Rick Petrone Interview
Rick Petrone Interview
- December 2005
Rick Petrone played
bass during what is considered by some to be Maynard's most popular and
creative period...the early and mid 1970s. Those that saw Rick play as
part of Maynard's band in concert undoubtedly remember his extended solo
on La Fiesta. Since leaving Maynard's band, Rick has had a successful
and creative career. With the current release of Maynard's "At
The Top" DVD (which features Rick) as well as a new CD featuring
Rick (see below for details), it seemed like a good time to talk to Rick
and catch up.
- Let's start
with your musical background. Can you tell us about your musical education?
I began as a violinist (horrible) moved to acoustic bass at 10,
started playing gigs at 11 (no lie). Did the usual H.S. things in music.
I was basically self taught until I went to Berklee 1964-69 and roomed
with guitarist John Abercrombie, who was a friend from my hometown in
Greenwich, CT. There I was one of 5 bass players (over 100 these days).
I also met Lin Biviano and played in his Maynard band at Berklee. This
band met every Saturday and little did I know where it would lead.
In 1968 I was fortunate to study and play with trombonist Phil Wilson
who recommended me for Buddy Rich's band. The band needed a fill-in
for a few months while bassist Bob Magnusson dealt with some Viet Nam
war problems. I stayed on for about 6 months and had blast. Buddy and
I actually became friends and I saw him many times when I was on the
MF band and we played on the same bill. I went back to school, graduated
with a BA in Music and went on the road with the Glenn Miller band &
then the Tommy Dorsey Band, both ghost bands by that time of course
I had also gone to Berklee with old friend Joe Corsello from Stamford,
CT. He recommended me to Marian Mac Partland and I joined and stayed
with her for 1970 & early '71. With her I got to play with Chuck
Mangione, Sarah Vaughan, Jackie & Roy, drummer Mickey Roker, pianist
Duke Jordan and Ralph Towner (when they filled in for her).
- Who were your
My first teacher
was Ken Barry, my father, who played guitar and sang and guitarist John
Abercrombie who I knew in H.S. and roomed with at Berklee.
My first bass influence was Ray Brown then Paul Chambers, Scott LoFaro
Eddie Gomez and Stanley Clark. Today, Michael Moore, Gary Peacock, Linc
Milliman. Actually, there are dozens, I listen to so much great music.
- What are some
of your favorite albums or artists?
Henderson-Mode For Joe, any Bill Evans Trio w/Scott or Eddie Keith
Jarret Trio. I love Carmen
McRae's singing (she opened for us (MF) at Wolf Trap and I got a
chance to interview her years later -see below). Each week I have a
new favorite it seems there are so many great players!
- Before joining
the band, were you a fan of Maynard's music?
As a matter of fact, Joe & I were in Raleigh N.C. w/ Marian and
we were in a record (I said record) store listening to the then NEW
MF Horn 3 with McArthur Park and I said to Joe if I ever get a chance
to play with that band it will be tremendous! And I had already been
into the older stuff because Linc Milliman was on some of the early
- When did you
join Maynard's band, and how long were you on the band?
This is a great story! In early 1971, I was passing some down time from
Marian working with another pianist who asked if I could go to Cincinnati
with him as he auditioned during a college festival. These were done
where dozens of bands played for college buyers who would buy the bands
for future concerts at their colleges. It was 3 days long and I had
to drive from CT to get there for a room and no bread. Why did I do
it? Because some of the other acts were Horace Silver, Cannonball Adderley,
Earth, Wind & Fire and Maynard, who I had just seen in CT.
Lin Biviano was on the band then and asked for my number because Joel
De Bartolo was thinking of leaving to join Doc Severinsen when the 'Tonight'
show band moved to L.A. I never thought he would call but he did just
a few weeks later. I called Joe Corsello & told him Lin had called
(he roomed with Lin at Berklee) and said I didn't know if I was going
(I had a new daughter, etc). He screamed "are you nuts, you said
you would give anything to join that band" So I did! (you can't
make this up) It was in 1971 and I stayed until 1973 and recorded 'Live
at Jimmy's" & "Chameleon",
traveled over a million bus miles, 3 countries, dozens of TV shows (one
is now The
'At The Top' DVD) and had the best musical experience of my life.
- What was the
first recording like?
Another good story!
We were told at one of the first rehearsals for the tour that we would
be recording "Live at Jimmy's" during our week engagement
at the club in NYC (no longer there) But.. We'd be running up and down
I-95 between NY & DC to do it. Sort of like this - Play the gig,
rest a while - get on the bus drive to Philly do a clinic - get on the
bus back to NYC do the gig - rest a few hours, get on the bus drive
to DC do the Mike Douglas show get on the bus drive back to the gig,
etc AND be on so that we might get a good take to record. Well, the
real deal was that Maynard had just had oral surgery and could hardly
play & most of his stuff was done later. In the mean time we had
guests front the band all week like Billy Watrous, Clark Terry and others.
And I had just joined the band as a 26 yr old wide eyed kid. Check the
personnel and you'll see the guys who helped me along. Besides Lin &
Bruce Johnstone I owe my MF life to Randy Jones & the late Pete
Jackson who got me through the early tough times. Oh, here's an aside
I've hardly ever told anyone but if there's a place to tell it this
We had all our songs picked out for the recording, of course, and we
were all set to play them over & over, night after night to get
them down. Well one night Maynard calls Jeff Steinberg's 'Nice &
Juicy" One. Two One, Two Three and we're in. No one told me -or
I missed it - and if you listen closely to the beginning there is NO
BASS as I was frantically looking for the music - of course that was
the take they used and now everyone knows the truth - I'm still laughing
about it & so is Maynard.
- How was playing
on Maynard's band different from other gigs?
M.F. was and probably still is, the most considerate, caring, listening,
musical and musically entertaining person I've ever worked with bar
none. It was he who gave me the solos I had and worked with me to make
them feature pieces with the band, like La Fiesta. Everybody solos on
Maynard's band if you can & want and we, I, just loved it. We felt
like a team, played like a team and had a BALL!
At the end of the first tour (7 weeks long) I went up to Maynard and
said if it was okay I'd like to be back. He looked at me, smiled and
said I was hoping you weren't going anywhere, why would I hire anyone
That's when I knew I had made it and he was someone I'd really have
a ball with.
- You were featured
on one of Maynard's most popular and respected albums, Chameleon. Do
you have any special recollections about that recording?
Sure do, It was one
of the first times Columbia Records recorded a band in one room. We
were all in a big circle with only some dividers around Dan D'Imperio's
and I think we did everything in one take, maybe two. I was excited
to record my solo on La Fiesta, equally disappointed when it was cut
(and extremely thankful for the DVD). We were a little put off recording
Livin for the City and Jet being a true Be-Bop band of course, and very
amused at Maynard's singing of 'I Can't Get Started' with Flo's added
lyrics. It was the first recording of Maynard's Holton Superbone (meets
the BadMan). Oh, and we were all surprised to see guitarist Joe Beck
on the final product. I've worked with Joe since then and we do have
a laugh about that. Joe did it all in an overdub session weeks after
we recorded and, at the time, none of us had ever met him!
We were still excited to have our second record out and a few months
later at the Wichita Jazz Festival we got to play 'Chameleon' with special
guest Herbie Hancock on piano - what a kick for all of us and especially
ME! See Danny D's new liner notes for more Chameleon info.
- Do you have
a favorite story from playing with the band?
There are tons of them.
Maybe the one night we were traveling hundreds of miles to some gig
and stopped to get gas and all of a sudden we started a soccer game
in a field. I realized that here, completely without thought, ego, or
fear was the entire Maynard Ferguson band with Maynard (who always rode
the bus by the way) roadies, AND bus driver Bernie the Bolt playing
soccer somewhere off the highway in somewhere USA. WHO else would do
that Buddy? Woody? Basie? Duke? I doubt it :)
Or maybe it was when we were at Disneyland in California. I was really
excited to be there. I had been at opening week in 1955 and here, 16
years later, I was playing there with family and friends hangin' out.
It was my job to sell the records after the show - Sorry Ed Sargent
I had the job first :) - Anyway here I was doing my job after the show
signing autographs, selling albums and pictures and here come the cops!
Trying to arrest me for soliciting goods on private property.
Somehow I got out of being arrested but I was sure embarrassed.
Believe me my visions of Mickey Mouse went down the tubes that night
and the band ribbed me for weeks. I guess that's one Ed's happy he missed.
Or maybe the time we were in Ithaca and I hadn't seen my daughter in
a while & my wife took her to see us for her 4th birthday. Not only
did he bring her on stage to play (hold) a tambourine during Hey Jude
but he had a birthday party for her and gave her her very first watch
- which she still has 30 years later!
Or maybe I could go all night with this :)
- How would you
describe Maynard's bandleading style?
All for one &
one for All. He never missed a beat and never let us look wrong after
a mistake. He gave us every opportunity to succeed and when we did he
was the happiest. What more could you want? If you watch the video you
can see him in action and it's great. Even my students who see it today
say it would have been fun playing for him (except those red shirts,
which still beat the Japanese kimonos by a long shot).
- As a Bass
Player did you find it difficult to reach Maynard's audience?
You mean because
I didn't play trumpet?
Absolutely not. He made it easy by featuring me Every night once
on electric and once on Acoustic. He had nick names for us and stories
before each introduction. Pete & I were his interview mates on a
few occasions and would find ourselves in a radio station answering
questions with him so the audience knew us and loved us. Even in Japan
they knew us before we got there and actually had a red carpet from
the plane to the first press conference. (I was 'Chicken-San" in
Japan because I didn't like sushi) .
- You played
with the "alumni band" at Maynard's 75th birthday bash in
Boston. What can you tell me about that experience?
Well I met you and
that was cool!
I couldn't believe how much fun that was. We were 26 again for a few
hours and I almost wanted to get on the bus again, and what a bus not
the old cow herder we had.
Seeing Stan Mark & Lin and meeting some of the guys I never played
with was unbelievable. Nice to know the fans remembered us and it was
great to see Maynard loving every minute of it. My wife finally got
to see what I was talking about all these years and understood what
being a part of that really was like -sort of- you'd have to be one
of us to really get it!
- When did you
leave the band and why?
It was after we got BattleStar Gallactica & The Theme From Tommy
that some of old jazzers decided we'd been around enough. It wasn't
Maynard but the business of the business that did that and we knew it,
all 6 of us that left. Bruce Johnstone, Bob Summers, Pete Jackson, Randy
Jones & I tried to start a quintet that really didn't materialize.
But then Bruce, Joe Corsello & I got together with Lew Soloff &
John Scofield for the first incarnation of 'New York Mary' this group
later recorded 3 albums for Arista records and featured Bruce, Joe &
I and for a time Alan Zavod on keyboards & Donald Hahn on Trumpet.
Oh, by the way for our 1st big gig at Baker's Keyboard Lounge in Detroit
it was Maynard, after we'd left him, who pulled the bus up with all
the band to catch us in concert - WHO'D Do That?.
- What did you
take away from the band, experience-wise, etc?
Music is fun and if you didn't learn that from Maynard you learned nothing.
You also learned to bring your 'A' game every night because EVERYTHING
counts and you never know who's out there. Never be intimidated by other
players, just play your thing and it will work out. Have a good time
'cause this time's the only time. Remember where you came from. All
these things were never really talked about or preached they were set
by example. Because of my MF experience I got some great endorsements
from amplifier companies, got a custom bass guitar or two, got a chance
to play with great players and to this day have people come up and say
they saw me when.
- What have you
been doing (and who have you been playing with) since you left Maynard's
It's been a while
but I'll try and make it short (er than it should be).
After New York Mary (3 years) my family was getting bigger, 2 daughters.
I decided to take a musical playing break and began a 17 year radio
career as a jazz disc jockey. (Remember the interviews with MF &
Pete? they stuck) Anyway, in a nutshell I went from a 2 hr show on Sunday
Morning on AM radio to a 24 hour jazz station, using all my own records
for a while, to program director, operations manager, on air every day
to General Manager. Built a house, put the kids through college. The
eldest is married and now I have 3 granddaughters. Still live in Greenwich,
CT. (A couple of times I actually interviewed Maynard for the station
and talk about a fun time with some fun questions)
Oh the music, well that came too. While doing all that I played with
Chet Baker, Mel Torme, Thad Jones & Mel Lewis Big Band. Recorded
with Marlene Ver Planck with Mel Lewis on Drums. Played tons of gigs
with great players like Phil Woods, Nick Brignola, Arnie Lawrence, Clark
Terry, Dave Brubeck, Don Friedman, Dave Stryker, Jon Hart, Joe Beck.
Recorded with Houston Person, Joyce DiCamillo, Giacomo Gates and now
Richie Hart Trio,
where we've done 3 CD's.
I had met Richie years ago before Maynard in Nyack, NY when we were
both in a big band that included Bill Watrous, Danny Stiles, Joe Romano,
Andy Fusco, Gary Smulyan, Glen Drewes, Neil Slater. Then we went separate
ways for years. Got together on a gig by surprise and started thinking
about taking it further. Got Joe Corsello to play drums and now have
been together for 3 years. We did one CD ourselves then 'Blues In The
Alley' and Greasy Street for Zoho Music.
- I see that
you have a new CD with Richie Hart entitled Greasy
Street. What can you tell me about that recording? Where can we
This CD is just out since October and as I write this it's number #20
on the national air-play charts. It features Richie, Joe & me along
with with Dr. Lonnie Smith, organ, Jerry Weldon (Harry Connick) on sax,
Clifton Anderson (Sonny Rollins) trombone, Pete Levin (Gil Evans) keyboards.
'Greasy Street' was written for NYMary by me & Joe who gave it a
New Orleans second line feel for this newer version.
It's available on Amazon.com,
CD Baby, Tower Records, Borders Books.
- What else keeps
you busy these days?
Besides Richie Hart Trio, Joe & I have been working with guitarist
Gene Bertoncini and vocalist Giacomo Gates.
We have co-founded a music program for kids in Stamford where we coach
jazz combos thru the year and host a 2 week summer jazz camp.
I have a few private students in my home weekly and still travel when
we have to. I do most of the adjudicating for the Connecticut regional
and All State jazz bass chairs and have consulted them about materials
and requirements for those auditions. I spend a lot of time participating
in rhythm section clinics with Joe & Richie thoughout New England
& I'm working on a bass & drums technique method with Joe Corsello.
The Richie Hart trio will be doing a 'Wes Montgomery' clinic at this
year's IAJE in NYCity. It's our 2nd appearance there. I still average
over 150 gigs a year and keep as busy as possible.
If anyone is interested in reaching me just e-mail me at SummerJazz2005
and I'll be happy to e-mail back.
I want to thank Rick
for taking time to answer my questions.