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Composer and jazz trombonist Ed Neumeister (born Topeka, Kansas, September 1, 1952) frequently tours Europe, Japan and the U.S. writing for and performing as guest soloist with bands and orchestras as well as performing solo, duo, trio and quartet concerts.
He has given many improvisation, musicianship and brass clinics at most of the major music conservatories in Europe and the U.S.. He leads a trio, quintet and an octet in the New York area and performs duo concerts with various musical partners.
He was a veteran of many of the major big bands of the 1980s including the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Lionel Hampton, Buddy Rich and Gerry Mulligan. He was a member of Jerry Garcia's band, Reconstruction, in 1979. Ed played with and wrote for the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra (now the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra) from 1981 to 1999. His arrangement of "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" was nominated for a Grammy award in 1991.
Ed has written commissions for groups in the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, Austria, Germany, Denmark, France, Japan, Israel and the U.S.. His compositions and arrangements are published by Meistero Music. He is Professor of Music at the University of Music and Arts in Graz, Austria and was Head of the Jazz Composition Department in Lucerne, Switzerland from 2000 until 2006.
Neumeister has released several recordings as a leader. He continues to perform and compose creative music.
- LA Times, "The Envelope" Awards database. link. Accessed 2008 April 16.
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Born: Topeka Kansas, September 1, 1952
Ed Neumeister grew up in Fremont California, 35 miles from San Francisco. When he was five, he found his fathers old trumpet in the closet. He played the trumpet for two years and then switched to accordion. At nine, wanting to play trumpet again, he joined the Weldonian Band, a private marching band in Oakland. The band director convinced Ed to play the trombone because of his teeth structure. Ed understood later that he probably just needed trombone players. The band rehearsed all day every Saturday with a concert for the families in the evening. They performed at all the major parades in California as well as at many football games of the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland Raiders. When Neumeister was 13 he performed JJ Johnson’s solo of Mack the Knife at the Oakland Coliseum for the half time show of the first football game at the new stadium. Moving up the ranks of trombone section, Ed was soon playing in their “stage band” playing pieces from the book of Stan Kenton, Woody Herman and Count Basie.
By the time Ed was 15 he was a member in the musicians union and playing gigs with “the Pieces of Eight” a group of ex-Weldonian members. He later joined a band called “Charisma” which played at the Fillmore West among other places and later with a band called “Daily Bred” with vocalist Marilyn Scott. Still a late teenager and into his early 20's Neumeister was music director for a rock and roll road show with Chuck Berry, Chubby Checker, Bobby Rydell and others.
From 1970-73 Neumeister studied at the University Of California in San Jose where he studied trombone with Bob Szabo and composition and orchestration with Lou Harrison. It was during this time that Ed was introduced to the music of Miles Davis and delved further into the recordings of JJ Johnson. It was the great center fielder for the San Francisco Giants, Willie Mays, who was Ed’s first hero as a nine- and ten-year-old budding Little League player. His first musical idol though, was JJ Johnson. Ed listened to his recordings every day, learning his solos through repeated listening day after day. His other major influence on the trombone was Frank Rosolino.
Fed up with the politics of the US, frustrated with the war in Vietnam and with an urge to travel, in 1973, at the age of 21, Neumeister bought a one-way ticket to Paris. He made his way to Amsterdam. where he planned to buy a VW Van to live and travel in. His first night in Amsterdam, Ed sat in with a Latin jazz band playing in the hotel where he was staying and they offered him a spot in the band. He did buy the van, and ended up living in it for three months, on a canal in Amsterdam. He finally found a more permanent home and ended up living for two years in Amsterdam, which was an intense time of practice. He found a place to live, rent free, where he could practice through the night. Many nights he practiced until the sun came up. During this time in Amsterdam, Neumeister, performed with many of the best musicians in the Netherlands. It’s interesting that he had to go to Europe to be able to hone his craft as an emerging jazz musician, playing and studying African, Afro-Cuban, Brazilian and Indian music as well as jazz and classical. It was also in Amsterdam that he met his wife Linda.
In 1975 Ed moved back to San Francisco to continue his studies with the great trombone teacher Mitchell Ross. Originally from Chicago, Mitchell Ross was a former student of Arnold Jacobs and Frank Crisafulli . With Ross, Ed continued to work on his “classical” technique with the concept of playing as musically as possible. “It can’t be too beautiful” he used to say. Through Ross he got work as an extra with the San Francisco Ballet and Opera Orchestras. In 1978 Ed won the first trombone position with the Sacramento Symphony Orchestra. It was during this time that Neumeister was also introduced and subsequently studied the music of John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, the bands of Miles Davis, Béla Bartók and some of the other “creative” geniuses of the 20th century. Reading about and studying the music of these great artists greatly affected the way Ed approached music. Playing classical, jazz, Latin and various commercial music, Ed continued an intense study of the trombone and creative music. From this point on, he was dedicated to the advancement of his music and committed to making a contribution to the world of trombone playing, improvisation and creative music.
In addition to performing in various classical orchestras and ensembles, he also played in the band of Noel Jewkes, where he recorded his first solo (Dr. Legato and the Rubicon on Revelation records). He also played with most of the top musicians on the Bay Area including Julian Priester, John Handy, Mark Levine, Jerry Grenelli. For more than a year he worked a steady Friday night with his quartet, which included Mark Levine, Michael Formanek and Jerry Grenelli. Later, his quartet played every Friday and Saturday, after hours (2:00-6:00AM) playing jazz for strippers.
At the same time Ed was the first trombonist at the Circle Star Theater, playing weekly engagements with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughn, Nancy Wilson, Dinah Ross, Dion Worwick and many others. What a great education! And if that wasn’t enough, he was also playing in a creative rock band with Jerry Garcia (of Grateful Dead fame), Merl Saunders, Ron Stallings, John Kahn and the legendary drummer Gaylord Birch.
In 1980 Neumeister moved to New York and almost immediately joined Lionel Hamptons´ band. This followed a stint with the Buddy Rich Band. In September 1981, he joined the Mel Lewis Big Band, which became the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra after Mels Death. Ed stayed in this band, playing Monday nights and occasional tours for 18 years. That same year he began a relationship with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, directed by Duke’s son Mercer, a relationship that lasted more than15 years. And from 1982-84 also played in Gerry Mulligans concert Jazz band. He was also active in the New York free-lance world, playing in the studios and theaters and wherever trombone players were found. With these and other bands, Ed played concerts all over the World.
Throughout this time Neumeister keep his quartet and quintet playing whatever gigs he could find, usually clubs or private parties. The members of the quartet included: Jim McNeely, Kenny Werner, Harold Danko, Marc Copland, Victor Jones, Dennis Irwin, Drew Gress, Jay Anderson, Lincoln Goines, Jamey Haddad, John Riley and others. For the quintet, he usually added multi reedman, Billy Drewes. The band recorded one CD on the Timescraper Label entitled “Metro Music”. In the early 80's Ed also recorded “Mohican and the Great Spirit” for TCB. Neither of these recording were promoted and subsequently received only a few reviews, though all positive. Around 1988, Ed formed an Octet, which included Joe Lovano, Kenny Werner, Don Byron and others. Called the New Hat Ensemble, it has been resurrected from time to time. Celebrating Duke Ellington’s 100th birthday in 1999 and 2000, Ed put together a group with Mark Feldman on violin, Billy Drewes on clarinet and alto, Ron Miles – trumpet, Marc Copland – piano, Drew Gress – bass, and Tom Rainey or Jamey Haddad on drums and percussion. The band had two successful tours in Italy playing Ed’s arrangements of some of the more obscure music of Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, mostly from their Suites. Unfortunately, this band was never recorded, except for some live concert tapes.
From the time he was fifteen, Neumeister was composing and arranging for whatever bands he was playing in. But, in 1987 composing became a, more, serious part of his musical persona. Through BMI's Jazz Composers Workshop, Ed began studying with Bob Brookmeyer, who was musical director of the Mel Lewis Band when Ed joined, and Manny Albam. Over the course of the next few years, Ed went from a trombonist who composed to a composer who played the trombone.
In the 1992, his arrangement of “A Nightingale sang in Berkeley Square”, written for the Mel Lewis Band, won him a Grammy nomination.
Through his writing and playing he was invited in 1992 to come be a guest with the Kluvers Big Band in Ahrus Denmark. That first trip, as a soloist, turned into a two-week tour. In subsequent years, Ed traveled to Europe more and more writing for and playing with Big Bands and local rhythm sections. In 1992, Ed played his first recording with the Metropole Radio Orchestra and come back several times over the years. The first time he came only as soloist, but later began composing and arranging for the group as well.
All this European travel eventually led to a teaching professorship at the University of Music in Graz. Preferring the more supportive environment for new and creative projects and the security of a teaching professorship, Neumeister moved, in 1999, to Vienna Austria. He was subsequently offered the position of Head of the Jazz Composition Department at the Music Conservatory in Luzern, Switzerland. A position he held through Spring 2006.
Since arriving in Austria, Ed has composed a concerto for Cello “Fantasy for Cello and Big Band” recorded with Fritz Kleinhapl on cello on the Ars Label (2001). Also, he has recorded JBBG (Jazz Big band Graz) (2000) plays the music of Ed Neumeister on the Mons Label, and “New Standards” (2005) on his own Meistero Music Label with his current quartet, Fritz Pauer - piano, Drew Gress - bass and John Hollenbeck - drums. The follow up recording “Reflection” on ArtistShare Records was released July 2006. Ed hopes to release his recording with the Metropole Radio Orchestra soon. 2002 also saw the release of “Collage” a landmark recording with the New York Trombone Quartet, which included Ed's arrangement/transcription of Bartók's 4th string quartet. The review of the performance of this piece at the International Trombone Festival in Feldkirch, Austria said, “History was made!”
Neumeister has recently added film and TV scoring to his activities and is now splitting his time between Los Angeles and Austria.
• Publications: "Trombone Technique, through music” a philosophical method book Dannison Press
"The Music of Ed Neumeister Compositions & Arrangements for large and Small Ensembles" UNC Jazz Press & Meistero Music
“An Improvisational approach to practicing” article in Windplayer Magazine
Mentioned in The Oxford companion to Jazz edited by Bill Kirchner.
Discussed in making the Scene, contemporary New York city big band jazz by Alex Stewart, UC Press Berkekey
• recent commissions include:
the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, New York City the Metropole Radio Orchestra, Hilversum, The Netherlands NDR Radio Big Band Hamburg, Germany Fantasy for Cello and Big Band, Styriarte, Graz, Austria the Berlin Radio Big Band the Belgium Radio Big Band, Brussels the Hessischer Rundfunk Jazz Ensemble, Frankfurt, Germany. the Sophisticated Ellington Project, Tokyo, Japan Jazz Big Band Graz, Austria Maribor Philharmonic Orchestra, Slovenia Ensemble New, Fredericia, Denmark Advance Music Publishing, Germany Klüvers Big Band, Århus, Denmark the Milky Saxophone Quintet, Paris, France Therapeutic Mineral Ice, radio advertisement, New York City Brass Hallandia, Halmstad, Sweden
• Grammy award nomination for arrangement of "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square", recorded on the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra CD "TOO YOU".
• Received three fellowship grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. One for composition, the others for performance.
• Positions: 1981-1992 The Mel Lewis Big Band (formerly Thad Jones/ Mel Lewis) 1987-1999 Vanguard Jazz Orchestra (composer/arranger, solo trombone) 1992-1994 The Duke Ellington Orchestra (arranger, first trombone & soloist) 1982-1986 Gerry Mulligan Band (first trombone & jazz soloist) 1980-1981 Lionel Hampton Big Band (first trombone & jazz soloist) 1981-1982 Buddy Rich Big Band (first trombone & jazz soloist) 1981-1987 The Duke Ellington Orchestra (arranger, first trombone & soloist) 1978-1980 member “Reconstruction” with Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders 1977-1978 Solo Trombone, Sacramento Symphony, California 1976-1980 1st Trombone Circle Star Theater Orchestra, San Francisco CA
• Selected Discography: “New Standards” the Ed Neumeister Quartet, Planet Arts Recordings “Fantasy for Cello & Big Band” Friedrick Kleihapl soloist, Ars Recordings “Here & There” JBBG plays the Music of Ed Neumeister "The Mohican and the Great Spirit" Ed Neumeister Trio TCB Records "the Metropole Suite" Ed Neumeister with the Metropole Radio Orchestra TMC "Metro Music" the Ed Neumeister Quintet Timescraper Music “Collage” the New York Trombone Quartet Plays” TNC Recordings “Can I Persuade You” the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra “The Cookers” the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra New World Records “Lickety Split” the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra New World Records “Neal Kirkwood Octet” Timescraper Records Sunny Murray "Sunny's Time Now and More" Jazzette Records Bill Mays Mays in Manhattan" Concord Records Bruce Williamson, "Big City Magic" Timeless Records Duke Ellington Orchestra "Music is my Mistress" Music Masters Mercer Ellington "Hot and Bothered" Doctor Jazz Mel Lewis "20 Years at the Village Vanguard" Atlantic Records Mel Lewis "Soft Lights and Hot Music" Music Masters Records Mel Lewis "the Definitive Thad Jones" Volumes 1 & 2, Mel Lewis "TOO YOU" Music Masters
Author DVD Video: Creative Practicing - Practice Creatively a guide to getting the most from your practice sessions