Performing as a substitute with the orchestras of “Kinky Boots,” and “Sunset Blvd.” (starring Glenn Close) on Broadway for the first time this week. 

This week I joined the orchestras of two hit Broadway shows back to back; “Sunset Blvd.” and “Kinky Boots.”  For those of you who don’t know what it means to sub on a Broadway show for the first time, It may be interesting for you to get my perspective. 

Playing a Broadway show for the first time is like walking a tight rope 50 feet in the air with no net.  There is no rehearsal with the band. You get the music and you prepare as best you can without actually playing with the orchestra. 

The notes (although absolutely important to NAIL) are the least of your worries.  It is the unknown variables that you don’t find out about until you actually get on stage and perform.  Theater is live, you never really know what is going to happen.  In the case of “Subset Blvd,” some of those variables included the following.  

One of the big challenges for all the orchestra members is a lack of space to play your instrument.  This is a problem in almost every pit I have played in.  While playing the 1st trombon chair at “Sunset Blvd.,” if you move a few inches from side to side, your instrument will hit parts of the set. 

Anothe unknowable variable was the music stand being inches from my face.  This makes it difficult to see the notes at the top, bottom and sides of the page while trying to follow the conductor.  Oh yes… and  you can only see the conductor on a small video monitor above the stand which is difficult to see and hard to follow while reading the music that’s too close to your face.  

In addition,  the trombone section mate (the bass trombonist) was suiting in front of me with a felt curtain between us. 

The level of musicianship on Broadway is exceptional.  Tonight, my section mate (the bass trombonist) had only played the show once before.  In other experiences, this could definitely make my job harder.   Luckily “my man” did his homework and played beautifully.

From the conductors perspective, all of these variables are the subs problem.  The maestro wants to hear the same thing that the regular musician plays. 

It might sound a little stifling to the reader if they have never experienced this level of chaos when they go to work. For the Broadway sub, this is well within our wheel-house. We deal with all of these variables because this is how we make our living.

Tonight the conductor was thoroughly pleased with my performance. To me that means I could be called back. That is the paramount goals. 

It’s not all about getting a gig though. The orchestra at “Sunset Blvd.” is one of the best orchestras I have played with. It is also one of the largest.  There is a full string section, brass, winds, percussion/drums, and even a harp. Most Broadway shows have less that half of the musicians that are in the “Sunset Blvd.” orchestra. It was truly a joy to play with this fine ensemble. 

It was also cool to see Michael Douglas hanging near the musician are.  When he saw me and a group of musicians (wearing our tuxes) he said to us “The orchestra sounded beautiful!”

“Kinky Boots” had a whole other set of variables. 

Preparing the music was essential, but it is only part of the skill set needed to thrive as a Broadway sub.

The City College of New York/The Lion King

Excited to start teaching at the City College of New York today.   I love teaching because it forces me to put into words my own technique so that the student can understand it and benefit from it. This process makes me a better musician.  It is also important for me to give back since people gave to me when I was a young student.

After teaching, I’m headed to perform with the pit orchestra at The Lion King for their evening performance tonight.

A Bronx Tale and The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra

a Bronx tale
A Bronx Tale
doubles this week
Doubles this week

Today is a busy day.  Up early to fix breakfast for the family and clean the kitchen and get ready for two completely different gigs today.

First, I am excited to be back at “A Bronx Tale” on Broadway for the matinee today in NYC. The book requires a trombone and tuba double so I’ve been practicing the instruments together for the past few days.

Then, tonight I continue playing the week at the Village Vanguard which continues tonight with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra for our 51st Anniversary. I am blessed for these opportunities.

New Jersey Transit Train at Newark Broad Street

New Jersey Transit Train at Newark Broad Street.

This is how I get in and out of NYC. Tonight I’m headed in to watch the book at Kinky Boots.


My Office Tonight at “The Lion King”

This is my office tonight at the Disney musical “The Lion King.” There are 3 French Horns, Tuba/Bass Bone, and me on Tenor trombone in this room in the back of the theater. The rest of the orchestra is in the pit.

#thelionking #lionking #broadwaymusical #musical #theater #musicaltheater

Back at “The Book Of Mormon” with Raul Agraz

Raul Agraz and Jason Jackson
Raul Agraz and Jason Jackson in the pit Orchestra at “The Book Of Mormon”

it’s great to be back with the Orchestra for “The Book Of Mormon” tonight on Broadway in NYC.  It doesn’t get better than sitting next to the great trumpeter Raul Agraz leading the brass section. 🙂

#bookofmormon, #thebookofmormon, #raulagraz, #broadway, #broadwaymusical, #musical, #pitorchestra, #theater, #livemusic, #music


Freelancer’s Life

Just got a call to do The Book Of Mormon again tonight. Had to change a few things around but it’s worth it. My chops should be ready to go from last nights gig with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.  Weeeee……freelance baby!!

Th Book Of Mormon

I was at Book Of Mormon Last night with Raul Agraz.  This is yet another great band on Broadway in NYC.  Looking forward to doing it again next Friday.

Last night at “Beautiful, The Carole King Musical”

Jason Jackson and Trevor Neumann in the pit at Beautiful, The Carole King Musical
Jason Jackson and Trevor Neumann in the pit at Beautiful, The Carole King Musical

My last night playing with trumpeter Trevor Neumann and the band at this incredible production of “Beautiful The Carole King Musical.”  I had a blast playing with the orchestra.  Thank you Jennifer Wharton for the opportunity.

Beautiful, The Carole King Musical

I am appearing with the orchestra for “Beautiful” on Broadway tonight through Thursday at the Stephen Soundheim Theater in NYC. I get to play some of my favorite hits like “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman.” It’s a great show.

Monday night with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra

Monday night with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.  Join our weekly gig at the Village Vanguard.  We will perform the compositions of Thad Jones, Bob Brookmeyer, Jim McNeely and others from our library of over 300 tunes!Village Vanguard, 178 7th Avenue South, New York, NY, 10014,  Sets 8:30pm and 10:30pm. Door open 7:30

Holiday in by Irving Berlin tonight

Tonight I am performing with the “Holiday Inn” Orchestra on Broadway. The wonderful orchestrations are by Larry Blank. Don’t be fooled by his last name, there are no “blank” pages or bars for that matter in this book. 🙂

This is a delightful show with nonstop dance numbers (band playing!)  If you can catch it before it closes, I would recommend it.

Low brass equipment

These are the horns I use:

  • Walter Sear Tuba,
  • Holton T181 Bass Trombone,
  • Bach 42 gold brass bell and nickel silver slide,
  • Minick Tenor Trombone (.500 bore)
From left to right, Walter Sear Tuba, Holton T181 Bass Trombone, Bach 42 gold brass bell and nickel silver slide, Minick Tenor Trombone (.500 bore)