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Take Five With...

Take Five With Mike Mainieri

By Published: July 30, 2009
Meet Mike Mainieri: Primarily recognized as an award-winning jazz vibraphonist, Mike Mainieri's equally remarkable talents as producer, performer, arranger, and composer have contributed to shaping the cutting edge in music.



During '50s and early '60s, he performed with such legendary artists as Buddy Rich

Buddy Rich
Buddy Rich
1917 - 1987
drums
, Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
1915 - 1959
vocalist
, Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
1917 - 1993
trumpet
, Coleman Hawkins
Coleman Hawkins
Coleman Hawkins
1904 - 1969
sax, tenor
, and Wes Montgomery
Wes Montgomery
Wes Montgomery
1925 - 1968
guitar
. At the age of 20, he won Down Beat's International Jazz Critic's Award.

In 1962, he joined the ground breaking jazz/rock group Jeremy & the Satyrs led by flutist Jeremy Steig

Jeremy Steig
Jeremy Steig
b.1942
flute
. The Satyrs appeared at New York's Club A-GoGo, and performed with such monumental figures as Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa
1940 - 1993
guitar, electric
, Richie Havens and Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix
1942 - 1970
guitar, electric
. During the late '60s, this small circle of performers grew into what became known as the White Elephant Orchestra, a 20-piece, all-star, experimental ensemble. The group featured such soloists Michael Brecker
Michael Brecker
Michael Brecker
1949 - 2007
sax, tenor
, Ronny Cuber, Jon Faddis
Jon Faddis
Jon Faddis
b.1953
trumpet
, Lew Soloff
Lew Soloff
Lew Soloff
b.1944
trumpet
and Randy Brecker
Randy Brecker
Randy Brecker
b.1945
trumpet
.

In the late '70s, Mike founded the pioneering jazz/fusion group Steps Ahead, which included previous cohorts Michael Brecker, Eddie Gomez

Eddie Gomez
Eddie Gomez
b.1944
bass
, Steve Gadd
Steve Gadd
Steve Gadd
b.1945
drums
and Don Grolnick
Don Grolnick
Don Grolnick
1947 - 1996
piano
. Delving into contemporary sounds while maintaining experimental sounds and compositional integrity, Steps Ahead was and is a launching pad for young talent and new musical ideas.

Steps 'alumni' include appearances by such notable artists as:

Saxophonists: Michael Brecker, Bendik Hofseth, Rick Margitza

Rick Margitza
Rick Margitza
b.1961
sax, tenor
, Donny McCaslin
Donny McCaslin
Donny McCaslin
b.1966
saxophone
, Bob Mintzer
Bob Mintzer
Bob Mintzer
b.1953
saxophone
, Bob Berg
Bob Berg
Bob Berg
1951 - 2002
saxophone
, Bill Evans (saxophone)
Bill Evans (saxophone)
Bill Evans (saxophone)
b.1958
saxophone


Pianists: Don Grolnick
Don Grolnick
Don Grolnick
1947 - 1996
piano
, Warren Bernhardt
Warren Bernhardt
Warren Bernhardt
b.1938
piano
, Eliane Elias
Eliane Elias
Eliane Elias
b.1960
piano
, Kenny Kirkland
Kenny Kirkland
Kenny Kirkland
1955 - 1998
piano
, Rachel Z., George Whitty, Mitchel Forman
Mitchel Forman
Mitchel Forman
b.1956
piano
, Robbie Kilgore, Dave Kikoski, Joey Calderazzo
Joey Calderazzo
Joey Calderazzo
b.1965
piano
.

Guitarists: Mike Stern
Mike Stern
Mike Stern
b.1953
guitar
, Steve Khan
Steve Khan
Steve Khan
b.1947
guitar
, Chuck Loeb
Chuck Loeb
Chuck Loeb
b.1955
guitar
, Hiram Bullock
Hiram Bullock
Hiram Bullock
1955 - 2008
guitar, electric
, Dean Brown
Dean Brown
Dean Brown
b.1955
guitar
, Paul Jackson
Paul Jackson
Paul Jackson
b.1947
, Wayne Krantz
Wayne Krantz
Wayne Krantz
b.1956
guitar
, Jimi Tunnell.

Bassists: Eddie Gomez, Tom Kennedy
Tom Kennedy
Tom Kennedy
b.1960
bass
, Victor Bailey
Victor Bailey
Victor Bailey
b.1960
bass, electric
, Daryl Jones, Tony Levin
Tony Levin
Tony Levin
b.1940
bass, electric
, Jeff Andrews
Jeff Andrews
Jeff Andrews
b.1960
, James Genus
James Genus
James Genus
b.1966
bass
, Baron Browne, Richie Goods, Marc Johnson
Marc Johnson
Marc Johnson
b.1953
bass
, Ed Howard
Ed Howard
Ed Howard

bass
, Larry Grenadier, Scott Colley
Scott Colley
Scott Colley
b.1963
bass
, Richard Bona
Richard Bona
Richard Bona
b.1967
bass, electric
.

Drummers: Steve Gadd
Steve Gadd
Steve Gadd
b.1945
drums
, Peter Erskine
Peter Erskine
Peter Erskine
b.1954
drums
, Steve Smith
Steve Smith
Steve Smith
b.1954
drums
, Rodney Holmes, Billy Kilson
Billy Kilson
Billy Kilson
b.1962
drums
, Clarance Penn, Jeff "Tain" Watts
Jeff
Jeff "Tain" Watts
b.1960
drums
, Ben Perosky.

Vocalists: Dianne Reeves
Dianne Reeves
Dianne Reeves
b.1956
vocalist
, Bobby McFerrin
Bobby McFerrin
Bobby McFerrin
b.1950
vocalist
, Richard Bona.

Other noteworthy jazz collaborations have included recordings with Joe Henderson

Joe Henderson
Joe Henderson
1937 - 2001
sax, tenor
, Art Farmer
Art Farmer
Art Farmer
1928 - 1999
flugelhorn
, Dave Liebman
Dave Liebman
Dave Liebman
b.1946
saxophone
, Al Jarreau
Al Jarreau
Al Jarreau
b.1940
vocalist
, David Sanborn
David Sanborn
David Sanborn
b.1945
saxophone
, Marcus Miller
Marcus Miller
Marcus Miller
b.1959
bass, electric
, Joe Lovano
Joe Lovano
Joe Lovano
b.1952
saxophone
, Jim Hall
Jim Hall
Jim Hall
1930 - 2013
guitar
and Jane Monheit
Jane Monheit
Jane Monheit
b.1977
vocalist
. As a composer, arranger and performer, Mike has contributed to over 100 gold and platinum albums. An active participant in the rock and pop scenes, Mike produced and co-wrote three albums with Carly Simon, and recorded with Paul Simon, Linda Ronstadt, Aerosmith, Billy Joel, Janis Ian, James Taylor, Dire Straits, Bonnie Raitt, George Benson, and on Don McClean's classic album; American Pie (EMI, 1971).

In 1991, Mike brought to bear his vast experience with the creation of his own Jazz label NYC Records Inc. The independent label is a vehicle for exposing new and established artists such as vocalist Luciana Souza, pianist Rachel Z, alto saxophonist Myron Walden and legendary tenor saxophonist, George Garzone. Mike is still active touring worldwide with his group Steps Ahead, guesting in workshops and various recording projects.

Recently Mike reorganized a collective quintet which performed in the early '70s called L'Image, and features drummer Steve Gadd, bassist Tony Levin, keyboardist Warren Bernhardt, guitarist David Spinozza and Mike on vibes. Their latest CD and the NYC Records catalog can be found at: www.mikemainieri.com or www.nycrecords.com.

Instrument(s):

Vibraphone and marimba.

Teachers and/or influences?

Teachers: Lem Leach (vibraphone); Phil Kraus (mallets), Doug Allen and Ted Reed (drums); and Alfred Friese (timpani).

Influences: Red Norvo

Red Norvo
Red Norvo
1908 - 1999
vibraphone
, Lionel Hampton
Lionel Hampton
Lionel Hampton
1908 - 2002
vibraphone
, Milt Jackson
Milt Jackson
Milt Jackson
1923 - 1999
vibraphone
.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... As long as I can remember. I began playing professionally at the age of 14 in 1952 when I appeared with my jazz trio on the Paul Whiteman Teen Club TV & Radio show. I've been performing ever since.

Your sound and approach to music: I played acoustic vibes in the '40s, '50s and early '60s, until I began performing with the jazz/rock group Jeremy Steig and the Satyrs in the early '60s.

It was the first electric band I played with and frankly my acoustic vibes could not be heard above the roar of the band. Folk singer and guitarist Richie Havens was using a 'hot dot' pickup on his acoustic guitar and the idea struck me that it might be possible to glue a hot dot to every bar on the vibes at the nodal point which would amplify the vibes. After some experimentation, it worked and I was able to amplify the vibes through an amp, like an electric guitarist, and also employ various effects pedals.

In the '70s I, with the help of friends, invented the first midi pickup system. First, mono and then a later version were created which was polyphonic.

To this day I still use pickup systems to amplify the vibe. So my 'sound' varies. If the music of a recording or live performance requires an acoustic sound, then I only use 3 overhead mics (I play a Yamaha 3 1/2 vibe). But if it's a more electric setting then I use both overhead mics and my pickup system.

The advantage of using the DI from the vibes, is that I can send the feed from the vibes to the musicians monitors on stage, totally eliminating feedback which is a problem when using only mics. For the audience (or house sound) I use a combination of the overhead mics and the DI from the pickup system so that the vibes can just as loud as the el. guitarist or saxophonist.

Approach to music:

  1. Playing on someone's recording, whether it's instrumental music or vocal, is to be open in my approach to comping, playing fills or soloing;


  2. There is a huge difference in how I play on a Boz Scaggs or Paul Simon album than I would on a straight-ahead or fusion album. I can explain this in more detail in an interview.


Your teaching approach: I do some private teaching, although I'm involved in quite a few workshops when I tour. I do teach at my studio in NY to intermediate students and professional performing artists.

My approach varies accordingly. At clinics and workshops, I'll talk about my experiences as a performer, composer, arranger, producer and my record company, then devote some time to Q & A. Then I'll perform some solo pieces utilizing my interpretations of a standard or two and then work with a small ensemble or, in some cases, a big band.

In a masterclass I emphasize the importance of learning standards. Typically, young vibists will perform a Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
b.1933
saxophone
or Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
b.1940
piano
tune, which is cool. May I add that both artists are personal friends and I have a great respect for their work. But I get a better sense of a vibraphonist's harmonic and melodic depth by hearing them play "Lush Life" or "Body and Soul," etc...then we go to work!

Road story: Your best or worst experience: I guess one of my worst experiences was subbing for Buddy Rich
Buddy Rich
Buddy Rich
1917 - 1987
drums
on a long U.S. State Department tour in 1961. Buddy left the tour early and I played drums with the band for the remainder of the tour with one caveat, that we were introduced as the Buddy Rich band. We were one of the first jazz bands to play in Afghanistan, India, Nepal, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Viet Nam, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Iran.

Then a quite amusing incident occurred a few years ago when I finished a gig in Germany and was approached by a distinguished elderly gent from India who introduced himself and mentioned that he saw me perform in New Delhi, India in 1961. After complimenting me on the set we had just played he subtly added, "Yes, it was in Delhi that I saw you last, but I knew you were not Buddy Rich"!

Favorite venue:

Although the acoustics, bandstand and 'treatment' sucked. I'd have to say the old Birdland on 52nd St in NYC was my favorite place to play and hear music.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

I really don't have a favorite, but a few lemons I'd like to have not recorded.

The first Jazz album I bought was:

Red Norvo trio, Move, with Tal Farlow and Charles Mingus. Although I had several 78s. My favorite as a kid was Hampton's version of "Stardust," with the Just Jazz All Stars.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?

I'm 71 years old and still performing. I'd say that keeping the Steps Ahead band evolving for 30-plus years has been rewarding in that I've involved over 40 artists as the band evolved.

Recently I was instrumental in reuniting a collective group that performed in the early '70s called L'Image, when we all lived in Woodstock, NY.

The band is called L'Image and includes Steve Gadd, Tony Levin, Warren Bernhardt and David Spinozza. We've recorded a CD and will be touring Japan in early September, 2009, and an appearance at The Iridium Jazz Club in NYC from September 24-27.

Did you know...

It has been listed in most jazz magazines and references as being born on July 24th, 1938. In fact I was born on July 4th of that year.

CDs you are listening to now:

Steve Reich, Different Trains (Nonesuch);

The Hi-Lo's, And All That Jazz (Columbia);

Herbie Hancock, River: The Joni Letters (Verve);

Vic Juris, Blue Horizon (ZOHO);

Dee Carstensen, Patch Of Blue (NYC Records).

Desert Island picks:

Miles Davis, Kind Of Blue (Columbia);

John Coltrane, A Love Supreme (Impulse!);

Miles Davis, Birth Of The Cool (Capitol);

Lionel Hampton, "Just Jazz" Jam Session 1944 (Verve);

Keith Jarrett, Facing You or My Song (ECM).

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

There are more outstanding jazz artists today around the world than any time in the years I've been performing. That in itself proves that jazz is alive. On the other hand, there seems to be less clubs and concerts to perform and with the economic global economic downturn, it does not bode well for jazz. I'm hopeful that it will the downturn will be short-lived.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

Jazz needs to be introduced in early education in the US. Educators, instruments and private lessons must be provided to youngsters for jazz to thrive in the coming decades.

What is in the near future?

Upcoming releases.

L'Image, 2.0;

Mike Mainieri/Marnix Busstra, Twelve Pieces;

Mike Mainieri/Charlie Mariano Mike Mainiere/Charlie Mariano;

Mike Mainieri (solo vibraphone), Lush Life;

L'Image, Live At The Iridium DVD/CD.

By Day:

My label, NYC Records, keeps me pretty busy.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:

painter.



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Download jazz mp3 “Like Someone in Love” by Mike Mainieri Download jazz mp3 “The Brat” by L'Image (Mainieri/Bernhardt/Spinozza/Levin/Gadd)
  • The Brat
  • L'Image (Mainieri/Bernhardt/Spinozza/Levin/Gadd)
  • 2.0
Download jazz mp3 “Don't Break Step” by Mike Mainieri