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Featured Musician - November 2005

Name: Steve Moretti


Instrument: Drums, percussion

Early years/education: When my older brother got a drum kit, I started playing. He was ten and I was four. I remember watching him and the next morning I woke up and went downstairs.

My mom thought it was he but it was I playing. In the beginning I'd play to tapes. I studied classical piano for a few years and did jazz piano in middle school in Benicia, California, where I grew up. I really fell in love with big band music in the 6th grade and I've been doing it ever since. In high school I was the drum captain, had a sax quartet as well as playing tuba and percussion in the school symphony.

I'm essentially self-taught, taking my first drum set lessons in college with Ric Craig at the University of Redlands, in California. I studied with Ric for two years. He put the finishing touches in my playing.

I really didn't start gigging until college. Although drums or percussion was always my focus, I continued to play sax, tuba and timpani in college. I got a Bachelor of Music Performance in Percussion from Redlands.

I went to grad school in San Francisco at Cal State at Hayward where I hooked up with big band impresario Matt Catingub. At that time he was going around the state auditioning students for a small big band recording featuring local Bay Area musicians for Concord Records. I had heard he was going to use a professional rhythm section from Los Angeles and just add horns.

Anyhow, Matt shows up at my school with these charts Steve Gadd had just read, pretty intimidating. Somehow I nailed them and he offered me the gig along with a bunch of us from Hayward. We then became the Big Kahuna & The Copa Cat Pack big band. Shortly after that we became Rosemary Clooney's band and Michael Feinstein's band and Linda Eder's band, etc. We had a good run for about six years and then we started doing television. We were on Rosie O'Donnell's Christmas TV Special and ended up on her Christmas CD backing up Rosie and Rosemary Clooney.

Portland: I moved to Portland last August because of my wife Amy's position with the Oregon Symphony. She is the concertmaster or first chair violinist of the Oregon Symphony. She was the concertmaster of The Florida Orchestra before that. I was happy to get back to the West Coast because most of the artists I generally work with live on this coast. I go to Hawaii to work quite a bit so this is an easier commute. Ironically, at my wife's first concert with the Oregon Symphony, I was with Matt Catingub and we were the incoming artists for a pops concert. I had the gig booked first! I got to meet Niel De Ponte and he started calling me to sub for the symphony on percussion and drum set. I also do a little teaching and occasionally will hold master classes for colleges and the like.

I've also started a production company with long time associate Doug Beavers called Disturbing Productions. We've toured and recorded together and between us we have five Grammy Nominations.

Musical influences: Joe Jones, Louie Bellson, Max Roach, Tony Williams, Jack De Johnette, Gary Novak (plays w/Chic Corea), to name a few drummers. Then all the jazz players from Miles Davis to John Coltrane to Chic Corea to Michael Brecker to Christian McBride, there are so many!

Most satisfying experience: Doing a double drum-off with two of my heroes on two separate occasions. In college I had the pleasure of playing opposite Ed Shaughnessey and in graduate school with Louie Bellson. Both times it was with a big band and the crowd reaction was insane! Another outstanding experience was playing with Rosemary Clooney and the Big Kahuna Band at the Fujitsu Jazz Festival
before thousands of people.

Favorite recordings: The late tenor saxophonist Bob Berg's Another Standard featuring drummer Gary Novak; Chic Corea's Paint the World again with Gary Novak; Keith Jarrett with Jack De Johnette; I listen to Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, John Coltrane and McCoy Tyner; I listen to everything from classical to John Mayer and Dave Mathews; I like a group called Vertical Horizon, and Toad The Wet Sprocket.
I'm also currently listening to the Berg Violin Concerto.

Discography: w/Rosemary Clooney: The Last Concert, Sentimental Journey, Best of the Concord Years (Concord): w/Matt Catingub and Big Kahuna & The Copa Cat Pack: Shake Those Hula Hips, Hawaiian Swing (Concord); w/Rosie O'Donnell, A Rosie Christmas (Columbia Records); w/Hayley (Orchard Records); w/Destination Lounge: San Francisco, (Revive The Soul Records); w/Herb Silverstein: Beach Walker (Silvertunes Records); and w/All Is Well (In Tune Ministries Records).

Where playing currently: I do a lot of Pops Concerts with Toni Tennille all over the country. I still work with Matt Catingub; he's the Pops Conductor of The Honolulu Symphony but he guest conducts so I travel with him as his drummer.

I'm getting ready to do a live recording in January just with Matt; it'll be a quartet or trio live recording at a club in Hawaii that'll be called Catingub's.

The club will be inside the Halekulani Hotel on Oahu. Also, I'm in a Portland band called Amelia I joined in April. Amelia is a singer-songwriter kind of eclectic band featuring Teisha Helgerson, Scott Weddle, Jesse Emerson, and Michael Papillo. We're working on a new recording right now and touring the West Coast.

I also play with the 9-piece funk Ken DeRouchie band, Bobby Torres Ensemble and I sub for Ron Steen and play at his jam sessions every chance I get. I can't thank Ron enough for the support he's given me since I moved here.

Gigs coming up: w/Amelia: 11/18, Pink Door, Seattle, 10pm, 11/26, Mississippi Studios, Portland 8pm, and 12/23 Doug Fir Lounge, Portland, 9pm; w/Bobby Torres Ensemble, 12/3, Jimmy Mak's, Portland; and with The Pied Pipers singing group, 11/3 Moses Lake, WA, 11/4 Everett, WA, 11/5 Ontario, OR, 11/9 Klamath Falls, OR, 11/14 Turlock, CA, and 11/16 Grants Pass, OR.

Future plans: I'd love to do my own thing as a featured artist with symphonies in a Pops situation; I'd also like to do more projects as a duo with my wife, Amy.

Other comments: My overall goal as a musician is to try and play each style convincingly enough that people might think that that's my focus. Being a professional musician is a great life, I don't take it for granted.

-- Interviewed by Rita Rega

Copyright 2007, Jazz Society of Oregon