As good as the great trumpet legends, Bill Ortiz releases Highest Wish October 19th”
“Music doesn’t always need to be about changing the world or bringing a profound message… sometimes it’s about getting people from Monday to Tuesday, but it’s important to have both. Art has always had a place in changing social consciousness, and music definitely is one of the things that bridges the gap between people and cultures.” – Bill Ortiz
By Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez
Deputy Managing Editor, Herald De Paris
Excerpt of exclusive interview published author permission
Bill Ortiz is the lead Trumpet player for Santana… a chair he has held for twelve years and in the one million years yet to come. In addition to his world travels, Las Vegas showcases and arena gigs with Carlos’ crew, Ortiz’s sweet, assertive trumpet attack has made him one of the most in-demand players on the San Francisco Bay Area music scene.
His performing and recording credits include work with such diverse artists and groups as Patti Austin, Cachao, Don Cherry, The Dramatics, Destiny’s Child, En Vogue, Sheila E, James Ingram, Tito Puente, Flora Purim and Airto, Todd Rundgren, Arturo Sandoval, Boz Scaggs, TLC, Tony! Toni! Tone!, Cecil Taylor, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, and Steve Winwood. In addition, Bill has been very active as a studio musician in Hip-Hop, R&B and Jazz.
A proud San Francisco native, Bill took up the trumpet at age ten and played in R&B bands as a teenager. He feels that this experience was invaluable to his subsequent jazz work. “I consider myself a jazz player,” he said, “but my musical upbringing contains a large amount of Latin playing. I’m part Cuban myself, and I started out playing R&B. What I’m trying to do with my music is reflect all those elements of who I am as a musician. It’s basically all African music; it’s all branches of the same tree. I’m not a purist at all. I try to bring it all together.”
On his EP, which charted in the top ten on CMJ’s hip hop charts for over a month, Ortiz covers Gil Scott Heron and Brian Jackson’s 1973 hit on the track Winter in America as an homage to the recently departed Heron. The concept video for this track has been featured on many mainstream hip-hop websites.
Dr. A.C. Hernandez had the opportunity to interview Bill Ortiz, another friend from the Santana family:
Bill Ortiz: Well, before I started playing the trumpet, music already played a big part of my life during my early years. My parents played music in the house a lot and had a pretty extensive record collection- everything from classical and pop music at the time to soundtracks for movies and plays- stuff that is referred to sometimes and the “great American song book,” songs that became jazz standards. The one record that made the biggest impression was called “Satchmo The Great.” with Louis Armstrong performing live with live a full orchestra conducted by Leonard Bernstein.
Do you think growing up in SF affected your musical sensibilities back in the day the music in the Bay Area was quite eclectic?
BO: Growing up in the bay area during the ’70’s had a huge impact on my musical sensibilities, and that foundation is still strong today. I consider this era of music as a real golden age… it was paramount for many artists at that time to be innovative, progressive and conscious minded, at least the ones I gravitated to. In addition to all the great music coming out of the bay area such as Sly, Santana, and Graham Central Station- there was Curtis Mayfield, Weather Report, The Art Ensemble Of Chicago, the whole punk movement, Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder with “Inner visions”, The Gil Scott-Heron/Brian Jackson Band, ’70’s Miles Davis and all the great vocal groups coming out of Philly.
Tell us about Tony, Toni, Tone. What was that whole experience like?
BO: All in all, that was a terrific experience, musically and otherwise. The band was just killin’! The core of the group all came from gospel music backgrounds, and they all just flat out played their asses off. Playing live, we’d add lots of elements that weren’t on the original recordings… great arrangements, solos sections and musical interludes. All three of the principals of the group, Raphael Saadiq, Timothy Christian-Reilly and D’Wayne Wiggins are great writers and producers, and all the other musicians were as well. There were long hours on the tour bus with that band, 24-7 of watching Scarface, playing Madden football, brutal cap sessions, listening to gospel quartet music- lot’s of laughs and good times. We were having more fun then we realized at the time.
Elaborate on working with En Vogue, Janet, Destiny’s Child and TLC.
BO: My time with En Vogue, TLC and Destiny’s Child mostly involved studio work, although when Santana played at The Super Bowl a few years back, Beyonce performed some songs with us as well. I worked with En Vogue along with a number of artists while working for the producing team Foster and McElroy, who also produced Tony Toni Tone’s first 2 CDs.
I had the pleasure of playing on Janet Jackson’s tour with Tony Toni Tone’, who was the opening act. Her show had lots of high production- it’s really something to see such an elaborate presentation every night, and to see how it all works behind the scenes technically with the video, special effects and sets is pretty cool! She had a great band and dancers, and she performs her tail off too-it a total show.
Did you get typecast as strictly an R&B player?
BO: I guess it’s pretty natural for people to define you by the work you are doing. Hopefully they like or appreciate what you do. I’ve been the “Latin guy,” the R&B guy, the jazz guy, the Latin guy again, the R&B guy again, the guy who’s never home… I am very fortunate to have played lots of different stuff genre wise- it’s all good.
Tell us about your latest release ‘Winter in America.’ Why Gil Scott Heron? Are you trying to make a socio-politcal statement and if so, what is it?
Read Dr. Al Carlos fabulous interview where Bill Ortiz talks about working with Boz Skaggs, Lavay Smith, his role as a youth education mentor through his music, who he looks forward to working with, and his plans for the future, by visiting: http://www.heralddeparis.com/santanas-trumpet-master-bill-ortiz/191062
Bill Ortiz “Highest Wish” CD Release Party at Biscuits and Blues on October 19, 2012
Dinner Reservations and Tickets Available: (415)-292-2583 or at: http://www.biscuitsandblues.com
Please check out Bill Ortiz http://billortiz.com/music
–Edited by Elia Esparza, Latin Heat Editor