July 2014 Update

Posted on 1 July 2014 | No responses

Hi Everyone,

Lots of things been going on since my last Update last October:

I am currently playing the world premiere and pre-B’roadway run of  The Last Ship at the Bank of America Theatre through July 13th, 2014. The original score is by 16-time Grammy Award winner Sting,  direction by two-time Tony Award winner Joe Mantello (Wicked), a book by Tony Award winner John Logan (Red) and Pulitzer Prize winner Brian Yorkey (Next to Normal) , choreography by Olivier Award winner Steven Hoggett (Once) and sound design by Brian Ronan.  It has one of the most heavily vetted orchestras that I’ve had the privilege to play in.  The musical supervisor, conductor and orchestrator is Rob Mathes who exudes musicality. The 12-piece band consists Rob as piano/conductor, Dan Lipton (Associate Conductor and keyboards), Matt Beck (Guitar 1), Steve Roberts (Guitar 2), Paul Woodiel (Violin/Fiddle 1), Martha O’Donnell (Violin/Fiddle 2), Mark Lekas (Cello), Mick McAuley (Melodean), Chris Layer (Uilleann pipes, flutes), Bob Garrett (Percussion), Joe Bonadio (Drums, and myself (Acoustic Bass). Here’s a picture of the band with Sting during the  rehearsals (which he played guitar and sang at both days):

Of course, I had to get a picture with Sting who impressed  me by his brilliance, artistry, work ethic and being a super nice guy:

Other theatre work this year included, Rent at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora from March 12 – April 6, 2014. It was a joy to reunited with the band (Steve Roberts – Guitar 1, Kraig McKreary -Keyboard 2/Guitar 2, Jim Widlowski – Drums and myself – Electric and Fretless Electric Bass) that we first played it at the Shubert in Chicago in 1997, but this time with Shawn Stengel as Musical Director and Keyboard 1. This was a great production and a fantastic band!

Pictured (Left to right): myself (Electric & Fretless Electric Bass). Jim Widlowski (Drums/Percussion), Shawn Stengel (Conductor/Keyboard 1), Kraig McKreary (Guitar 2/Keyboard 2), and Steve Roberts (Electric & Acoustic Guitar 1, Tambourine).

I started the year playing Gypsy at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre from February 6 – March 23, 2014. It had a terrific 14 piece band, conducted by Valerie Maze. This size orchestra is laudable since the theatre only seats around 500 people. It also is one of the first times I could hear everything acoustically without needing an aviom or headphone cue. LOVED IT!

Pictured (Left to right): Marty Tilton (Trumpet 3), John Blane (Bass Trombone, Tuba), Dan Johnson (Trombone), Valerie Maze (Conductor/Piano), Tim Burke (Trumpet 1), Andrew Graham (Violin), myself (Acoustic Bass), Sharon Jones (French Horn), Sean McNeely (Reed 1), Linda Van Dyke (Reed 3), and John Kornegay (Reed 2).

The Chicago Tribune theatre critic Chris Jones wrote a review which bears reading . If you’re interested, follow this link:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/theater/chi-music-orchestra-gypsy,0,2830136.story

I also got to play Wicked again from October 29th to December 21st, 2013 at the Oriental Theatre. I hadn’t played it for nearly five years. What a treat to play this great score again with a killer orchestra. Once of the highlights was when AFM President Ray Hair and Jay Blumenthal (AFM Director of Symphonic Services Division) visited the Chicago “Wicked” orchestra Tuesday, Dec. 17th.

Pictured (Left to right): Michael Keefe (Keyboard 2), Tim Burke (Trumpet/Flugelhorn), Michael Joyce (Tenor & Bass Trombone), Andrew Graham (Conductor), Janice MacDonald (Flute/Piccolo/Recorders/Penny-Whistle), Adam Laird (Keyboard 1), Jay Blumenthal, Peter Jirousek (French Horn), myself (Acoustic/Electric & Fretless Bass), Jeremy Kahn (Keyboard 4), Ray Hair, Jeff Handley (Percussion), Ricardo Castañeda (Oboe/English Horn), Sean McNeely (Bb, Eb & Bass Clarinet/Soprano Sax), Jim Widlowski (Drums), Evan Rea (Keyboard 3) and Lou Garrett (Guitar).

I am super psyked to announce that I’m playing in an KILLER horn band lead by trumpet/arranger Carey Deadman. We’ve been trying to get this band together for well over 10 years. It consists of Carey Deadman (Trumpet 1 as well as the prolific arranger), Tim Burke (Trumpet 2), Dan Johnson (Trombone), Jim Massoth (Sax), Karl Montzka (Keyboards), Tom Logan (Guitar/Vocals), Jim Widlowski (Drums) and myself (Electric Bass). The arrangements are challenging, but aurally accessible . The range from Dirty Loops tunes to Tower of Power, Chicago, etc. tunes. We’re still rehearsing, but hope to be playing out sometime this summer. There will be guest singers as well. STAY TUNED!

After 27 years in my studio, I’ve said goodbye to my Trident Series 70 mixing console. It went to a great guy in Nashville. It was difficult, but correct decision.

My son Ashley is going to help me re-design my studio and upgrade it. I’m hoping he’ll record one of his c.d.’s here. Speaking of Ashley, he’s been recording a rock c.d. with some of his pals in Berlin. I can’t wait to hear it. I know it’ll rock hard. Ashley will be flying to L.A. any day now to rehearse with Ben Kenney (Incubus) to do another U.S. tour. I think they’re supposed to play Chicago on July 1oth. I’m going to run over there immediately after my show (The Last Ship).  Here’s a picture of Ashley and Ben at the Rockwood in NYC last winter:

Well that’s enough ‘catch-up’ for now. Hope you’re having a great summer!

October 2013 Update

Posted on 25 October 2013 | No responses

Hi Everyone,

Lots of things been going on since my last Update:

The Book of Mormon ended it’s Chicago run on October 6th. It was definitely a show to remember! Great band, cast, and crew!

I start rehearsals for Wicked on Tuesday, October 29th. I’m really looking forward to playing this great show again. We played it for 3 3/4 years 2004-2009, but it’s been almost 5 years since then. It’s lots of fun re-learning these parts!

My big news is that I’ve decided to run in Chicago Federation of Musicians union elections to become a member of the Board of Directors. The election is held on Sunday November 10th. I’ve attached my ‘candidate’s letter below:

September 2013 Update

Posted on 30 September 2013 | No responses

Hi Everyone,

Lots of things been going on since my last Update:

The Book of Mormon will be ending it’s Chicago run on October 6th.  What a great time it has been playing for such a great show with such a great band: Jim Widlowski (drums), Steve Roberts (Guitars), Tim Burke (Trumpets), Andy Baker (Trombones), Steve Leinheiser (Reeds), Roberta Freier (Violin/Viola), Chris Sargent (Key 2-Asst. Conductor), and John Samorian (Key 1, Conductor). I’ll miss this one! Fortunately, I’ll get to play Wicked again 10/28-12/21. I should be a lot of fun!

Last August, I was fortunate enough to play  a concert sponsored by Broadway in Chicago, which had music and representatives from most of their shows in the upcoming season. Once again there were over 20,000 people in attendance to see this free concert. We played songs from Wicked, Once, We Will Rock You, Flashdance, Ghost, Elf, Evita and Motown The Musical. It was really a great concert!

I was a delegate for TMA to the 99th AFM Convention held in Las Vegas July 21-25. It was indeed an honor to get to speak for TMA at this historic Convention. I was elected to my third term as the President of the Theatre Musicians Association (for U.S. and Canada) on July 27 at the 18th Annual Theatre Musicians Association Conference, which was also held at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas (July 26-27). It’s really an honor! I also flew to Kansas City last August to give a report for TMA at the International Congress of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) Conference.

My son, Ashley, played a tour with Ben Kenney in the US last May/June. I flew out to Denver on a Monday to see them perform.  They were KILLIN’! They’re currently on a European tour. They just finished the UK and are in Germany as I write this.  Check ‘em out if at all possible!

Well, that’s it for now. Hope you’re all doing well and having a wonderful Fall!

May 2013 Update

Posted on 3 May 2013 | No responses

Hi Everyone,

I have been quite fortunate to be playing The Book of Mormon since last December. What a treat to play for such a hit show with such a great band. Even though we’re sold out every night is amazing, the best thing about this show, for me, is that no matter what mood I’m in when I get to the theater, I always leave feeling happy and fulfilled musically.

I realize that this is a ‘gig-brag’, but I just heard the list of the Tony Award nominations and I found out that I had played on the pre-Broadway for three of the Best Musical nominees: Kinky Boots, Bring It On & A Christmas Story. There all terrific productions and I truly feel lucky, blessed and honored to have played them. I wish them all the best of luck.

I actually subbed out of The Book of Mormon for the first time (after 155 shows) to play for the Writers’ Theatre Annual Gala. It was lots of fun.

The same night I played with my friends in Gunnelpumpers. It’s such a unique band having three bass players: Doug Johnson (leader – playing 6-string Clevinger Acoustic upright), Michael Hovanian (acoustic bass w/the Chicago Symphony) and myself on 5-string electric. The band also consists of Randy Farr (Percussion), Bob Garrett (Drums/Percussion) and John Meyer (Guitar) with also other occasion guest artists. The only rules for this band are there are only. Someone starts playing and everyone else listens and improvises. Really esoteric, but fun nonetheless.

My son, Ashley, played some live gigs with Ben Kenny in NY and will be doing a ‘mini-tour’ with him starting next June.

That’s it for now. Spring is finally here in Chicago. I’m looking forward to warmer weather … J

January 2013 Update

Posted on 30 January 2013 | No responses

Hi Everyone,

Again, it’s been several months since I updated this ‘blog’.

The past few months have been quite busy and gratifying. In late September, I began rehearsals for the world premiere and pre-Broadway run of Kinky Boots, with music by Cyndi Lauper, book by Harvey Fierstein and directed by Jerry Mitchell. It ran from October 2 – November 4, 2012.  Stephen Oremus did the arrangements and is the musical supervisor (He also is the Tony award winning  arranger for Wicked  and  The Book of Mormon). Kinky Boots will be previewing on Broadway in NY beginning in March and opening on April 4th.  I predict that it will be a major hit!

In the beginning of December, I began rehearsals for The Book of Mormon, which is written by the South Park guys (Trey Parker and Matt Stone and also Robert Lopez).  It was sold out for the first three months before we even opened.  We opened on December 19th, 2012 and it’s running at least until September 8th. I have to say that  it’s absolutely one of the best musicals I’ve ever been fortunate to play. Our Chicago band is fierce. I am very proud of it. The way I describe the show is: It’s the South Park guys on steroids … totally irreverent, sometimes obscene and possibly one of the best shows you’ll ever see.

Lately, I’ve also been fortunate to be playing on some cool recordings and also some live gigs with Gunnelpumpers.

My son, Ashley came in town from Berlin for the Christmas holidays (what an amazing gift) and is currently in NY rehearsing for some live gigs with Ben Kenney next month.  Should be awesome.

I’ve also been quite busy working in my second term as the President of the Theatre Musicians Association (for U.S. and Canada). Lot’s of great stuff that we’re working on. Plus the AFM (American Federation of Musicians) Convention is this upcoming July. It’ll be my second time to attend one (last one three years ago as TMA Vice President), but first time as President. It’s quite an honor.

That’s it for now.  I hope that you’re doing well and having a great Winter!

August 2012 Update

Posted on 28 August 2012 | No responses

Hi Everyone,

It’s been several months since I updated this ‘blog’.

Recently, I was elected to my second term as the President of the Theatre Musicians Association (for U.S. and Canada) on August 21st at the 17th Annual Theatre Musicians Association Conference, which was held this year in Oak Brook, IL August 20-21.  In the past year, among TMA’s many accomplishments, was being on the AFM Pamphlet B Negotiations for all AFM union touring musicians and getting rid of the Alternate Touring Agreement and replacing it the new Short Engagement Touring Agreement (SETA). Upon it’s ratification, hopefully in October, this contract will improve the salary, healthcare and working conditions for touring musicians.

On August 4th, I was fortunate enough to play a concert sponsored by Broadway in Chicago, which had music and representatives from most of their shows in the upcoming season and a Centennial salute to the Nederlander Theatres.  This free concert held at Chicago’s Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park had over 20,000 folks in attendance. Among the shows represented were: Peter Pan, I Love Lucy, Catch Me If You Can, Les Miserables, Sister Act, War Horse and Kinky Boots.  The show ended with Cyndi Lauper singing a song from her new musical Kinky Boots, which will be having it’s pre-Broadway Run in Chicago starting in late September.

I’ve been fortunate also to play on several recordings in the past months including Chicago actress, Iris Lieberman’s new cd.

As you can tell, not much theatre for me since 4/1, but the fall is going to get busy (starting with Kinky Boots).

I did manage to take several trips in the last 4 months including to:

• Berlin to visit my son, Ashley. We also did a side trip to Prague, Czech Republic. It was breathtakingly beautiful.

• Philippines to scuba dive off of the island of Cebu. This included a day of diving with several whale sharks. It was a shore dive (walk in the water) from a small town on the Northeast side of Cebu named Oslob. All of the diving was spectacular. I also spent four days in Bangkok, Thailand before going home. Great trip.

• Puerto Aventuras Mexico – we went the day before Hurricane Ernesto hit Belize (about 400 miles south). Lots of rain for a couple of days and then beautiful weather. We did two ocean dives, but the viz was still bad because of the weather. For the rest of the dive trip, we dove several of the Cenotes (underground rivers, i.e. caves) including Chac Mool and Taj Mahal. This was outstanding! Check out my Facebook pix for this and the Philippines dives.

• Minneapolis – to attend the Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA) conference and give a report for TMA. This went very well as did

• Chicago – attending the International Congress of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) and gave a report for TMA. (8-22-24).

So I have managed to keep busy and am readily welcoming the coming fall.  Hope you’re having a great summer!

March 2012 Update

Posted on 27 March 2012 | No responses

Happy Spring Everyone!

I had a great time playing The Lion King in Richmond, Virginia for the last week of February.  Lots of fun working with the local players as well as my friends on the tour.  And what a beautiful place and historic place to be. The Lion King definitely has some great cities to play.

I also played Legally Blonde at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire the first week of March. I’ll also be playing it the last week of March as well.

In between, I played Bring It On at the Cadillac Palace March 6th – 25th.  It was an amazing experience with a GREAT band. The show is a ‘pre-Broadway’ with an amazing creative team from the Tony Award winning writers of In The Heights, Avenue Q, Next to Normal and Tony winning arranger Alex Lacamoire. This show may be a big hit in NYC.

I was in NYC to represent TMA at the Pamphlet B Negotiations for two rounds in February and March. It’s still in process.

Speaking of winter weather, Chicago has had three of the warmest weeks in history this March. I think that St. Patrick’s Day was the warmest in history. Several days in the 80’s (and 70’s). What a difference from last year …

I’ll be playing some cool gigs in April: Tributosaurus at Martyr’s on 4/4 (They’re an amazing authentic cover band. This month they’re covering Billy Joel). I’m also playing a gala benefit for the Writer’s Theatre in Winnetka.

Depending on how Pamphlet B negotiations scheduling works out, I’m also going to visit my son, Ashley and his fiance, Ema, in Berlin 4/27-5/7.  I’m really looking forward to that!

January 2012 update

Posted on 13 January 2012 | No responses

Happy New Year Everyone!

I had a great time playing The Lion King in Denver at the Buell Theater.  Lots of fun working with the local players as well as my friends on the tour.  And what a beautiful place to be …

Although I was a bit sleep deprived, I flew home  late on 12/4  and got up and took a 6 a.m. flight to NYC to represent TMA at the Pamphlet B Caucus at the AFM. I’ll be returning to NYC the end of this month, when the negotiations begin.

I played  A Christmas Story at the Chicago Theatre December 14-30. It was a great show, based on the movie. Cynthia Kortman-Westphal was conducting and was truly a pleasure to work with. The band was a 17 piece big band which included harp. Marcia LaBella was amazing on that book!  This was a really fun show to play. Great cast also. I gotta feeling it’ll be on Broadway next year.

I’ll be playing Bring It On at the Cadillac Palace March 6th – 25th.  Alex Lacamoire did the arrangements … should be cool!

My son, Ashley, had his 30th birthday on 1/7. WOW! I’m so proud of him. He’s an amazing musician (check out ashleymendel.com) and living in Berlin, Germany with his fiance. He was born on the coldest day of the century in Chicago. I think that it was -33º (about -90º with the wind chill).

Speaking of winter weather, yesterday was our first major snow here in Chicago this season. I shoveled three times.  I won’t complain (too much). It just scares me though.  Last year, we had a major blizzard around the beginning of February. E-burrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

November 2011 Update

Posted on 30 October 2011 | No responses

I’m leaving for Denver on 10/31 to play The Lion King at the Buell Theater through December 4th. It’s always a treat to get to work with Chicago’s own Rick Snyder, who’s conducting the tour. I just finished playing a couple of weeks of Snapshots which is based on songs of Stephen Swartz from several of his shows. I also played a benefit for Chicago House which was entitled “Sweep Dreams” and included actors and musicians from Mary Poppins.

I’ve also found a little time to continue teaching scuba diving, which is my other passion. I just finished teaching a Wreck Diving and an Enriched Air class. Lots of fun. The water is getting a bit ‘nippy’ up here in Chicago…

Coming up … I’ll be playing A Christmas Story at the Chicago Theatre December 14-30. Happy Holidays!!!

August 2011 Update

Posted on 21 August 2011 | No responses

I had a great time playing with the Grant Park Orchestra last month for their program “Broadway Rocks” which featured songs from Wicked, Hairspray, Momma Mia, Tommy, Phantom of the Opera, and many more. Steve Roberts, Jim Widlowski, Michael Keefe, Maria Honingschnabel and myself were the theater musician ‘ringers’ who accompanied the orchestra and four singers from New Year. It was estimated that there were 12 to 15,000 folks in attendance.  Cool gig!

I just returned from the Theatre Musicians Association’s 16th Annual Conference which was held in Dearborn, MI. I was fortunate enough to be elected TMA’s national president on Tuesday, August 16th. I am deeply honored and am trying to hit the ground running.  I was asked to give a speech at the ICSOM (International Congress of Symphony and Opera Musicians) Conference which was also in Dearborn on Thursday, August 18th. It was an additional honor to be speaking along with all the other AFM Player Conference leaders to all the ICSOM leadership, delegates and AFM leadership.

The 20th (yesterday) was my birthday. I played a short gig and then was taken out to eat by my girlfriend, Tippi,  to ARUN’s restaurant which is on the 1000 things to do before you die list. My son, Ashley, who accompanied us, flew in for my b’day and my brother, Fred, is coming in on the 24th. Being with family and friends is indeed one of the biggest blessings in life.

Coming up … I’m going to be playing a show called Snapshots in October and going to Denver to play on The Lion King tour 10/31-12/5.

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