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Interview with Bob Marsiglia
Master Seven Interview by Tom Beninate
Copy Editor: Susan Castellano
Was it mostly cover material or did you include some original music?

[It was] 100 percent cover – everything from James Brown to Sinatra and everything in between. We played music that we liked…. We did that for over ten years. Then, I like to say the winds of faith blew in. I just felt compelled that this was not what I was supposed to be doing. I started writing songs.… I had never written a song before, truthfully never thought I could write a song. I wrote the lyrics and the melodies kind of filled my head. Initially I penned a half dozen songs. I reached out to Ricky [Collins], my lead vocalist, and said, “I wrote these songs. They’re Christian songs. They have the same musical feel to everything we’ve always done but the message is different.” Ricky is a grounded-in-the-faith brother in Christ, so he and I have been on the same page and have known that about each other for so many years. We worked together in another band prior to this band called the Jazz Lobsters. So, I said to him, “I need an arranger.” … I asked Ricky about Lenny Underwood because Lenny had subbed for our keyboard player on a couple of wedding gigs over the years. He is a great player. I knew he had written, arranged and/or produced a couple of hit records over the years. But I didn't know he was also a Christian. [It] turns out he is actually now a Pastor. That whole connection is a "GOD thing", putting us together like that. [It's] funny how that works sometimes. So Ricky gave me his number….

Bob, if I can interrupt your train of thought for a moment. Was Ricky your lead vocalist from the beginning?

Yes, he was our original lead vocalist. Then he left for quite a few of the middle years. He came back a few years ago.

What were the circumstances of his return?

Well, in this business, as you know, around here the circuit of musicians on the Jersey Shore [and surrounding areas], you always work with these people in different situations. That cycle continues. No one ever really leaves the band…. They’ll be back. You know, it’s just the way it is around here.
You were telling us about playing trumpet.

I decided to devote time and energy to learn how to play it…. I had some great teachers over the years. That’s a lifetime vocation depending how often you want to get paid doing it. For me it’s a part-time professional situation but the learning process is lifelong. There’re always better musicians. I see it all the time out there. I’m always striving to improve my craft. Again, I wouldn’t hesitate to add that I surround myself with really good musicians. I don’t classify myself as among the best in the band as a trumpet player by any stretch, but I get by. I can certainly cut my parts.

You say you surround yourself with really good musicians and that certainly comes through on your record. Do you ever invite guests or friends to play along with the band either in rehearsal or when playing out?

We really haven’t done that with the band that we have now because the music is our original music. It would be hard to have somebody sit in unless they devoted the time to learn the music before they got there. Whereas when we were doing nightclubs playing cover music we always had all kinds of people. [It would be] people we knew. We wouldn’t invite somebody out of the audience to come up. [Although] one time we were the house band at the Hook, Line, and Sinker in Rumson, [NJ] for a good seven years. We played there once a month…. This guy used to come in dressed like Elvis wherever we played…. He would come up to me and ask to sing a song. I just didn’t want to take that chance, right? One night he comes up begging, “Let me do a song.” So I asked the audience, “How many people want to hear Elvis sing tonight?” Of course everyone said, “Yeah!” What do you think they are going to say? The guy was absolutely awful. So we learned our lesson at that point.

I’m sure after that everyone was happy to hear your band play again.

Yeah. It ended up being funny…. We never saw him again….
Bob Marsiglia is the bandleader and songwriter for The Next Generation of Soul, which fluently and convincingly delivers R&B, big band swing, and straight ahead blues. Ricky Collins’s rich vocals sit eloquently on top of the band’s dynamic horns and tight rhythm section. I talked to Bob about his band, their album, This Ain’t No Big Bang, and a lot more.
Are you looking to cut another record? Do you have material earmarked for it?

Yeah … we got a song with a New Orleans thing going on. It’s kind of like a Neville Brothers vibe…. I think I want to do a video. My game plan is to go back to the studio and record the audio portion … and then make a video. I’ve got some concepts floating around in my head about that, but I haven’t formulated anything definitively [about] how the video is going to look…. I’m real interested in doing a professional quality video of this song which is called, “Changed Man.” We performed that at the concert we just did, by the way. It was very well received.

Bob, what else do you have in store for yourself and the band for the rest of this year?

The next thing up would be getting back into the studio, doing the audio portion of that song. That’s going to probably take us into the fall…. I’m always looking for other opportunities to perform live. We’re going to continue to make every effort to get out there in public…. What I’d like to do though, and I’ve never done this before, is seek professional representation. My schedule just doesn’t permit me to market the band and try to get gigs the way that I used to. My professional life, which is my job at a major brokerage firm as a financial advisor, is busier than it has ever been. I don’t have the time to effectively market the band in the way that it deserves to be marketed.

Here is a question that I don’t usually get to ask:  As a financial advisor, what do you see unfolding with the economy over the next six months or so?

Okay. Here in the United States the economy is expanding, but very, very slowly. This environment will continue: low interest rates, slow job growth, and relatively high unemployment…. The landscape will improve slowly over that time frame.

Is this a good time to be a musician and a songwriter?

It’s always a good time to be a musician and a songwriter. The world we live in is full of inspiration in one form or another. My faith has taken me in one direction in terms of the inspiration to write my music. For others, there is a tremendous amount of stimulus out there to be inspired in any number of directions or to be creative. You have to listen to your heart. If your heart is telling you to write music and perform music then you really should do that.

That’s great inspiration. Thanks Bob.

Thanks for thinking of me for this. I appreciate it.


You can buy
This Ain't No Big Bang at CD Baby:
http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/nextgenerationofsoul
July 13, 2012
The band's website
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The reason I brought up Ricky’s return was because he did an absolutely fabulous job on your record, This Ain’t No Big Bang. So did your foray into writing original music prompt his return?

Well, Ricky was in the band at that point for three or four years when I started writing the music. When I told him that I had written some Christian music he got really excited about that….  I reached out to Lenny and … explained to him that I had written these songs and I needed a professional arranger. Lenny was Harry Belafonte’s musical director, has a great resume, and worked with everybody. He said, “I’d love to. I’m a Christian myself….” So, I invited Ricky and Lenny to my home. I played my melodies on my trumpet. I had the lyric sheets for Ricky to look at.

That’s interesting using a trumpet because it’s similar to what Miles Davis did when he needed to convey his music to his band members. Generally today’s songwriters tend to write from and demonstrate from a piano or guitar.

Exactly. The alternative is to have me sing. And you don’t want that. So that’s how we did it. The first song was “I Gave It All Away” which is a very Caribbean song. It is also autobiographical, it's actually my personal story.... I wanted everyone to feel uplifted [by this song] in an inspirational [and] spiritual way. So Lenny brought his mobile studio down. He got a drumbeat going. I said, “This is the tempo we want.” I gave the lyric sheet to Ricky and we just started going with it. We recorded a rough version. Lenny took that back to his real studio and built the arrangement around that. And then he would send me sound files periodically and back and forth…. So it was collaboration…. That’s how we did every song. We recorded the first album … and he made a demo. Then we went into [Laughing Boys] studio in South Orange, [NJ] with the whole band. We did the rhythm section first. The next night we came back with Ricky and our backing vocalists. Then the horns came in another night. Of course I was there every night. We brought the percussion in another night and then we mixed it. I got very involved with the mixing process. I really enjoyed the production side which I had really never done before. It was very gratifying and fulfilling to get involved with the engineer, Tom Lucas. I mixed the horns on all of the songs. He mixed everything else. I was involved heavily in decision making…. Then I added a lot of ancillary things like a different percussion [here or there]. That was a great [but] very tedious process. You have to walk away from it after a while because your ears get saturated. So that’s how we did all the songs on
This Ain’t No Big Band.

Ricky simply belts out the vocals and puts the right emotion into each song. You can hear the arrangements and the songs, so congratulations on a job well-done.

Thank you.
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Bob, you have been playing trumpet for a long time. How has that progressed?

Okay, good question…. When I graduated high school I put my trumpet down and didn’t pick it up for over ten years. So I haven’t really been playing for as long as you might think. I got married, started a family, and did all those things. But during that time I always had in the back of my mind [the thought of how] I really miss music. I would take out the trumpet and just kind of look at it … and then decided I would devote my time learning how to really play it. Although as a kid in school I was in the All Shore band and other bands I never really practiced during all the years you and I played together.

What’s funny about that is in those bands I was playing trombone but spent most of my practicing time playing guitar.

Yes. So after ten years I started taking a lot of lessons for quite a few years. And then when I felt I was adept enough to maybe start playing in public, I reached out to John Visconi who [at that point in time] I hadn’t heard from in years, and said, “Hey, how would you like to start a band with me?” And that’s how Contraband was born.

Was John out of the Harper band at that point?

Yes. That is correct. So we formed a band with John, myself, Joe Rao on guitar, a great guitar player….

A great guitar player.

Yep. We had Ken Harper on drums, the late Doug McCarthy on keyboards, Rich Taskowitz on sax….

Was Keith Tice there (on trombone) at the beginning?

Keith Tice sat in with us probably half a dozen times of a good ten year period. The trombone player who was with us the most was probably Don Shaner. You know we had that band for a lot of years. It was an eight-piece band.

I remember John Visconi being an excellent drummer and percussionist. I know he went on to play guitar and sing vocals. What did he play in Contraband?

In Contraband he was playing congas, a bit of saxophone, and a bit of keyboards. He had a rig where he had the congas and if he turned sideways he had his keyboard. He had a sax on a stand next to him. He also did backing vocals.

I noticed that he played percussion on your record, This Ain’t No Big Bang.

Yes. That’s correct.

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Bob, you mentioned earlier that you put your band together to make money. You also have, as a financial advisor and bandleader, a unique perspective on this issue. What tips can you offer musicians and songwriters who struggle to make a living in music?

To be able to attract the type of musicians that I wanted, those that are very talented and yet also great people to work with, they have to be paid for their time. As we get older [we realize] it’s fun to play in your basement or garage but you do need to be able to compensate your band people fairly for their time and effort … [or] they’re not going to stick around. Many of them play simultaneously in multiple situations. For you to have them come to this particular gig in your band they have to be compensated for that. The weddings and corporate parties concept was born as a result of that…. A ten-piece band, the smallest piece band we played in was eight, [is too big to be] out there just doing nightclubs…. [There] is not enough money to be spread around…. We focused on trying to be the atypical wedding band…. We really didn’t do a lot of the sort of schmaltzy stuff that wedding bands do, you know, the “Electric Slide” and those kinds of things. We did none of that. We essentially did the material that we always did which was heavy on the R&B side. We did some swing tunes and even did a few Sinatra tunes. But the ones we did we thought were cool songs. We were able to sustain ourselves … because we were never a full-time band. Most of the guys have full-time jobs. [However], there are guys in the band that are full-time musicians. They work in multiple situations as I mentioned earlier. But they’re not going to drive two hours to make fifty bucks in a nightclub unless that is the showcase for the six weddings that I booked that night. [They would know that] they would make several hundred dollars per musician to do a wedding. That’s the reason we strategically decided to make this a wedding/corporate party band when it came to be 15 years ago. But like I said, the "winds of faith" blew in and it's all different now.


That’s a great philosophy because it bridges the gap between an artist’s idealistic vision and their ability to sustain it.

Right.

Some bands go into the recording studio with two or three times more material than they need for their record. Usually producers find it easy to cull that quantity down to what’s appropriate. Did you choose this method or work up your eight songs before entering the studio?

I wanted to have about 40 minutes of music…. I had several other songs that were in various stages of completion at the time we recorded the CD…. There were a couple of songs we could have put on it. But the process lasted four years, from the first song in my mind until we got the eight songs recorded and mastered. I said [at that point], “It’s time to release this CD.” I’ve got … more songs in various stages of completion and I’ve got a bunch more in my head floating around. We needed to move forward and perform this stuff in public again and … draw a line in the sand. This is our first CD…. We wanted to get it out there and see what the response is.
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Bob, you mentioned working with musicians at the Jersey Shore. That scene has changed a lot over the years. But many of the musicians have relationships that lasted decades. This is one of the things that makes this area vibrant and unique. What has your experience been?

Well, you nailed it. [There are] people that I’ve come to know over the years.  The network of musicians that I’ve developed is enormous…. You sort of gravitate towards the musicians that you really enjoy spending time with and working with tempering that with the best musicians you can surround yourself with at the same time. As a band leader you want to do both of those things…. Some of these guys I’ve worked with for twenty years in different bands. We’re all in the same relative age bracket. There are some younger guys in the band. We have a trombone player [Danny Hall] who is in his twenties. [He’s a] great player. But this area is unique, I think. I don’t have a template by having been somewhere else for a long period of time and working as a musician elsewhere so I can’t really speak to what exists elsewhere. But I can tell you that [with] the network of musicians here, everybody knows everybody. Everybody knows everybody for twenty years And so there is a lot of, you know, “My tenor [saxophone] player has a gig that he has to do. I can plug this guy in. Let me reach out to him and call him up.” So you never really are taking a step back in terms of quality. There are plenty of quality musicians in this area.

Well, the biggest areas are New York City, Nashville, and LA, of course. So the vibrant shore area is comparable with some of the other major regional music scenes. The huge difference is the shore’s tremendous advantage of being very close to New York City. Interestingly, people are more familiar with Springsteen and Bon Jovi than the ton of support musicians that earn a living at the shore. People also know that the shore club scene has changed over the years but like you mentioned, the network is still intact.

Yes, that’s exactly correct. The nightclub scene has changed dramatically. You really can’t find any seven- or eight-piece bands playing anywhere. The younger generation has a different musical taste anyway. A lot of times the bands that you see out there are for the most part smaller bands…. Plus, [you have] the economics of it. You can get a duo with everything synthesized [that] sounds like a seven or eight-piece band and pay them two hundred bucks…. The dance club scene is kind of gone anyway. So all the big clubs, you know, the Royal Manors of the world … don’t really exist anymore…. The rest of that is the alcohol situation. People don’t really go out and party the way they used to…. You don’t want to be out drinking and driving. So the nightclub scene changed quite a bit as a result of that. Truthfully, that’s for the better.

It is. A lot of shows now start earlier, whereas years ago they could have started at 10pm or later. I recently spoke to Marc Ribler in another interview….

Yes, I remember. He’s from Jackson [NJ] and I think he’s a couple of years younger than us. He lived up the street from me.

Yes. He is fortunate to have success in the music business. He wrote a number of songs that charted on billboard. He currently plays on Tuesday nights at Tim McCloone’s in Asbury Park, [New Jersey] where each show is a tribute to a major band. He selects various national and/or shore area musicians and friends to fit the night’s theme. So there’s an example of the current scene and how people like Marc who are out there promoting their music and other people’s music as well.
Bob, tell us about the “Strike Out Hunger Concert” benefit in Lakewood, NJ at First Energy Park where you and your band recently performed.

We loved it. It was a tremendous blessing from a variety of standpoints. We raised a couple thousand dollars for Lunch Break, which is a nonprofit soup kitchen and food and clothing pantry in Red Bank, [New Jersey]. I sit on the board of trustees for that organization. So this was an opportunity for me to help them and also get God’s word of salvation out through our music to many people that never heard us before.

How did you enjoy that concert?

It was wonderful. Performing at a facility like that is a great opportunity … for us to present what we do to a large group of people.

How did you start this band?

I played in several bands before I formed this band. I actually formed Contraband before this one. Contraband is the one that [our mutual friend] John Visconi is still in.

I wasn’t aware that you started Contraband.

Yes. I’m a founding member. Having played in a variety of situations over the years, my thought was if I ever formed [another] band after Contraband I would pick people that I’ve worked with from other bands that, number one, I enjoyed working with, and, number two, that I felt were the best musicians. I decided that I wanted to form a band that would be a money-making entity. The concept was born in 1997…. [I wanted to] do wedding and corporate parties primarily and so The Next Generation of Soul came to be…. We would still do nightclubs as a method to provide a showcase for prospective clients. Instead of doing the pay-for-play wedding showcases where you get 20 minutes at a wedding show [and] you have to get dressed up in tuxedos, we said we’ll play in nightclubs and that will be our showcase. We would invite our potential clients…. We quickly started booking wedding and corporate parties. We did some pretty nice things over that time frame. We opened for B.B. King at the Count Basie Theatre here in Red Bank. We did a wedding for then NBA player and Boston Celtic star Walter McCarty in Newport, Rhode Island at one of the mansions up there. We did numerous weddings down in the Washington, D.C. area including one for the head of the AFLCIO which is the largest labor union in the world. There were probably 500 people at that wedding…. So we had some success doing that. We always stayed in the nightclubs. We never did modern material or top 40 stuff. We stayed close to our R&B roots. We always had a horn section.
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