Ed Neumeister

Ed Neumeister was born in Topeka, Kansas on September 1, 1952, and grew up in Fremont California, 35 miles from San Francisco. When he was five, he found his fathers old trumpet in the closet. He played the trumpet for two years before switching to accordion. At nine, wanting to play trumpet again, he joined the Weldonian Band, a private marching band in Oakland. The band director convinced Ed to play the trombone because of his teeth structure. When Ed was 13 he performed JJ Johnson’s solo of Mack the Knife at the Oakland Coliseum for the half time show of the first football game at the new stadium. Moving up the ranks of trombone section, Ed was soon playing in their “stage band” playing pieces from the book of Stan Kenton, Woody Herman and Count Basie.

By the time Ed was 15 he was a member in the musicians union and playing gigs. As a late teenager and into his early 20’s he was music director for a rock and roll road show with Chuck Berry, Chubby Checker, Bobby Rydell and others.

From 1970-73 Neumeister studied at the University Of California in San Jose where he studied trombone with Bob Szabo and composition and orchestration with Lou Harrison.

Fed up with the politics of the US, frustrated with the war in Vietnam and with an urge to travel , in 1973, at the age of 21, Neumeister bought a one-way ticket to Paris. He made his way to Amsterdam, where he stayed for two years. This was an intense time of practice. He found a place to live, rent free, where he could practice through the night. Many nights he practiced until the sun came up. During this time in Amsterdam, Neumeister, performed with many of the best musicians in Holland. It’s interesting that he moved to Europe to hone his craft as an emerging jazz musician, playing and studying African, Afro-Cuban, Brazilian and Indian music as well as jazz and classical. It was also in Amsterdam that he met his wife Linda.

In 1975 Ed moved back to San Francisco to continue his studies with the great trombone teacher Mitchell Ross In 1978 Ed won the first trombone position with the Sacramento Symphony Orchestra. It was during this time that Neumeister was also introduced and subsequently studied the music of John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Bela Bartok and some of the other “creative” geniuses of the 20th century. Reading about and studying the music of these great artists greatly affected the way Ed approached music. Playing classical, jazz, Latin and various commercial music, Ed continued an intense study of the trombone and creative music. From this point on, he was dedicated to the advancement of his music and committed to making a contribution to the world of composition, trombone playing, improvisation and creative music. During his San Francisco period Ed played with all the best players in San Francisco including the legendary bband Reconstruction with Jerry Garcia (of Greatful Dead fame) and Merl Saunders. Ed also had several steady gigs with his quartet (called “the New Ed Meistero Quartet”) which included players like: Mark Levine, Jerry Granelli, Michael Formanek, Lincoln Goins, Clanence Beckton, Bruce Forman and others.

In 1980 Neumeister moved to New York and almost immediately joined Lionel Hampton’s band. This followed a stint with the Buddy Rich Band. In September 1981, he joined the Mel Lewis Big Band, which became the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra after Mel’s Death. Ed stayed in this band, playing Monday nights and occasional tours for 18 years. That same year he began a relationship with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, directed by Duke’s son Mercer, a relationship that lasted more than15 years. And from 1982-84 also played and toured in Gerry Mulligan’s concert Jazz band. He was also active in the New York free-lance world, playing in the studios and theaters and wherever trombone players were found. With these and other bands, Ed played concerts all over the World.

Throughout this time Neumeister kept his quartet and quintet playing whatever gigs he could find, usually clubs or private parties. The members of the quartet included: Jim McNeely, Kenny Werner, Harold Danko, Marc Copland, Victor Jones, Dennis Irwin, Drew Gress, Jay Anderson, Lincoln Goines, Jamey Haddad, John Riley and others. For the quintet, he usually added multi reedman, Billy Drewes. The band recorded one CD on the Timescraper Label entitled “Metro Music”. In the early 90’s Ed also recorded “Mohican and the Great Spirit” for TCB. Neither of these recording were promoted and subsequently received only a few reviews, though all positive. Around 1988, Ed formed an Octet, which included Joe Lovano, Kenny Werner, Don Byron and others. Called the New Hat Ensemble, it has been resurrected from time to time. Celebrating Duke Ellington’s 100th birthday in 1999 and 2000, Ed put together a group with Mark Feldman on violin, Billy Drewes on clarinet and alto, Ron Miles – trumpet, Marc Copland – piano, Drew Gress – bass, and Tom Rainey or Jamey Haddad on drums and percussion. The band had two successful tours in Italy playing Ed’s arrangements of some of the more obscure music of Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, mostly from their Suites. Unfortunately, this band was never recorded, except for some live concert tapes.

From the time he was fifteen, Neumeister was composing and arranging for whatever bands he was playing in. But, in 1987 composing became a, more, serious part of his musical persona. Through BMI’s Jazz Composers Workshop, Ed began studying with Bob Brookmeyer, who was musical director of the Mel Lewis Band when Ed joined, and Manny Albam. Over the course of the next few years, Ed went from a trombonist who composed to a composer who played the trombone.

In the 1992, his arrangement of “A Nightingale sang in Berkeley Square”, written for the Mel Lewis Band, won him a Grammy nomination.

Through his writing and playing he was invited in 1992 to come be a guest with the Kluvers Big Band in Ahrus Denmark. That first trip, as a soloist, turned into a two-week tour. In subsequent years, Ed traveled to Europe more and more writing for and playing with Big Bands and local rhythm sections. In 1992, Ed played his first recording with the Metropole Radio Orchestra and come back several times over the years. The first time he came only as soloist, but later began composing and arranging for the group as well.

All this European travel eventually led to a teaching professorship at the University of Music in Graz. Preferring the more supportive environment for new and creative projects and the security of a teaching professorship, Neumeister moved, in 1999, with his family to Vienna Austria. He was subsequently offered the position of Head of the Jazz Composition Department at the Music Conservatory in Luzern, Switzerland.

Since arriving in Austria, Ed has composed a concerto for Cello “Fantasy for Cello and Big Band” recorded with Fritz Kleinhapl on cello on the Ars Label (1991). Also, he has recorded JBBG (Jazz Big band Graz) (1990) plays the music of Ed Neumeister on the Mons Label, and “New Standards” (1992) on his own MeisteroMusic Label with his current quartet, Fritz Pauer – piano, Drew Gress – bass and John Hollenbeck – drums. The follow up recording is scheduled for 2003 release. Ed hopes to release his recording with the Metropole Radio Orchestra in 2003. 2002 also saw the release of “Collage” a landmark recording with the New York Trombone Quartet, which included Ed’s arrangment/transciption on Bartok’s 4th string quartet. The review of the performance of this piece at the International Trombone Festival in Feldkirch, Austria said, “History was made!”

At the time of this writing he holds both these positions, and continues to compose and perform with his quartet and as a guest soloist. He has composed and/or arranged more than a hundred pieces ranging from solo to orchestra.