An Interview With The PJ Cotroneo Band – The West Indies To The West Side NYC


“PJ Cotroneo spent the early to mid ’90′s living in Antigua, West Indies immersing himself in the island’s music and culture.  While there he began playing jazz with guitarist Roland Prince.  Upon returning to the States, PJ attended the New School’s Jazz/Contemporary Music program in New York City.  PJ had been playing jazz around the New York/New Jersey area for a number of years, but it was in 2006 that he felt the pull of his blues background after watching a clip of guitarist Mick Taylor, an early influence of PJ’s.  This inspired PJ to take the genres he loves the most, jazz and blues, and incorporate them into a working creative platform.  The PJ Cotroneo Band makes music that is a fusion of blues roots augmented by the improvisational aspect of jazz.  Hailing from New Jersey, the five-piece band have used this musical amalgam as the foundation in their creative process and have made it the core of each masterpiece contained on the band’s debut album titled “Here Today”.

MF: What is the biggest mistake your group ever made?

PJ: I think the
biggest mistake my last group  made was not having a stronger publicity
push.  We tried getting all of the gigs ourselves which is useless
unless you have the right person guiding you and doing the necessary
managerial duties.  For instance, the CD was very professional, sounded
great and had big jazz names on it, which could’ve helped visibility
wise.  At the end of the day no one looked at the CD seriously because
the presentation was very amateurish: we had  no press kit and no bio,
and no one other than ourselves taking it around, so right away our
entire presentation looked very shabby.    That lesson has definitely
helped me realize what I need to have THIS time around.               

MF: What is the smartest thing your group has ever done?

think the smartest thing I have done with this band is pick a
collection of musicians that I know so well personally AND musically,
so we all get along very well on a few different levels.  Also, for the
music we make, I found the perfect balance of musicians who, like
myself, come from a strong jazz background but are also open enough  to
other things, this way there are no limits to what we can do

MF: What advice can you give for a group looking to improve their live show?

would have to say that rehearsing is KEY.  Everything has to fit, and
unless you work out the tunes and the band, your live shows will not
flow.  The music has to breath and be free, and in order for that to
happen it has to be second nature to the musicians playing it.  The
only way that happens is through rehearsing the music.     

MF: What advice can you give for a group to build up a buzz?

PJ: Make
sure the songs are as TIGHT as possible, also make sure the ensemble
sound is as tight as possible.  People are coming out of their way to
see you, you must give them a REASON to want to come BACK and see you
AGAIN.  Then, they’ll tell MORE people and your reputation as a great
live band will grow.  Also, having FIRST -RATE merchandise is KEY: if
you expect people to spend their hard-earned money on your CD’s and
T-shirts, make sure they are getting QUALITY, i.e. HIGH QUALITY
SOUNDING AND LOOKING recordings, HIGH END T-shirts, etc.  This is all
EXTREMELY important, because along with your live show, these other
elements also represent your band to the public.         

MF: What is the coolest piece of gear you have come across recently?

PJ: My 1957 Gibson Custom Shop reissue Gold Top Les Paul

MF: What is something you should bring on tour that most people may not think of?

PJ: A clothes steamer……

MF: Tell us something you learned from your last recording experience?

PJ: The
first time I went into an actual studio in 2003 I was very green and
nervous.   This time, it was all my music, my direction, and I feel I
definitely have become more experienced enough in the studio to get
what I want.  Of course, like everything else, the more you record, the
better it gets, the more you learn, etc., so it will keep improving. 

MF: What is a piece of equipment you can’t live without? And Why?

PJ: My Gibson guitars–they are works of art, and I am constantly practicing so I always need one around daily to work out on.

MF: What is the dumbest thing you see other groups do?

PJ: Take for granted and/or be ignorant of all of the business aspects that
need to be tended to.  It doesn’t matter how great the songs and band
might be, if you can’t package it and get it out there, who’s going to
take it seriously?  A great band has even greater organization.  At the
end of the day, it’s a business.  

MF: What have you learned songwriting wise recently?

PJ: I’m always
learning new things.  Even though we aren’t necessarily playing jazz
per se,  I try to approach composing from a jazz perspective.  The
composing comes out of constant and daily practice on your instrument,
because ideas will come out of musical things you’re working on.  The
great Blue Note records of the 1950′s and early 1960′s were made by
some of the greatest and most prolific American composers of the 20th
century.  We all know that it takes most rock bands 2 years to put a
new record out (sometimes more), but if you listen to the recordings of
say Jackie McLean or Lee Morgan or Hank Mobley, these guys were making
records in 1 DAY, and sometimes they’d do 2 SESSIONS in a day, and they
were CONSTANTLY coming up with interesting tunes to record at these
sessions.  They were CONSTANTLY at work coming up with new ideas, and I
feel that practicing in general and tinkering daily with song ideas
specifically definitely keeps the soil fertile.   

Contact the PJ Cotroneo Band:

  • Razor Ray

    Good friends and long ago
    memories are the best inspiration IMO.