Joe Traina has kept jazz bands of various sizes together and worked extensively in the New York-New Jersey area since 1990. His groups have appeared at Iridium, Metronome, The Rainbow Room, Tavern on the Green and many other venues.
Born in Brooklyn and raised on Staten Island, Joe began on the clarinet in high school.
“I also played alto saxophone for thirty years but gave it up several years ago because now that I’m happily married there is no longer any need to meet eligible women.”
“In 1990, I put my own band together when I was living in Staten Island for the summer. There was a small and vital jazz community there that I was lucky enough to frequent and be a small part of.”
Those on the scene included Staten Island natives trumpeter Don Joseph (Joe’s mentor and friend), Caesar DiMauro (a jazz saxophonist and classical oboist who was Joe’s first private teacher), trumpeter Michael Morreale (Don Joseph’s protégé), drummer Billy Mare and alto saxophonist Jon Gordon (another Di Mauro student, recording artist and teacher now residing in Canada).
Joe has released four albums prior to this one: Friday Evenings At Sardi’s, Only In New York, Tea For Two and Ten By Eleven which features a ten-piece band.
Throughout these years of performing and recording, Pete McGuinness has been Joe’s constant collaborator and dear friend.
When asked what he enjoys most about Joe’s playing, Pete McGuinness says “His spirit of joy and I love the singing quality of his clarinet.”
“Pete has written all of my arrangements since the 90s,” says Joe. “We thought that rather than do a strict tribute to one musician on Tip Of The Hat, we would represent the work of several musicians who have influenced me and a few arrangers who have inspired Pete.”
Pete McGuinness adds, “It is an homage to several specific tunes and arrangements that Joe loves while allowing me to put a personal stamp on them as the arranger.”
Arranger, singer and trombonist Pete McGuinness has worked with a long list of major names including Lionel Hampton, Maria Schneider, Jimmy Heath, Dave Liebman, Charles McPherson and the Royal Bopsters.
A former student of Bob Brookmeyer and BMI workshop teacher/arranger Manny Albam, Pete has gone on to write music for his own projects, for many well-known jazz artists and for schools.
Pete’s own group, The Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra, has performed live at such clubs as The Blue Note, The Jazz Gallery, Birdland and Iridium.
Its debut recording First Flight (2007) was released nationwide on Summit Records to critical acclaim and extensive radio play.
Pete’s arrangement of “Smile” from the recording was officially nominated in 2008 for a GRAMMY award.
The band’s second record, Strength in Numbers (2014), received two GRAMMY nominations:
Best Instrumental or A Capella Arrangement for “Beautiful Dreamer” and Best Instrumental Arrangement with Vocals for “What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?”
Pete’s most recent effort, Along For The Ride (2019), also enjoyed critical kudos and peaked at #17 on the Jazzweek national radio charts.
Pete is currently an Associate Professor of Jazz Studies/Arranging at William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey.
For Tip Of The Hat, Joe Traina put together an all-star septet comprised of musicians who he has often worked with since the 1990s.
Scott Wendholt is a major trumpeter who has been in great demand for thirty years. His credits include The Carnegie Hall Big Band (led by Jon Faddis), Maria Schneider’s Big Band, the Bob Mintzer Big Band. Scott is currently of a member of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra where he has been a featured soloist for more than twenty years.
“John Allred is one of the best musicians I’ve worked with on any instrument,” says Joe. “Pete thinks he is one of the best trombonists in the country and I won’t argue with that.”
During three years with Woody Herman’s Band as lead trombonist, John played in clubs, concert halls and colleges across the nation including Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. He has also performed and recorded with Rosemary Clooney, Warren Vache, Tony Bennett, Clark Terry, Buddy DeFranco, Terry Gibbs, Stan Getz and Harry Connick, Jr.
Reedman extraordinaire Dan Willis has worked with Michael Brecker, Kenny Wheeler, John Hollenbeck, the Ted Nash Big Band, the Roland Vasquez Big Band and played in the orchestras of many Broadway shows most recently for the Broadway show “Diana.”
Dan also heads his own group (The Velvet Gentlemen), an ensemble that recently recorded jazz variations of the music of Eric Satie.
Pianist Jeb Patton initially became well-known for his playing with the Heath Brothers but has played in many other groups including the Dizzy Gillespie Alumni Big Band and All Stars,
George Coleman, James Moody, Jimmy Cobb, The Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, Lew Tabackin and Roberta Gambarini.
His latest record entitled “Tenthish” was recorded live at Mezzrow and featured David Wong on bass and Rodney Green on drums.
Mike Karn was a hard bop-oriented tenor-saxophonist who worked with Ray Charles, Harry Connick Jr. and Charles Earland in addition to recording with Jerry Weldon and Joe Traina until deciding to switch to bass in 2003. He has since been quite busy performing with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and John Pizzarelli.
Scott Neumann has been Joe Traina’s regular drummer for over two decades. “He is versatile, swinging and filled with surprises.”
Along the way Scott has also worked with Woody Herman, Dave Liebman, Madeleine Peyroux, Kenny Barron, the Bill Mobley Big Band and Kenny Werner.
He co-leads Spin Cycle with saxophonist Tom Christensen playing an eclectic blend of hard hitting original music composed by Neumann, Christensen, bassist Phil Palombi and guitarist Pete McCann.
Guesting on two selections is percussionist Memo Acevedo, a versatile musician who has lived in Colombia, Spain, Mexico, Canada and (since 1996) New York. He has worked with everyone from Tito Puente and Hilton Ruiz to Mark Murphy and Toshiko Akiyoshi as well as with his own bands.
His daughter Jacquelene has followed in her father’s footsteps notably as a percussionist in David Byrne’s recent Broadway concert American Utopia.
“Tip Of The Hat has an East Coast meets West Coast concept,” says Joe. “Pete’s charts come out of Marty Paich, Bill Holman and Shorty Rogers. They are full of wit, humor and harmonic twists and they always swing. We sought to interpret well-known tunes in a way that is both
entertaining and full of unexpected moments.”
The set begins with “’S Wonderful,” the first of four songs that pay tribute to Artie Shaw. Here, as throughout the program, Pete McGuinness’ arrangements give the ensemble the feel of a big band though there are only seven musicians playing.
His version hints at the Ray Conniff 1945 arrangement for Shaw without being an exact transcription. Wendholt and Traina share a chorus and Patton has a nice spot.
“Frenesi,” a song discovered by Artie Shaw during his brief hiatus to Mexico during 1939-40, begins with the verse before becoming a more Latin-oriented version than Shaw’s version thanks in large part to the playing of Acevedo and the inventive arrangement.
The ensemble arrangement on a quietly cooking version of Ray Noble’s “The Touch Of Your Lips” is a reminiscent of something Thad Jones might have written. McGuinness’ singing unabashedly displays his affection for Chet Baker although his scat concept is very much his own. The trumpet, tenor and piano solos are additional highlights.
Artie Shaw’s 1940 recording of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust” is quite possibly the finest version ever. In this new version, Wendholt and Willis share the melody (in Billy Butterfield’s place), Joe recreates Artie Shaw’s famous solo and Jack Jenney’s short but very impressive trombone spot is ably filled by Allred.
A solo piano version of “You Go To My Head” serves as an interlude between the two halves of this album. It was suggested that Patton give it an Art Tatum flavor and the pianist makes it sound effortless.
Acevedo returns for a Latin version of Cole Porter’s “Get Out of Town” that has a bit of the George Shearing sound even though the instrumentation is quite different. The piano solo is outstanding and there are also excellent spots for Allred and Willis.
“Lullaby Of The Leaves” sounds very much like a chart from the prime years of West Coast jazz although this version was actually inspired by the Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland band of the 1960s. Joe takes one of his best solos of the set, Patton creates another excellent improvisation and there is a fine bass chorus by Karn.
Pete McGuinness returns as a singer on “Old Folks,” sounding a little like Mel Torme during a heartwarming version that brings out the beauty of the timeless standard.
Billy Strayhorn’s “Take The ‘A’ Train” is given some fresh variations in both the arrangement and the concise solos. Most other versions are closely tied to the original Duke Ellington recording or taken as a jam session, but this reworking is filled with new and creative ideas.
“Concerto For Clarinet” was an extensive piece that had many sections and showcased Artie Shaw’s range and virtuosity with his orchestra. To top off his memorable set, Joe recreates Artie Shaw’s outstanding cadenza which climaxed the performance and is no easy feat.
Pete McGuinness sums up by saying, “Joe really stepped it up for this one. He assembled a real A Team of musicians, his lead and solo playing in some of the tricky ensemble passages is great and everyone was spot on.”
Joe Traina looks forward to the future with enthusiasm. “I’m hosting a regular webcast called “Please Join Me” featuring interviews with musicians, actors, writers and artists.
For my next record, I’d love to add a string section to my ensemble and include a tune or two written by my sidemen.
But most of all, I’m hoping for an opportunity to perform live with this great band. I’ve been listening to these songs all of my life and while it has been eighty years since Artie Shaw recorded ‘Stardust’ and ‘Frenesi,’ the music remains timeless.”
The proof can be heard throughout Tip Of The Hat which is arguably Joe Traina’s most rewarding recording to date.
Scott Yanow, jazz journalist/historian and author of 11 books including Swing, Trumpet Kings and Jazz On Record 1917-76
“Great songs, great arrangements and great musicianship add up to a wonderful listening experience. Joe’s an incredibly gifted clarinetist and bandleader and I hope you all love this project as much as I did!”
— Ken Peplowski
“What a lovely recording. Joe sounds marvelous on it! Pete McGuinness did a fantastic job on the arrangements and vocals. The band sounds clean and precise and there are really good solos by everyone in the group.”