Interviews: Rosengarden Impressions



Interview with Bobby Rosengarden, Percussionist--February 10, 2000

Subject: What It Was Like to Work with Walter Wanderley

Interviewer: B.J. Major

(This interview was transcribed from a telephone recording tape.)

B.J.: Mr. Rosengarden, I'm trying to find out more about what Walter Wanderley was like to work with personally. Can you tell me about that?

B.R.: That I could tell you in very few words. He really didn't have a language problem. He spoke enough English (though it was broken, of course). He made his wants known very easily; if [the music] was too loud, too soft, etc., whatever it was--he was able to convey that to you. We always got along fine because I've always been a "Brazil nut" and have always been interested in Brazilian music. I previously worked with Luis Bonfa and did several albums with him; I was also one of the few in New York who had actually been to Brazil myself. Many years ago I took my children (who are now grown men with their own children) to Carnival, and it was the best experience of their lives! They still talk about it because they are both musicians (one plays trumpet and the other is a drummer). After we had that experience, Walter then came to the U.S. and I did a lot of work with him.

B.J.: I have all the albums that Walter recorded in the U.S., of which you are on several. But it's been hard to find someone to talk about what it was like to work with Walter personally.

B.R.: You know something? It's really very simple. You obviously have great regard for him; I do, too. My mother was a pianist, so we always had music around the house. I was doing a lot of commercial recording in New York right before I worked with Walter. Walter was a good guy. He was not mean, he was not petty. The only thing he took seriously was his music; it meant a great deal to him. He loved what he did, he knew how to do it. And that's all that mattered. He was generous; there was never an argument about time, about recording--I mean, if we needed another half an hour, we did it. I knew what he meant; it sounds oversimplified, but it's not. I cannot tell you, I learned SO much from him. He spoke English well enough to make jokes--which is very difficult! Portuguese is not an easy language. Also, I have a huge collection of early Brazilian music, going on back to the Carmen Miranda days.

(Some conversation then ensued with Bobby R. asking B.J. about her own background in music, etc.)

B.J.: How much rehearsal time did you have before you cut an album?

B.R.: What would happen is that there were not other jobs that we were working at that time, so we would just go into a recording studio, and since it was only a Trio (and because other instrumentation was dubbed in later, if needed) it was relatively simple to do and would not require that much rehearsal time.

(Some conversation then ensued about trying to find Walter's bassist Jose Marino for an interview on this site, and Bobby R. looked in Musician Union books for his address/phone number, but could find no listing for him...)

B.R.: I doubt that there is much I can add here, except to say that Walter was one of the nicer men. Walter was definitely happiest when he was playing; recording sessions were fun! We put them together with spit and chewing gum! I have relived a lot of those times over in my mind, they were very enjoyable.

B.J.: I know about the work that you've done yourself, with your television work and the other things--and I realize that you are a terrific musician in your own right. I don't want you to think that I am slighting your talents by only asking you questions about Walter...

B.R.: [Laughter] I don't need my ego stroked (my wife takes care of that). I was in the right place at the right time! I think it is a nice thing you are doing with the website.

B.J.: Thank you very much for your time and information and I will send you a printed copy of the website as you requested!


Interviewer's note: Any others who would like to contribute an interview to this site who have either worked with or know Bob Rosengarden personally, please contact the webmaster.

Tribute to Bobby Rosengarden

Interview with Glenn Zottola

Interviewer:  B.J. Major

This interview received in email June 5, 2006


Glenn Zottola is a professional trumpet player, recording
artist, and band leader in his own right who worked personally
with Bobby Rosengarden during his career.

Q. Glenn, can you tell the readers how you came to know Bobby Rosengarden initially and what were the circumstances
surrounding your first meeting?

A. Bobby and I were doing a gig with the Benny Goodman Sextet and it was quite a humorous thing. We were about to go on the air for a spot for the TV show 20/20 and Benny kept looking back at Bobby with a perplexed look on his face. Benny's quirks and lapses in memory are legendary amongst musicians. Finally, Benny says to Bobby "Didn't I fire you ?" and Bobby makes an instant comeback almost scolding Benny "yeah – but you hired me back!! " I thought to myself in relation to Bobby and with admiration "Wow, this guy has certainly got chutzpa"!!

Q. Did you have the opportunity to record with Bobby on any albums or singles over the years? If so, which ones?

A. Several times and we did some beautiful albums with George Masso and Maxine Sullivan.

Q. How closely did you work with Bobby and how well did you get to know him personally?

A. Extremely close and we were best of friends and he was a mentor for me and called me a "marketing genius" as I expanded our music business to over 300 gigs a year. We had tremendous respect for each others' musical abilities and playing - and in business we excelled together and never fought. We did 100s and 100s of gigs and had the greatest time together!!

Q. Do you have a favorite recording on which Bobby appears?  If so, what makes it your favorite?

A. To be honest, I was not up on his discography then but reading your tribute blew me away. Bobby used tell me stories about getting the gig with Belafonte on bongos but when I found out he worked on the Miles Davis/Gil Evans collaborations I was blown away.

Q. Do you have any humorous stories to tell our readers about the gigs you played with Bobby?

A. Just the one story above but Bobby had so many great one liners he was like the Don Rickles of Jazz and could get his
point across. Once one of the guys in the band was giving him a hard time and complaining and Bobby said "just shut up and play or I will hit you with my wallet". He was very loved as a bandleader and you always knew where you stood and he would always get the best out of a band.

Q. What would you like the readers to know most about Bobby – not only as a professional musician, but as a person? What
impressed you most about him?

A. His work ethic. When I met Bobby he was in very good financial shape from many years at the top of the golden era of the music business and studio in NY.   But he never rested on his laurels and would carry his own drums and set up the band and work as hard or harder than anyone.  He also had impeccable manners and class with the public and I really admired that (which is not the case with all musicians, unfortunately). He really carried himself extremely well and was a star.

Q. Is there anything else you would like to add about Bobby that has not been covered here?

A. Bobby is part of an era of the golden age of the NY studio musician who built what the music business was in a great city like NY. He was unusual as he came from a love of Jazz (Duke Ellington ) and he told me how when he heard Duke's band it changed his life. But he could do anything – swing the butt off a big band or small group, read anything, play Brazilian music and he even worked with Toscanini and the NBC symphony. No, this is an era that will be no more just like any other golden age and I am proud to have known him and played with him and been in business with him to get a piece of that history first hand!!

Thank you Glenn, for taking the time to share your experiences with us!

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