Jazz Trumpet Player Jim Rotondi of New York is truly one of the great unsung heroes of Jazz Trumpet artistry. I was first exposed to Jim's jazz trumpet artistry on a couple of Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra albums that I own.
Jim Rotondi grew up in Butte, Montana where he began playing the trumpet at age 12. My first musical influence was my mother, who remains a strong influence. Jim relates, "My first trumpet teacher was a man in Butte, Montana named Larry Cragwick. Larry really showed me the basics of playing a brass instrument, like the proper use of air and embouchure, very thoroughly." Jim graduated from Butte High School in 1980. After high school, Jim went to the University of Oregon for two years, but without declaring a major. When Jim decided to get serious about his trumpet playing, he transferred to North Texas State University, (now the University of North Texas). Jim remembers, "When I was at Oregon, I didn't do too much; some rock band gigs and gigs with school groups. Also while I was in Oregon, I remember Bobby Shew coming to do a workshop and concert with our big band, which made a very strong impression upon me." During Jim's time at North Texas, he went through the ranks from reading band to the One O'Clock Lab Band. In the One O'Clock Band, Jim did a lot of gigs. In fact, Jim states, "it was almost more like a gig itself than a college big band." Jim also did quite a few Latin gigs in the Dallas area at this time, as well as some private trumpet teaching. While in Texas, Jim was awarded first place in the International Trumpet Guild's Jazz Trumpet Competition for the year 1984. Jim fondly recalls, "My most influential trumpet teacher at North Texas was a man named Don Jacoby, (whose name probably recurs frequently on this site) since he taught just about every notable trumpet player from North Texas until his death. He was a truly inspired teacher.
Trumpet Player Jim Rotondi currently tours with his own group, as well as with the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band and has toured with Grammy-winner Toshiko Akiyoshi. Jim gigs extensively with the collective known as "One For All" which features a front line of Eric Alexander, Steve Davis and Jim.
Jim fondly recalls what he learned from Don (Jake) Jacoby ... "Don Jacoby (Jake) was really more of a guru; he had many common sense ways of dealing with playing obstacles, such as thinking of upper register notes as farther out in front of you rather than up, which helped to remove the physical aspect of the trumpet. Jake always said you're better off practicing four times a day for fifteen minutes than once a day for an hour, emphasizing the importance of resting as much as keeping the horn actually on your face."
Jim on jazz improvisation ... "As far as improvisation is concerned, I grew up listening and transcribing, and I still think transcription is pretty much essential. From this we help our ear, our technique, and our conception, all in one exercise. Also, sitting at the piano for fifteen or twenty minutes a day can really help your ear and your harmonic understanding. When I got to college I had already taught myself basically most of the theory and harmony they taught there just by sitting at the piano and learning tunes." Jim also recommends using the time tested trumpet methods such as Max Schlossberg's Daily Drills, Arban's Complete Conservatory Method For Trumpet and Herbert L. Clarke Technical Studies in ones daily trumpet drills.
Jim currently lives and works in the New York City area where he maintains a vigorous performing, recording, composing and teaching schedule. Jim has given clinics at Emory University in Atlanta, the Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Camp in Louisville, Kentucky and he has served on the faculty of the Stanford Jazz Workshop in Palo Alto, California. Jim is currently on the jazz faculty at SUNY/Purchase College in Purchase, New York. As of July of 2008, Jim also serves as Professor of Jazz Trumpet at the University of Music and Dramatic Arts in Graz, Austria.