitely the queen diva, man. She is a wonderful, prepared artist, and her band is wonderful.

Gerry Brown has been with Diana Ross for years. He was Stevie Wonder's drummer for years. Wonderful band. Again, my boy John Scarpulla, another Long Islander,. John Scarpulla got me on that. And Ozzie Melendez, another great Long Island trombone player, a wonderful musician, writer, singer, and trombonist. Chris Karlic, who's a Brooklynite now. Well, not now, but he was a Brooklynite. Now he's back in Pennsylvania, I believe. The horn section was great.

What Diana Ross showed me, kind of like the Maynard school, is knock those gigs out and be consistent. It kind of reminded me of my Maynard days and of my circus days. Be consistent. Go out and do your show and do it consistently and have fun doing it, and we did. That was a wonderful experience. [To hear Carl solo with Diana Ross, please click here.]

Carl (center) behind Diana Ross (year unknown)

I got to do that for a little over two years. She was very cordial. I started subbing out because I never left Billy. It's just we weren't working much with Billy at the time. When Billy started working again, we actually started the Garden run, too, I remember.

I'll tell you a funny Diana Ross and Billy Joel story. Can I tell you this one? 

JC: Oh, sure.

CF: This one was really good. This is how the world is connected by six degrees of separation. I remember I had a very big decision to make. Billy just started up at the Garden, and Diana's tour was conflicting with Billy’s dates. I'm loyal to Billy, and Billy's been loyal to me. At that time, I was running with Billy eight or nine years, so I had a lot more time with Billy.

Anyway, long story short is we were at dinner with Ms. Ross, and she said at the table, "Oh, Carl, I heard you're leaving me to go back with Billy. What's that about?" You could hear a pin drop.

I said, "Ms. Ross, I'm very loyal, just like you are. Billy is family to me, and your band and crew has been family to me. I just have to pick the family I've been with longer. There's no ill will. I've subbed this gig out long enough. It's time for me to play it loyal."

She looked at me and goes, "Carl, I love you. I love Billy Joel. You can come and go as long as you want with me. If it's for Billy Joel, I don't care. I love Billy Joel."

And everybody's mouth dropped because we were expecting her to be not nice, and she was so charming and pleasant. My heart melted. I was like, "Thank you."

What was ironic was I was at the Garden playing upstairs in the arena with Billy Joel, and Ms. Diana Ross was downstairs playing in the theater below on the same night. Of course, I had to go downstairs and see my boys and girls and Diana Ross.

I think I made the right pick, although I do love Diana Ross and her entourage and the band. But I think I made the right pick with that one. Again, I've gotta shake my head because you can't make this stuff up. [Laughs]

At one time I was doing Diana Ross, Blood, Sweat & Tears, and Billy Joel for about—

JC: All three of them at the same time?

CF: Yeah, I was doing three, and that was for about six to eight months. Then I got this side of my gray hair, and then I was with only  Blood, Sweat & Tears and Billy Joel. The Blood, Sweat & Tears camp was great ’cause I could sub out and they understood. When I got the music director job with Blood, Sweat & Tears, it was getting a little harder for me to line up musicians and get music and get set lists remote.

That was when I got this other strip of gray hair. At that time, I had to step off. That was within the last six years. Basically the whole Madison Square Garden run, I would say between Blood, Sweat & Tears and Diana Ross, I juggled three of them, then I just juggled Blood and Billy.

When I got this other gray streak in my hair, I decided I was gonna doing more clinics and workshops, concentrating more on my new band projects that wouldn't take me far away and cause me more gray hair traveling. [Laughs]

JC: Let's talk about your new bands. One of your bands is Tribute to Evolutionary Trumpet Icons, and the other is the Nouveau Big Band.

CF: We had the Nouveau Big Band in New York for quite a number of years, and that was a fun band. We haven't played that band in a long time just because it's a bigger band. It tributes a lot of the obscure writings of jazz legends Jaco Pastorius and Maynard Ferguson. That band had residency in New York in Queens for a while. [To see the Nouveau Big Band cover Maynard Ferguson’s “Waltz for Nicole,” click here.]

Carl (left) with the Noveau Big Band (year unkown)

I moved down to Florida about six-and-a-half years ago. I put together this TËTI band, which stands for Tribute to Evolutionary Trumpet Icons. I just thought it was time to put my own spin on the jazz greats of trumpet icons who were not only unbelievable trumpet players but also brought a different spin to the music. We have some arrangements and recorded this record last year. We're mixing and editing and trying to get the record out sooner than later. So right now, the heritage in the record goes from Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and Maynard Ferguson is the way we feathered this first record. So keep an eye out for that. We're excited about that. [To watch a promo video for the TËTI band, click here.]

My man Stephen Wright, who's a wonderful producer, arranger, and manager, has helped me with this project. Before COVID hit, we started playing quite a bit. We had some nice festivals laid out for us. We had a couple gigs. Our last gig was in a beautiful theater in New Jersey. That was fun.

COVID kind of hit us hard with that band. Not only is TËTI a tribute, but it's also what Stephen brings to the table. It's a virtual and multimedia experience. There are screens behind the stage, and it has a lot of the footage that we talked about today with my learnings with Maynard and Wynton and gentlemen who brought a lot of things to the forefront.

It's a voyage, we'll just say that. TËTI is a voyage. I think once everybody can be together in a room, we can start the voyage up again.

In the interim, we've been staying busy doing small projects, and we just came out with Carl Fischer's Sunshine City Brass Band. It's basically me and a couple of other guys just tracking things remotely playing New Orleans backbeat funk. We’re having fun with that too. [To hear Sunshine City Brass Band take on “Down by the Riverside,”  click here.]

Promo for Sunshine City Brass (2020)

JC: I understand you’ve been doing virtual gigs every Tuesday night.

CF: Yeah, those are fun, man. I'm glad you're catching them. That's another thing with the pandemic. We've been doing that. We came on our twentieth week, our twentieth episode last week. Next week we have a guest, a wonderful trumpet player, Wayne Bergeron. [To see that episode with Wayne Bergeron, click here.]

Tuesday night episode with Wayne Bergeron(2020)

But we're lucky enough that we've had a lot of Billy band members. The two people from Billy’s band we're still gonna have on is Mike DelGuidice and Chuck Burgi. They're gonna hopefully be on more episodes. We're excited about that. That keeps our Tuesday nights popping.

We have a great time doing that, and we also try to bring in some different things, some different musicians, whether it be singers, songwriters, or trumpet players, or even some of my trumpet gurus and manufacturers that make my trumpet gear.

So we try to keep it educational but fun, and it's open for everybody. It's not just a trumpet hang. I learn more about the person probably than you guys. It's keeping Stephen and I sharp throughout this dark time. It's been a godsend, I'll be honest with you. I'm very, very happy to have that.

JC: It sounds like you've been constantly working. Even now with this pandemic, you're still managing to go. What would you say is the key that's kept you going all this time?

CF: That's a great question. I feel like I'm busier now than I've ever been for way less money and playing for way less people. But it doesn't matter because I think it's all about change. I really believe if we don't take advantage of the technology and try to bring people closer together—if we don't take advantage of that, it's a dead world, man.

The way I look at it and I think Stephen looks at it, is that the way we approach it is to try to work ourselves into a hole and see what works. We do what's passionate to us. I try to do the music the best justice I can, whether it be any type of music. I try to be true to the music and try to get it out to the masses however way possible.

If we have to give it away, we'll give it away. Going back a decade or even two decades ago, you had CDs to sell, but now for a stream you're getting $0.003 or whatever it is. I'd rather have the music produced right and out.

When the world comes back together, it's gonna be a different thing. I think people are really gonna want to come out and see live music and support live music. We've been very fortunate that we've had some donations, and people buy merchandise on our stream now to help support the stream for our software and servers.

So that's wonderful. But I think changing with the times, and just changing and rolling with the punches and being true to the music and being genuine, I hope that's gonna get us through. That's what's keeping us busy right now. Some days are hard, but most of the days we wake up and we're excited, man. I've been so excited talking to you, Jeff. You made me happy ’cause I get to tell you this whole story on me, and it reaffirms why I'm doing this. I appreciate it.

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