How did the band meet or come together?
I love New Orleans, their culture, and their music. I go down almost every year to take in the festivals. It started with JazzFest, and then morphed to French Quarter Festival as I quickly became enamored with the sounds of brass bands and Zydeco music. The French Quarter Festival offered the best local talent, and I was able to digest the many flavors of music coming from Louisiana. My vision is to combine the sound of Dixieland and traditional brass band with Zydeco/swing/and swamp funk. I wanted a big horn section and to play music that people would love to dance to.
I met “Big Squeezy” AKA Steve Rice in 2018 on gig masters. Steve had a Zydeco band in Seattle and loved the idea of putting this group together. He is a prolific jazz composer and a killer accordion player. We started writing.
The band is made up of veteran players who have worked with me in various musical settings. I met Steve Schupsky on a Reock and Roll concert.
David Anthony provided the studio drumming and percussion for all the Gumbo Gumbas recordings from his home studio. I met him playing with Motor City Revue. I played with Greg Novick in Detroit on a Motor City Gig and asked him to join the band immediately. He’s that good.
Lars Wendt (trombone) and Vinny Borselli (trumpet) have been playing in horn sections with me for years. So that was a no brainer.
I met Steph Munter on a Holiday Express gig and just fell in love with his sound. He’s a great guy and plays bari sax and clarinet beautifully.
Band members are located all over NJ and PA and with everyone’s busy schedules, getting rehearsals together was a challenge to coordinate. The problem was solved by working virtually and bringing musicians into my studio one at a time to learn and record new music for the band.
We released our first album “Back to NOLA” in February of 2020. Directly after the
pandemic hit, all live shows were cancelled. We spent the down time writing new material
for the group and now have the Zydeland album.
Who are your biggest influences?
When people think of New Orleans, most associate the city with French, Spanish, and African culture. Not many know that New Orleans also has a rich Italian ingredient and this spice flavors the music of the Gumbo Gumbas perfectly. Joe grew up listening to and loving the music of the two great Louies; Louis Armstrong and Louie Prima. He has captured the essence of these extraordinary artists and infused them into the soul of the Gumbo Gumbas compositions. The effect is contagious as people remember a Gumbo Gumbas show with a smile on their face and a blister on their feet. Other influences would be Tower of Power, Trombone Shorty, Buckwheat Zydeco and the great swing bands of the 40’s.
What’s the craziest thing that has happened while performing?
Once we did a show at a ski resort in July. There was only one customer in attendance, and he got drunk and threw up in our PA bass bin.
What is your creative process like?
Squeezy and Joe do most of the writing. They come up with ideas and rough out a song. Then Joe programs a demo of the song in Logic and sends it to Dave Anthony, the drummer. He records his drums and replaces the demo parts. Next, we usually send that over to our bass player’ house and he adds the electric or acoustic bass. Then Joe brings the horns into his studio and the guys read his charts. We then will add vocals and maybe add some accordion parts here. Joe arranged the string parts and sent them to Jenn Santaccione and she plays violin, viola and cello and sends me back the tracks. Once everything is recorded, we go to another studio to mix. Steve Jankowski (who is presently out on the road with Nile Rodgers) mixed our first record at Jankland Studios. The second album was mixed by Tim Gilles of Big Blu Meanie studios in Australia. Tragically, Tim passed away in the middle of the mix process and we were lucky to have Tim’s good friend Los Maddy bring the project home. Mastering is sent out to Alen Duchess of West West Side music.
If you could open a show from any artist, who would it be?
Would love to open for Wayne Toupes or Jon Cleary at JazzFest New Orleans.
Do you have anything else to add?
We had the pleasure of performing at the JSJBF event “Bands by the Beach” this summer in Long Branch. We were very happy with the response we got from a great crowd. We look forward to doing more events in the future for this great organization. For more info on the band please visit our web site or socials: