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Vinnie Zummo / Blog

DUKE ELLINGTON

I saw Duke when I was a child. At The Steel Pier in Atlantic City. I was about 10 and I was standing right in front. His foot on the piano pedal was about a foot from my face. I could not take my eyes off of him during the whole set. He made a big fuss over me too. I guess cos he noticed how locked in I was to what they were doing. He'd look down throughout the set and wave and smile at me. There was a nice spirit to the man. I was amazed at his hair. It was kind of on the orange side (bad dye job) and heavily processed. Kind of a ducktail in the back. It was a galvanizing experience for me musically. I was already playing and music obsessed (the accordion) but that swinging band and that charismatic man..... WOW!!! Steel Pier was amazing.U would pay one fee and stay the whole day. One day I saw Stevie, The Supremes, The Association, AND The Diving Horse, all in the same day!

Meeting Les Paul

I was doing a guitar synth demo for Gibson guitars back in the late 80's. Les Paul and Tal Farlow were also there. Well I do my guitar synth demo as flashy as I could (Playing with taste was not always my first choice in the 80s!) In any event I finish playing and put the guitar down to hang out and schmooze. My contact at Gibson said "Do U want to meet Les?" I flipped and said yes immediately. He introduces me to Les and Les & I sit down over some beers to talk. I can't think of what to say so I blurt out: "So ...Do you think they'll ever get the guitar synth tracking problem together?" He looks at me and says: " So what if they do?" I'm now at a complete loss and can't think of anything to say. Seeing my confusion Les says "If I want to play a piano, I'll walk over to the piano and play the piano. If I want to hear a flute I'll hire a flute player!" I was a bit astonished that this techonological trailblazer would be so anti guitar synth but we continued to chat. There is a pause and he says: "Lay people! It's all about the lay people!" I said "Excuse me?" "He looks me over and says "I was once recording a song with my wife at the time Mary Ford. Ever hear of her?" At this point I'm flabbergasted! "Of COURSE I've heard of her! " I said. He continued: "Well I can't get the guitar amp to turn on. She says: Are you sure  it's plugged in Les? I got furious!! Of course I checked out if it's plugged in! I'm Les Paul! I'm an electronic  genius!  So I continue on checking fuses and anything else I can think of. Then I look in the back of the amp and sure enough. The amp was not plugged in! So remember. It's the lay people!" Cracked me up. He was a real character. Very similar to my Dad in temperment. I then asked if he would later autograph a poster of himself for my Dad. He said "Sure." The event continues for a few hours then the big moment comes Les and Tal Farlow are going to play. They sit down with two guitars and from the stage Les says "Vinnie, come on up. Play some bass for us." I was puzzled why he would ask me to play bass since he had heard me playing synth guitar and knew I could play some. Then I remembered what I had been told about him. He never ran the risk of being shown up on a stage! At his weekly gig, if a guest guitarist was getting off a particularly hot solo, it was routine to see him reach over and pull the plug out of the guy's guitar! So I went up to play some bass on a guitar. Of course he called a song from the year one that I had no chance of knowing. In any event I was still tickled to play with him and Tal even though it was not the way I had wanted to play with him. So the event is over and I'm packing up. I feel somebody tapping on my shoulder and it's Les. He says: "You forgot the poster for your Dad!" I was amazed that he remembered cos' I had forgotten. He was a great guy and very nice to me that day. I'd like to end up the story with a warm fuzzy resolution by saying my dad loved getting the poster but the reality is quite different.   When I told him what I had for him and handed him the poster he said "Why would I want this?" :-)

Versatility

I'm kind of known for being eclectic in my playing and writing so very often a question of this nature comes up. " What are your thoughts about versatility or your experience playing between rock to straight-ahead jazz?" Well...It would take hours to give a proper answer! Basically I have caught crap my whole life for being versatile and loving all kinds of music but U have to listen to your heart. Whatever U do though do it the best U possibly can. U want to play Jazz? Practice constantly. Wanna play Rock & Roll? Learn the vocabulary, various styles. Try not to overtly copy artists licks but do copy their INTENT. It's like when I go to play Beatle like guitar solo I don't copy licks but try to pretend I'm George Harrison and try to approach it as if I was him and working from the library of licks unique to his style. Unless u are quoting a solo line as an homage. I.In my song "John Lennon" I deliberately quoted or near quoted Beatle gtr lines. Good versatile playing is more like acting then imitating something musical. Success is easier if U concentrate on one style but I have always thought that if U do concentrate on one direction, everything else U learn in various styles can only add to the one style that U really want to do. U can never learn too much stuff in music. Just my take on it.

GEORGE HARRISON AND ME

When I was very young my sister worked for ABCKO in NYC. ABCKO managed John, George, & Ringo and all things Apple that did not pertain to McCartney. There were a lot of percs with her job. She would pretty much come home everyday and throw a stack of new LPs to me, all kinds of Apple paraphenilia. T shirts etc... Wish I had saved it all! One of the best things was access to events. The Bangladesh Concert for one.I was in the 13th row and it was great! Well one night went with my sister to the premier of a new Apple movie called "Blind Man" featuring Ringo in a supporting role. As U may have gathered it was not exactly "Gone With The Wind". In any event there was a brief intermission 1/2 way through and that being the late 90's I went out to the lobby for a ciggie. I sit down and I'm flicking my cigarette ashes in the ashtray. About 4 inches away, sharing the ashtray was another hand with a cigarette.I look up and it's George! About 5 or 6 inches from my face dressed pretty similar to the Abbey Road cover. Direct eye to eye contact. I immediately freak out and my mouth is hanging open. I can't speak, can't do anything. At this point I notice the look in his eyes has changed from "Hmm...I wonder who this long hair is? Maybe an interesting character, a musician?? (Musos have a way of sniffing each other out!)" To "Oh no! Not again." He had a look that reflected that this type of thing happens a lot to him. I'm still pretty much frozen and he says to me in the gentelest, most accomodating voice."Can I help you with something? Can I make this easier for you? What can I do?" With all the thousands of things welling up in me that I wanted to say like: "Thanx 4 the music!" "I play the guitar and write music because of the Beatles", "I play really good and would like you to hear me" etc....All these thoughts welling up and I can't manage a sound much less even close my mouth. At this point I am totally embarassed so all i can manage to do is scramble to my feet and run away. In the process I slam face first right into Leon Russell!!! This was all too much for me and I found my sister and told her I had to leave. The thing that struck me was how wonderful George was. How soft spoken and genuinely concerned he was. Not to mention the world weariness look on his face. He looked like a man had been photographed too many times, been to too many of these openings, seen too many kids stare at him with their mouth's frozen open... the whole thing..Right there on his face. At least that was my take on it. A very spiritual vibe to him. So my big chance to talk to a Beatle and I blew it but in retrospect I think my experience was a great one as I got to see the measure of the man. A great, caring guy. There are many other famous musicians who would not be half as nice in the situation

Duke Ellington and Me

I saw Duke when I was a child. At The Steel Pier in Atlantic City. I was about 10 and I was standing right in front. His foot on the piano pedal was about a foot from my face. I could not take my eyes off of him during the whole set. He made a big fuss over me too. I guess cos he noticed how locked in I was to what they were doing. He'd look down throughout the set and wave and smile at me. There was a nice spirit to the man. I was amazed at his hair. It was kind of on the orange side (bad dye job) and heavily processed. Kind of a ducktail in the back. It was a galvanizing experience for me musically. I was already playing and music obsessed (the accordion) but that swinging band and that charismatic man..... WOW!!! The Steel Pier was amazing.U would pay one fee and stay the whole day. One day I saw Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, The Association, AND The Diving Horse, all in the same day!

My Process

I just do what I do. I don't wanna know why I do it or make it have any importance or think about it at all. I just write & practice as a compulsion. I have a different take on making music. For example: I don't know how important music is in the scheme of things . It's just important to me. I'm obsessed with it and if someone likes what I've recorded I'm thrilled. I just can't think in terms of "making art" that kind of phrase. But hey...if it works for U why not? I find that my creative process only works 4 me if I don't attach much importance to what I'm doing. That works best for me. I just do what I'm thinking and sort it out later. I'm also incapable of writing a song with an instrument in my hands.I can only think of something and write it down. If I'm writing a song and I pick up my guitar, it stops. I start playing what I know. It only works for me if it';s only in my head till I record it. Talking to other musos most think it's a strange process and can't relate to it. I'd just like to see people keep an open mind towards the creative process. Try different ways of doing it.

Quotes regarding "Swinging Guitar Sounds of Young America" Vol 2

Some quotes regarding my new album "Swinging Guitar Sounds of Young America" Vol 2 "A cool minty fresh zephyr wafted through my CD player when Vinnie Zummo's CD started to spin. It turned into a blue sky spring day and in my backyard it sounded like The Ventures meet Steinberger at a party that Chet was throwing for the Beatles. A very nice CD, congrats!" Steve Vai

"There's something sort of touching about how many songs are obvious tributes to specific people . . . and also how there is no obvious connection between them (Earth Wind and Fire and Les Paul?!)  In the end it kind of makes me chuckle. It comes across very much as a musician doing something from the heart rather than thinking like an A&R man.  And of course there's great playing." Joe Jackson

"I loved playing on Vinnie's new recording. He is a super talent....not only as a multi dimensionally talented guitarist but he's a fine drummer that swings hard! Check out Vinnie Zummo!" Mark Egan, jazz bass phenom "Vinnie Zummo is one of the most talented musicians I know. The broad range of styles and incredible musicianship on this record is mind blowing... An amazing record by an amazing musician." Shawn Pelton, groove doctor and long time SNL drummer. Shawn plays on my song "Homicidal". "I can appreciate all the stylistic detail in the playing and the production. I like how you are mixing the elements of all of those things to express where you came from as a player." Dweezil Zappa

"Zuum- Zuum- Zummo- Just one of my favorite guitarists on the planet, that's all folks!" Mike Mainieri "You did an amazing job all around, great song writing, arranging and producing. You make it look easy although we all know it's not. We're proud to be a part of it." The Alessi Brothers. "Vinnie, The CD is wonderful, thanks so much for having me as a guest soloist, so much to comment on. Love "Brian's Room", and so much more, wow! You've covered so many styles here, it's a treat." John Lee Sanders, blues giant "It's great. Great stuff!" Billy Hinsche, member of the Beach Boys

Captain Beefheart's 10 commandments of guitar playing.

Captain Beefheart's 10 commandments of guitar playing. Can't say that I agree but it's food 4 thought! 1. Listen to the birds That’s where all the music comes from. Birds know everything about how it should sound and where that sound should come from. And watch hummingbirds. They fly really fast, but a lot of times they aren’t going anywhere. 2. Your guitar is not really a guitar Your guitar is a divining rod. Use it to find spirits in the other world and bring them over. A guitar is also a fishing rod. If you’re good, you’ll land a big one. 3. Practice in front of a bush Wait until the moon is out, then go outside, eat a multi-grained bread and play your guitar to a bush. If the bush doesn’t shake, eat another piece of bread. 4. Walk with the devil Old Delta blues players referred to guitar amplifiers as the “devil box.” And they were right. You have to be an equal opportunity employer in terms of who you’re brining over from the other side. Electricity attracts devils and demons. Other instruments attract other spirits. An acoustic guitar attracts Casper. A mandolin attracts Wendy. But an electric guitar attracts Beelzebub. 5. If you’re guilty of thinking, you’re out If your brain is part of the process, you’re missing it. You should play like a drowning man, struggling to reach shore. If you can trap that feeling, then you have something that is fur bearing. 6. Never point your guitar at anyone Your instrument has more clout than lightning. Just hit a big chord then run outside to hear it. But make sure you are not standing in an open field. 7. Always carry a church key That’s your key-man clause. Like One String Sam. He’s one. He was a Detroit street musician who played in the fifties on a homemade instrument. His song “I Need a Hundred Dollars” is warm pie. Another key to the church is Hubert Sumlin, Howlin’ Wolf’s guitar player. He just stands there like the Statue of Liberty — making you want to look up her dress the whole time to see how he’s doing it. 8. Don’t wipe the sweat off your instrument You need that stink on there. Then you have to get that stink onto your music. 9. Keep your guitar in a dark place When you’re not playing your guitar, cover it and keep it in a dark place. If you don’t play your guitar for more than a day, be sure you put a saucer of water in with it. 10. You gotta have a hood for your engine Keep that hat on. A hat is a pressure cooker. If you have a roof on your house, the hot air can’t escape. Even a lima bean has to have a piece of wet paper around it to make it grow.

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