Ed Palermo is a band leader out of New York City who leads The Ed Palermo Big Band. They have just released a new CD called "The Great Un-American Songbook Volumes I & II". It features arrangements of classic British Invasion rock and roll music from the 60s, 70s and beyond. As Ed Explains, "It was very much a nostalgia trip for me." Like most of the people world during the early invasion, The Beatles were a big influence on Ed. In this collection you will hear Beatles songs such as "Good Morning, Good Morning", "I Wanna Be Your Man", "Don't Bother Me" and more. The CD also showcases the music of artists like Jeff Beck, Cream, ELP, The Rolling Stones and more. With Ed's arrangements, and the superior talent in the band, you will "Swing, Twist and Shout" to the music.
The Ed Palermo Big Band is very well known for its renditions of Frank Zappa's music. They take up many residencies in the New York area and occasionally feature past Zappa members in their performances, such as Napoleon Murphy Brock, Ray White, Ike Willis, Mike Keneally and more. The band has performed in major festivals in Europe such as The Bienalle in Germany and The UMEA Music Festival in Sweden.
Ed is an accomplished arranger, Saxophone player and guitarist and will step away from the podium to join in the musical fun with the band. In the past he has worked with Tito Puente, Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, Lena Horn and others. The Ed Palermo Big Band is a well rehearsed and polished unit... go check them out live... they will not disappoint. I recently asked Ed a few questions on the new album and his career.
R.V.B. - Congratulations on the release of your latest CD "The Great Un-American Songbook. Volumes I and II." With so many great un-American songs to choose from, was it difficult to leave out "God Save The Queen" from the Sex Pistols? Seriously, what was the process of choosing the tunes? It must have been fun because it wound up being a double album.
E.P. - Ha! No Johnny Rotten I’m sad to say. Sid Vicious maybe.Yes, It was incredible fun, and still IS. We have volumes 3 and 4 almost complete. I simply picked my favorite songs from that time period and voila! It’s very much a nostalgia trip for me.
R.V.B. - Wearing the many hats that you do... musician... bandleader... arranger - when you choose a song to record and perform - the thought process and the work on making charts for a big band must take some time? How long of a process was this album from conception to completion?
E.P. - Hard to say because some of the arrangements have been in my book for a while. “Good Night”, “Good Morning, Good Morning” and “I Wanna Be Your Man” I arranged over 20 years ago. I tweaked the arrangements prior to recording them but they’ve been around for a while. But to more clearly answer your question, I would say that the majority of the charts were written within the last 2 years.
R.V.B. - What came first for you, the guitar or the sax? What were your early influences and did they change as you got more familiar with your instruments?
E.P. - My first instrument was clarinet (which I hated). Then came guitar and harmonica. Then sax when I reached high school. Song-wise, the Beatles were my earliest REAL inspiration. Then the Mothers of Invention totally turned my life inside out. But when I heard Edgar Winter play those unreal alto sax solos on his first album, Entrance, I knew I had to learn how to be able to do that. At that point, I was a junior in high school and knew enough about music to know that if I wanted to play like Edgar, I HAD to study jazz. That study came in college.
R.V.B. - What kind of training did you receive on your instruments and how did you enter the professional world of music?
E.P. - I went to a classical school in Chicago called De Paul University. I didn’t learn a lot there but was fortunate to be surrounded by all sorts of musicians all trying to find their way and turning each other onto the different styles of music we liked. I taught myself jazz because there were no jazz teachers at the school at the time. By the time I was a senior in college, I had met a seasoned studio musician who saw me as the son he never had and got me a ton of great work. Tony Bennett whenever he was in town, jingles, film work. I certainly didn’t deserve it, but hey. I think I expected that kind of affection when I came to New York, but guess again. No one since my Chicago days ever took me under his wing like that again.
E.P. - Not much. I don’t think I ever got any more work from anything connected to those particular artists. Maybe some latin work via Tito. Tony Bennett, Lena Horne and Mel Torme-that was all from the Chicago guy who saw me as his son.
R.V.B. - When did you decide to do your own arrangements. Was there a learning curve on this?
E.P. - Huge! I was always interested in composing in my college days but never arranged anything more than a jazz quartet. I was listening to orchestral music a ton and always had designs to learn how to do that someday. When I moved to New York, I joined a nonet led by a great arranger by the name of Dave Lalama. He and his brother Ralph (an amazing tenor sax soloist) came to NYC the same time I did (1977) so we hung and played a lot together. I learned a ton from Dave’s arranging and used to ask him all the time how to write for horns. Also, I saw Woody Shaw’s nonet at the Vanguard one time and I realized, “Hey, I think I can do this!” Now Dave Lalama’s band was mainly playing be-bop. Woody’s was more modal which was closer to what I wanted to write, So I bought Don Sebesky’s book on arranging and devoured it. It’s a very thorough book but it had its problems. For one, it started out WAY too advanced. So, when I started writing for my first large ensemble (yes, another nonet), I was strictly going on trial and error.
E.P. - Great question! Not rock and roll at first. More like the Woody Shaw stuff I heard at the Vanguard that night. I was also immersed in Charles Tolliver’s big band records, particularly the album IMPACT. Amazing music. Incorporating rock and roll into my big band repertoire came much later.
R.V.B. - Frank Zappa is not the easiest music to perform. Did you embrace this just for the love of the material?
E.P. - Totally. It wasn’t the real hard stuff that drew me to the music. I’d say that the FZ music with the catchiest melodies is what I wanted to arrange. “Little House I Used To Live In”, “Twenty Small Cigars” and “The Idiot Bastard Son” are great examples.
R.V.B. - It must be fun to have ex Zappa members of guests. They seem to enjoy playing the different arrangements.
E.P. - I love that, especially Napoleon Murphy Brock and Mike Keneally.
R.V.B. - How much preparation as far as rehearsing is need to put on a standard show and where does this take place?
E.P. - We rehearse a lot. Almost every weekday, two hours a day. Of course, not each player can make all those rehearsals so I use a lot of subs. As long as each player can rehearse two or three times for each show, I’m happy. We rehearse at the Musicians Union in NYC.
R.V.B. - Will you be doing any shows this year that feature the new album?
E.P. - Yes. We play once a month at Iridium, a great club in Manhattan. We also play once every two months at a club an hour north of NYC called The Falcon in Marlboro, NY. The Falcon is special because there we put on a little musical play, replete with a storyline, costume changes and dialogue.
Interview conducted by Robert von Bernewitz 6/29/17
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For more information on Ed Palermo visit his website. www.palermobigband.com
Special thanks to Billy James @ Glass Onyon PR
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