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Paul Cacia Interview - August 2003

I've often found that Maynard fans are fans of many other trumpet players. For most of us, Paul Cacia is on that list. His range, technique, expressiveness, and powerful sound on the trumpet are thrilling. Mr. Cacia has been a friend to this site, offering up some rare memorabilia, and when I asked him if he wouldn't mind answering a few questions for this page he generously accepted.

  1. Let's start with your musical background. Can you tell us about your musical education?

    At the age of ten, after three years of serious piano and trumpet studies at St. Catherine's Military Academy with the Dominican Nuns, I was accepted as the youngest of protégés to the great Claude Gordon, and studied with him for 7 years. Claude often asked me to accompany him in many of his "live" clinics to play and perform. I owe my career and early prowess to this beloved man. I had a double C by the age of 13 and was tutored in the stoic and disciplinary fashion of his teacher, Herbert L. Clarke. Claude at that time would perform along with me during many of my exercises his presence was so powerful as he had only retired professionally a few years earlier. He approached my trumpet studies as if he were preparing me in the same manner to become a world-class concert pianist, like his son Steven Gordon, the world champion of the Tchaikovsky competition in Russia. I spent my summers at Big Bear Lake and studied at his home, the balance of the year traveling an hour and half each way to Woodland Hills every Tuesday night. My lesson was from 11 PM to Midnight.

    Claude had played many early cylinder recordings of the great cornet soloists such as Bohumir Kryl who possessed high G's, double pedal C's, circular breathing as well as masterful phrasing and double and triple tonguing at the turn of the last century. Might I add, all played on an oval shaped, hand-carved wooden mouthpiece, performed on cornet.

    I studied and worked, at length, with "Cat" Anderson and John Madrid. I also took a few lessons from Bud Brisbois, Glenn Stuart, Jimmy Stamp, Don Fehrer and John Audino.

    I was also privileged to have attended many "live" clinics with many remarkable players at a time when they were serious in their thoughts and formation of clear and concise answers. This would include artists such as, Maurice Andre, Adolph Herseth, Maynard Ferguson, Bud Brisbois, and Carmine Caruso.

  2. Based on your style of trumpet playing, one might assume that Maynard's music was influential to your style. Is this assumption correct, and what other musicians have been inspirations for you?

    There is no question that Maynard was among my pivotal early influences, however I would like to make the distinction that I emulated him as a young pupil and did not mimic him. The difference is as significant as the difference between a compliment and an insult. As you progress in your musical stature and prowess, ultimately your search is for a valid voice all your own, as well as a musical genre and quality that is unique enough to set yourself apart in such a way that pays tribute without down right copying. This is no easy task when you take into account that I consider him the father of the modern trumpet. Within recent history for those of you old enough to remember just prior to Maynard, Harry James had such an effect. I am speaking in terms of the overall general public, completely excluding all the other great, significant, exponential contributors to the early, middle and post contributors of the jazz age. I set for an example the Jimmy Dorsey recording of the "Rhapsody In Blue" where even Maynard himself emulated a "James" style vibrato, although an octave higher.

    I only heard and met Gozzo once his concept is the archetype as a lead player. John Madrid who studied with Goz was able to share much of his style and secrets, as we roomed together for almost a year on the road. Players I had the privilege of sitting next to and working with were Pete Candoli, Zeke Zarchy, Shorty Sherock, Ray Linn, Buddy Childers, and my personal favorite Al Porcino. These experiences are burned into my consciousness, their phrasing, taste and style. As far as I'm concerned they wrote the book on lead playing, they made it an art form. As far as inspiration, I must also include Al Hirt and Doc Severinsen.

  3. You are known for your amazing range on the trumpet. Who blows your mind in terms of range?

    Fortunate to have grown up on the West Coast, my first thoughts are of the first time I heard "Cat" Anderson live with the Charlie Barnet and Duke Ellington Bands playing "Birth of the Blues", Bud Brisbois, performing "Jesus Christ Superstar", as well as his work with his own band, Louis Valizon with Tommy Vig's orchestra, and to say the least, the great John Madrid, I also loved Bill Chase's lead work on Woody Herman's band as well as his solo albums. I am by design excluding those prior to the 1960's and post 1980's for a specific reason. The players I've mentioned above, Cat, Bud, and Madrid had registers well into the triple C range at any time during a performance they only used it, if it was appropriate. It might be the last note of the night, but only if asked upon by the leader, consistent with the choice of material and most important if they had the lead part, or the first trumpet player, conceded to the leaders intentions. They took care of business first when they played lead and used their upper register tastefully. I must also say I've heard Doc nail an Eb above double C live. I've heard Maynard play triple C's live and for sheer excitement, sound and sizzle Maynard is remarkable!

  4. When did you decide to play trumpet for a living? And how did you break into the business?

    There was never any doubt I was to make my career as a professional. I have always felt a predisposition that I was to be a trumpet player. I first left on the road at age 16, playing parts written originally for Gozzo, I subbed for "Sweets" Edison on the Louie Bellson Big Band, then Bob Hope, Cat Anderson's Orchestra, subbed on the Don Ellis Orchestra, the Stan Kenton Collegiate Neophonic with Stan's consent and recorded my first major label duet with Stevie Wonder by 17. I was mentored, subbing in rehearsals and then sent in on gigs for John Madrid, Bud Brisbois, John Audino, and even Cat Anderson. Claude Gordon, Stan Kenton and especially Louie Bellson were influential in getting me started. I opened for "Chicago" at age 21 with my own band and first solo album release. However, to answer your question, I remember vividly seeing Al Hirt live in 1968, and decided that was it. It was ten years later, I was playing lead trumpet for Ray Anthony when "Jumbo" called from New Orleans and said he was forming his own big band. Before I could even say a word he told me he'd pay me triple what Ray was plus all expenses to play lead trumpet for him, needless to say I left for New Orleans as requested. The book was by Billy May and Sammy Nestico, it was a dream come true. Al Hirt did things on the trumpet that were not on the horn, he was a true giant, and avoided the Dixieland repertoire, we played all straight ahead charts, it was a great time. Al Hirt and I had a great relationship it was a true privilege.

  5. Let's discuss commercialism and the music industry. Is it frustrating for you as an artist (that has obviously put in countless hours of practice and effort) to see N Sync sell over 1,000,000 albums in their first week of release when jazz artists go largely unrecognized by the record-buying public?

    I signed my first recording contract at the age of 21 with worldwide distribution and promotion, opening for "Chicago" before 60,000 people. Prior to that I had toured and recorded with Jimi Hendrix's drummer with the Buddy Miles Express for three and a half years with crowds ranging from 15,000 to 100,000 per night. I worked with, or toured on the same bill with almost every major pop and rock act of the mid to late seventies and to say the least I was near exhaustion and burnt out. I carried my own production company and contracting service, later turning to carrying and recording a full big band as an artist/producer. I was also married at the time with three children. I was also privileged to have worked and known most of the greatest stars of the last century, my managers, agents, lawyers and public relations people handled the greatest stars of the era which opened many doors. I became the personal manager to many legendary entertainers and slowly began accepting only guest solo work more with my own orchestra or as a soloist or lead player in the studios. My only regret is that I couldn't maintain the volume of work for so many great musicians who worked for me at the time, as a contractor. With the release of my 10th album, I hope to be able to introduce new talent in the future, on tour in concert and recordings. You must bear in mind I carry a staff of four people full time at www.paulcacia.com, plus my team of lawyers and with receiving 10s of thousands of hits yearly plus correspondence; no, I've lived that, you can have being a pop star, and being told what to record. Fame is a double-edged sword. But it does bother me to see so many deserving great new players unable to be recorded or break into the business. I came up in a much different time. In regard to financial areas, I think that can be best answered by the next question.

  6. File-sharing and more specifically MP3 swapping have been big issues in recent years. Do you feel that file sharing negatively impacts the music industry or that it exposes consumers to new artists? Many jazz fans feel that MP3 swapping is their only way to hear out of print material, do you consider that stealing?

    For more than 30 years I've been a professional trumpet player. The only time I have been on salary or received a weekly paycheck is when I played lead trumpet for Al Hirt, Ray Anthony's Orchestra, and when I guest starred with Pia Zadora on tour. The balance of time, some 25 years, I made my living as a producer, artist and a freelance studio player, during that time never receiving a regular salary or paycheck. The music business is a complicated and political nightmare governed by intellectual properties and entertainment business law. It is no easy feat trying to raise a budget from a label to record and release a big band project these days. The music we love and that drives us all is considered a losing proposition by the major labels, as it is, an art form, not a socially relevant element where they can move a million units, such as rap music. From their point of view unless they feel they can move a hundred thousand units it's not worth their time even if you give it to them. It's becoming more of a vanity type industry by artists putting up the money themselves or colleges and universities recording projects with small distribution deals. I'd like to think I could present new, younger, deserving artists in the future devoting the balance of my career to this proposition after the release of my newest project. But that will be a most daunting task; they need to be paid, too. The future looks bleak unless something is created with enough excitement and promotion to sell albums and bring the audiences out. I would encourage a statutory $.99 fee for downloading a single song, which just might wake the label executives up to the plight of finding the tracks your speaking of. In the meantime, there are estate sales, eBay, swap meets, used record shops, and garage sales. You also might be surprised what has been re-released on CD these days, I've found Maynard's "All The Things You Are" which was banned at one time by the Jerome Kern Estate, on a Charlie Barnet CD for $7.99. It just takes a little effort and research. You also must bear in mind that most of these early recordings were originally released on 78 RPM platters and then released on 10", then on 33 1/3 LP's, plus you get the liner notes, often very informative. It isn't easy trying to make a living, raise a family, etc…unless you are a socially relevant current major label act. When you consider as an artist you're lucky to get 10% of the net sales of an album and after you pay your lawyers, personal manager, publicist and accountant there goes 50% of that, and oh yes, Uncle Sam wants his cut too. So if it's a new project I especially encourage those of us who love this music to support those artists, particularly if it's a re-issue or the label won't fool around, even the small labels, if they can't break even. Without even mentioning the legal aspects, I would have to encourage these other alternatives for acquiring the material being sought after. Besides, how many tunes are we talking about, at what point does it become irresponsible?

  7. Let's get technical for a moment. What equipment do you use and why?

    As a young student of Claude’s I started on an Olds Ambassador model trumpet and a 7C mouthpiece. Each six months moving me to a larger mouthpiece until eventually arriving at a 1 1/4C skeletonized Bach with a Morse taper, #19 drill and a full Schmidt backbore. His concept was to overdevelop the entire physical structure for my later career. Muscle has memory. I, of course, later played on a C. G. model Benge.

    Today, however, I play a custom made mouthpiece and switch between several instruments. I have withdrawn all endorsements at the present time. Until I find a trumpet and mouthpiece manufacturer that can satisfy my standards I will stay with the classic older handmade instruments and mouthpieces.

  8. Do you have any tips for our trumpet playing readers regarding range?

    Through my work with Claude and Cat as well as sitting next to so many legendary lead players of the last century I cannot stress two things enough. The first being form. Form is everything. If you have to think about it, you're late. You must train your body like that of a great athlete so as to focus on the task at hand, and that is to create music. Second, in almost every case when a professional player is beginning to encounter problems, remember 2/3 top lip, 1/3 bottom lip with the correct warm- up. There are so many ideas of warming up that most players are defeating themselves before they take the stage by improper setting of their tessitura during their warm-up phase. I have used the same warm-up for 30 years. It has never failed me. Also, the most critical point is the proper gap with the mouthpiece set into the receiver correctly. Without the proper distance between the mouthpiece and the venturi you'll spend all your time fighting your horn. Last but not least, endless drills and exercises until they are automatic and slotting perfectly without thought. Don't practice mistakes. If you make more than three errors on the same passage move to something else until you play it three times in a row correctly, only then have you overcome it. To really own a piece of music, play the last bar first, then add the second to the last, then the third and so on until you have completed the entire piece. Finally, in regards to the upper register, Claude Gordon's "Systematic Approach" do it faithfully as prescribed.

  9. Tell us a little bit about your current projects.

    My latest project focuses on many different styles of the classic concert jazz orchestra and features many of the final recordings in a big band setting of: Marshall Royal, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Tito Puente, Pete Candoli, Conte Candoli, "Snooky" Young, Louie Bellson, Jimmy Rowles, Buddy Collette, Vince DeRosa, Chuck Findley, Bill Miller, Paul Smith, Gabe Baltazaar, Don Menza, Ray Reed, Bill Watrous, Sal Marquez, Jack Nimitz, Jay Migilori, Stacey Rowles, Tommy Johnson, and Al Viola. As well as many of the top name, L.A. studio musicians. We are planning for a 2004 release.

  10. Which Paul Cacia album is your favorite?

    Certainly it is the new one, but above all, "The Alumni Tribute to Stan Kenton", which was the last studio recording of so many of the great original geniuses that contributed to that great orchestra. My only regret is that Maynard was unable to perform "What's New" due to scheduling problems. He was filling in all of Buddy Rich's dates due to Buddy's illness. It was an honor to have Shorty Rogers conduct for me I also learned a deeper respect for Maynard as Shorty pointed out certain key elements as the chart was written specifically for how he played.

  11. You are now on the internet at http://www.paulcacia.com. What caused you to create an internet presence, and how involved are you personally in the content of your web site?

    The internet site has provided a way to interact with countless thousands of fans, friends, associates and professional players the world over, with the coming months all of my albums will be available on CD. Covering a quarter of a century of my studio recordings. We will also be focusing on the great soloists, studio musicians and sidemen that have worked with me or that I've known including many great items of musical memorabilia. I'm very proud of my staff, which promptly ships all orders within 48 hours. With my Webmaster, Executive Secretary, Sheryl and Gail running the daily operations as well as my attorneys we've been able to accomplish many great strides. The diversity of my projects has created a wide demographic of fans and interested people. It allows me to answer and communicate with interested parties the world over almost immediately through email as opposed to snail mail, which used to pile up for weeks on end. It has also been thrilling to hear about and listen to clips of so many great young players the world over on the internet, we will be continuing to expand in the coming years in a much broader scope hoping to contribute to many other great sites such as "The Maynard Tribute Page". I'm a great master mixdown engineer in the analog idiom, but need help just dictating and sending an email. I'm afraid I leave that up to them as much as possible. They run as much as they can by me and I try to assist them but with traveling and studio work (a la solo albums) I'm afraid the credit must go to my staff. In the coming months we hope to post some remarkable photographs and memorabilia, such as original parts recorded by Gozzo, Pete Candoli, Harry James and Maynard, all of which were mementos given to me from the conductors, arrangers, and players of that era.

  12. When was the first time you saw Maynard "live", and your reaction?

    That would be at Corona High School in the gym. It was Maynard's first U.S. tour as he returned to the states with his all English band, upon the release of the "Give It One" album. He was the opening act for the Kenton Orchestra. Circa 1971, I'll guess. He was in his early forties and in outrageous shape. I was taken aback by his showmanship I'd never witnessed anyone so at-one with his playing and physical involvement. As I began to study him I realized that as much of what he was doing was entertaining he was utilizing his key power points of his body in perfect form, in unison with his playing. Ah, there's that word again, "form". His form flowed in perfect balance with his requirements of what he was performing without thought. He was one with himself and the horn, literally transcending the physical and placing himself in a higher state of mental focus. He is a true living master overcoming adversity and mastering his craft to its pinnacle state. He knows and reads his body without conscious thought. I contend that Maynard would be a master at any endeavor. His sound and influence have entertained countless millions for more than half a century and changed almost everyone for the better along the way. It seems the world is blessed every century or so with such geniuses, he is just such one of these inexplicable artists. There is only one Maynard Ferguson there will never be another. A living master and legend. I stand in awe, today as then with my sincere admiration and respect eternally.

  13. Have you ever had any memorable moments with Maynard?

    Never having had the privilege of working for him, I have met Maynard three or four times and seen him perform two dozen times over 25 years. In 1983, we were in pre-production for him to produce my next album it was to be titled "Maynard Ferguson Presents Paul Cacia". Ultimately the managers and lawyers tabled it, and it never came about, to my great disappointment, but I found him to be remarkably focused and lucid with an extraordinary memory and tremendous sense of humor. In the end the project was titled "Quantum Leap". See the letter of intent on www.paulcacia.com. Today, he awes audiences as he continues to be the one and only Maynard, and as Stan Kenton used to say, "Maynard, someday you'll be king", well someday happened a long time ago, and the king he is and shall always remain!

  14. What are your favorite M.F. songs?

    All The Things You Are-1950-Arranged by Dennis Farnon
    The Titan Symphony-Part III-1958-Chicago Symphony-Composed and Arranged by William Russo
    Ole' - Composed and Arranged by Slide Hampton
    Everyday I have the Blues-Arranged by Willie Maiden
    Favorite Overall LP-Jazz For Dancing

In Closing: Maynard, who's nickname is the "Fox", has always seemed to do the impossible, he lives in the present or now, unshaken by trivial distractions, rising to the highest level of consciousness as though a great shaman or guru. He has also achieved the impossible by keeping a vibrant touring band for more than 30 years on the road since the "Give It One" album, an accomplishment no other jazz artist has been able to achieve.

Finally and most important, I'd like to express my admiration and gratitude to Matt Keller for his hard work, persistence and integrity to help forward the music and keep the flame burning. Trumpets Forever!

Best Regards,
Paul Cacia
Trumpet Artist


I want to thank Paul for taking time to answer my questions.