Ed Laub is a talented guitarist from New Jersey. When he was young, his family of multiple musicians would have musical gatherings. This - along with - seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show, inspired Ed to take up the guitar. Through his school years, he had various rock bands and took lessons from local teachers. One of his guitar teachers was Bobby Domenic, who was the uncle of New York session great Bucky Pizzarelli. Ed would eventually study with Bucky and turned into a fine jazz accompanist on the guitar. Around twelve years ago, Ed and Bucky joined forces as a duo to perform at the finest clubs throughout the Tri-State area as well as around the United States. When Bucky needs a break from performing - being that he has turned 90 years old - you will find Ed performing with the area's best guitar talent. I recently spoke with Ed.
R.V.B. - Hello Ed, Rob von Bernewitz from Long Island, how are you doing today?
E.L. - Oh good, good how are you?
R.V.B. - I'm doing good... it's another nice warm day. So the guitar... how did you get interested in it in the first place?
E.L. - Oh wow, I was probably one of those guys that heard The Beatles when I was in 6th grade, and said "Oh, I like that. That looks like a good one." I was taking piano and trumpet lessons at the time, and I didn't really like it. Then I heard Paul McCartney sing "Till There Was You" and I said, "That's what I want to do when I grow up."
R.V.B. - That's a great song... pretty much you, and the rest of America.
E.L. - Yes, I think so in a way. I think everyone in my age group, and I'm sixty two... we were fairly young when they came to the United States, they had an impact on millions and millions of people getting involved in music.
R.V.B. - They sure changed things up, and took down the Doo Wop bands in the process. So I guess you talked your parents into getting lessons?
E.L. - Yeah, it wasn't hard... my dad's family had a lot of musicians. My uncle was an organist, writer and arranger and worked with Fred Wearing and Mitch Miller.
R.V.B. - Those are two big names.
E.L. - Yeah, he was a very prolific arranger for the electronic organ, so back in the 50's, 60's, and 70's when the instrument really started to take hold, he had a pretty lucrative career. He spent most of it arranging.
E.L. - Yes, he did have a Hammond. He also had a little store, and sold Lowrey organs and Thomas organs. It was because of his Thomas organ affiliation back in the 60's, that I was able to get my 1966 Vox Royal Guardsman amplifier, which I still have to this day. It was the kind the Beatles used. Te big tall, stacked amplifiers. Thomas organs owned Vox back then.
R.V.B. - Is that the same Vox that made the wah wah pedal also?
E.L. - Yeah, exactly. I have a Vox wah wah pedal from the 60's as well.
R.V.B. - I had a pedal that said "King Vox."
E.L. - That was a little bit different. The word Vox is a registered trademark name. I think it's a Latin name. So anyway, I had that kind of influence, and my other uncle was a bass player. When our family got together, we had drummers, piano players, bass players, trumpet, guitar, and that inspired me as a kid. I wanted to be part of that. I was always around it... my dad was a trumpet player.
R.V.B. - I gather you were exposed to a lot of different fields of music, even though The Beatles were in town.
E.L. - My mom used to sit me on a stool next to the record player, and put on Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Vic Damone, Perry Como and Bing Crosby. She'd play me these songs, and give me the lyrics and I was like six, seven, or eight years old, and I'd be learning all the tunes from the 30's and 40's. She taught me all of that music. To this day, I can thank her for the education... in terms of what I play today and the education that I got doing it.
R.V.B. - I was wondering, how you resisted the temptation to play rock and roll?
E.L. - Well you know I was never really any good at it. When I was a kid, I was in a number of rock bands, and I never really gravitated to being a lead guitar player. I always liked singing and playing, so I tended to be a rhythm guitar player. In high school, I was in an acid rock band playing Hendrix, Cream, and all that kind of stuff, and I really didn't enjoy it very much. I kind of broke off and formed a group with a bunch of other guys, and it was kind of like a "Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago band." We had horns, keyboards, drummers, and we were like a 10-12 piece band. We did Al Kooper and the Blues Project, and Chicago... groups like that.
E.L. - I was friends with Kenny Rankin, so I spent a good portion of my time studying his music... learning it, singing it, and doing stuff for just guitar and voice.
R.V.B. - I see you studied with Bobby Domenic?
E.L. - Yeah, that was Bucky's uncle, and he was actually my second teacher. The first guy I had was a great rhythm guitar player - jazz player from the local area here, but I started studying with Bobby and unbeknownst to me at the time, I didn't know that he was Bucky's uncle. He actually taught Bucky how to play the guitar. When he got sick and stopped teaching, my uncle got me a meeting with Bucky when I was sixteen, to go over and take some lessons. I went over there one Saturday morning and he said "Look, show me what you can play." I started playing this chord melody of "Darn that Dream" and I got to this one little chord which was kind of unconventional for most guitar players to have been taught... Bobby Domenic was first and foremost a banjo player, so he'd use all these little inversions of these chords that were more banjoesque' than guitar. So he stopped me and he said "Where'd you learn that chord?", and I said "From my guitar teacher", and he said "Who is that?". "Well his name is Bobby Domenic". He throws up his hands and goes "That's my uncle... he taught me how to play the guitar", and he said "You're in kid." That's the way Bucky is... he saw that little chord, and he knew right away that I had studied with somebody that knew something. He had me coming back every Saturday, and within a year I bought a seven string guitar. I was seventeen, so that was back in 1969.
R.V.B. - What other guitars did you learn on in the early days?
E.L. - My very, very first guitar was a Sears Silvertone solid body. My first real guitar was a Guild single cutaway laminate top. It was an archtop guitar. They called it the T100D. It was a slimline hollowbody guitar, and I still have that great little guitar today. That was the last time I actually played a six string guitar. I went out and bought a Gretsch George Van Eps seven string, which I still have.
E.L. - It is, and various guys have used it in a variety of different ways. I obviously learned it in the context of the way that Bucky learned it, which was almost of a George Van Eps style... a chord melody with bass. I use it a little bit more bass and rhythm like. When we do our duo together, I'm basically fingerpicking all the time and playing bass and chords, triads... almost acting like a bass and a piano player at the same time.
R.V.B. - Like a total rhythm package.
E.L. - Yeah exactly... that's the way I play it.
R.V.B. - That has got to be very desirable, because I see in your resume that you do play around and you're always asked to be an accompanist. It's got to be good to have that ability and style to back up other players.
E.L.- It is, I'm certainly not the guy out front in terms of lead guitar type of work. I've never really had that much of an interest in it, to tell you the truth... to always focus my attention on it. I've always been more of an accompanist, and a vocalist. Bucky pretty much did that for his whole life up until maybe the last ten or fifteen years or so... where he's really come out as the main focus.
R.V.B. - He was a big session man also right?
E.L. - He'll tell you, he put his kids through college being a session guy... primarily playing a six string Danelectro Bass, and doing tons of Doo Wop stuff in the 50's and 60's. He would also play rock and roll as a backup guitar player. He would get off at night and play in clubs... do some stuff with Benny Goodman. He played with George Barnes. He was playing his seven string guitar and doing more jazz, but for the most part he made his living as a session player playing rock and roll.
R.V.B - I see that you went to Fairleigh Dickenson. How did you enjoy that experience? While you were there did you play in the local area?
E.L. - Well I didn't do a lot of individual gigs. I did some but it wasn't much. I did a lot at the school. I enjoyed going to that school. It was a great school and it had a terrific music department.
R.V.B. - They have a great radio station.
E.L. - Yeah they do, and they did back then also. I graduated Fairleigh back in 74, and even back then at the Madison campus, they had a really good radio station. They had a lot of listeners, because they're right near New York City. It was a great school, and they had a great jazz band with the professor that ran the music program there. I met a lot of the guys that I ended up playing with there... even to this day. There was a great drummer that I worked with through a friend of mine... I don't know if you ever heard of this guitar player in New York Jack Cavari? Jack is a big session player these days. His brother Perry was my drummer. So I met a lot of those guys there... a great sax player. There's a guy you can see on facebook a lot by the name of Wayne Johnson. He's a guitar player, and he and I played there. He went there for about two years when I was there, and we ended up having a guitar duo. We performed around the area, so it was nice.
R.V.B. - So I guess there came a point where you said "Ok, I'm gonna start doing this professionally." I see on your schedule that you're very busy now.
E.L. - I had bought into my family business, and I played on weekends and nights. I had a trio, and I worked in a six piece band for a while... doing that while my kids were younger. About 12 or 13 years ago now, I sold our family business and Bucky said to me "Come on, let's form this duo." So we put this thing together and we've been playing together ever since.
R.V.B. - Are there any performances that you may have played that stand out and you really thoroughly enjoyed.
E.L. - You know I'm very much like Bucky in this way... I think some of the smaller venues that we play in... and not that the large ones aren't fun to play in, where we meet a lot of people... we've played with Joe Piscopo and the Bacon Brothers down in DC, but some of the gigs that we do locally like at Mezzrow, and at Smalls in The Village, are as gratifying as any of the big ones. It's mostly because you're up close and personal with the people, and you get to meet a lot of nice folks. The people come and listen, and appreciate what we do. I think that's more gratifying than anything that's big and splashy, to tell you the truth.
R.V.B. - I can see that. When you're in an intimate setting you meld with the audience better.
E.L. - Absolutely, it's not about how big it is... it's about how appreciative the audience is to what you're doing.
R.V.B. - So what beach were you on when you met Sir Paul.
E.L. - One of the patrons that comes to hear us at Shanghai Jazz all the time in New Jersey... She and her husband belong to a yacht club in Amagansett out in the Hamptons. So we were at the Devon Yacht Club, which is right out on the ocean there. Every year in August, we would come out and play a cocktail party, when they had their big dinner. So we got out there early, and we were having a sandwich on the beach, and the maitre d' knew that Bucky had just finished doing an album with Paul. He comes running in and goes "Ed... Paul McCartney's out on the beach." I said to Bucky "Come on, let's go out and say hello to him." So we walked out, and he was out there sailing with his granddaughter and his daughter. So we walked down to the beach, and he couldn't have been a more nicer and down to earth guy you'd ever want to meet.
R.V.B. - That had to be a nice meeting.
E.L. - It was, and you talk about gratifying... seeing somebody of that magnitude. He was asking us more questions of what we were doing out there, than he was concerned about what he does.
R.V.B. - I noticed one of the other pictures just said Woodstock. Do you go up there on occasions?
E.L - Once a year we go up and there's a great little luthier's convention that they hold up there each year... I gather you're a guitar player.
R.V.B. - Yes I am, and I've seen the posters in the town.
E.L. - It's really nice, and if you love acoustic guitars... you gotta go up there. There are just some of the most beautiful guitars you've ever seen in your life. It's a small convention set up, and they just have tabletop displays, but the luthier's and guitars are there. Each one of the luthier's will ask performers that play their instruments to come up and perform. Dale Unger... who makes my guitar and Bucky's guitar... an American archtop... he's up there every year, and we go up and perform for Dale in his booth. I think it's in October. It's really beautiful, that time of year. There's a lot of history up there in that town, but if you're a guitar head you're gonna have a blast.
R.V.B. - That sounds nice. I saw that you were a part of Bucky getting inducted into the New Jersey Music Hall of Fame.
E.L. - Yeah, he was inducted back in 2011 and they asked he and I to perform after his induction. The next year, they asked us back again just to perform. That year we brought Frank Vignola, and we did three or four songs.
R.V.B. - That's the lineup that's gonna be at the Boulton center?
E.L. - It is, except were also adding Frank's partner Vinny, who's a spectacular guitar player. They play a little bit different style than Bucky and I do. We trade off... Bucky and I do our duo thing and they do their duo thing. Then we do a quartet. Frank will do a solo and then I'll do a vocal solo thing. Frank and Vinny have their own act, which is spectacular and hilarious at the same time. We did it out in Salt Lake City in January, and we went to Denver the next night.
R.V.B. - That sounds like a good show.
E.L. - We have a lot of fun doing those quartets together.
R.V.B. - Thank you very much for taking this time. Your career is really taking off. It must be a whole lot of fun.
E.L. - It us, it's been very gratifying. It happened to me late in life and I'm very pleased. Bucky and I have been friends for 47 years and playing with him is kind of a quintessential thing, especially because he was my teacher for the better part of my life. We're just finishing an album right now.
E.L. - This particular one is kind of unique. We did this out in Jersey here. A young guy opened up a studio and is he very talent, and has been doing this for many years. It's a little place called "Trading 8's." This album is kind of interesting in that Bucky is doing a classical concerto for the first three tracks. He's doing the Tedesco concerto and we brought in eleven other musicians... a string quartet, a woodwind quartet plus contra bass. The balance of the album is just the two of us together. We're gonna finish that up in the next two weeks, and then it gets mastered. It will probably get out in a few months.
R.V.B. - That sounds like a nice project. Thank you very much for spending this time with me, I appreciate it.
E.L. - Your very welcome.
Interview conducted by Robert von Bernewitz
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For more information on Ed Laub visit his website https://www.edlaub.com/home
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