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Leah Zeger

Violinist Leah Zeger Masters Unconventional Repertoire

Leah ZegerViolinist Leah Zeger of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) was 15 years old when she was sidelined by injury, essentially losing the use of her arm. It was a crucial time, preparing for conservatory auditions. Doctors were mystified as to the root of her pain, but Zeger’s mother didn’t give up and took her all over the world to find an answer. When she was finally diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS), they discovered she had a congenital abnormality that was causing nerve compression in her upper limbs.   

Zeger opted out of the risky surgery recommended for acute cases, but it would take another four years for her to fully recover. Her parents, Ruth and David Zeger, both orchestra musicians and members of Local 65-699 (Houston, TX), had nurtured her career. Her mother, especially, was disheartened. But it was during this hiatus—a break from the rigor of practicing classical music several hours a day—that she discovered other musical forms and recaptured teenage years usually lost to serious musicians. Zeger says, “She had given this identity to me, and I lost it. But I was having a great time living life. I was impressionable. I was able to explore music outside the classical world. Jazz friends were teaching me stuff. I was listening to rock music.”

At 19, when Zeger was a sophomore in college, she again picked up the violin and her mother worked with her to prepare for an audition with Austin Symphony Orchestra. She secured a seat in the first violin section, beating out Juilliard grads. She credits her mother’s expert teaching, saying, “She’s fantastic. She motivated me.”

During her time at a performing arts high school, Zeger studied with mezzo soprano Katherine Ciesinski and she continued studies in opera performance and violin at the University of Texas at Austin. After graduating, Zeger went on to become associate concertmaster of the San Bernardino Symphony and first violinist in Redlands Symphony.

Outside her classical pursuits, though, Zeger’s musical tastes are more akin to a rock star than a classically trained musician. Jazz and blues factor into her performances, but hip-hop and rock are staples on her playlist, which includes Nine Inch Nails. What’s more, the 33-year-old has a passion for the music of guitarist Django Reinhardt to which she was first introduced as a young girl. She’s a featured soloist with the gypsy jazz band New Hot Club of America. 

Her extreme versatility means Zeger is in high demand. She’s played alongside Willie Nelson of Local 433 (Austin, TX), Charlie Daniels of Local 257 (Nashville, TN), and Eddie Vedder of Local 76-493 (Seattle, WA). As a member of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, she played with Steely Dan—for Zeger, a dream come true.

Zeger is a musical chameleon. In a video she produced and directed she gives a thoroughly artistic performance of the “The Man I Love,” alternating from ingénue to cabaret singer. In another, a leather-clad Zeger dazzles on an electric violin. Bands take advantage of her violin virtuosity and her ability to simultaneously sing in long legato tones. Zeger downplays her talent. “It’s easy for me because I’ve always loved harmony singing. I had an ear for harmony already,” she says. “If you do anything slow you can do it fast or up to speed.”

In between symphony projects; jazz festivals, including Montreal, Buenos Aires, SXSW, and the Olympia in Paris; touring Europe; and working on recordings, Zeger is also a sought after film and TV session player who has worked with Annie Lennox, Stevie Wonder of Local 5 (Detroit, MI), and ELO’s Jeff Lynne of Local 47.

Zeger’s debut album, Leah and the Moonlighters (2010), is a collection of original works. In 2013, on Pour Moi, she gives spirited renderings of jazz selections, including compositions by Django Reinhardt. She lends her haunting vocals to jazz standards, and classical and folk melodies. More obscure arrangements are further recreated with Zeger’s characteristic panache. Her third album, a combination of jazz/rock fusion, with string arranger Stevie Black, is expected to come out next year.

With such an eclectic and multi-faceted résumé, it’s hard to know exactly what her dream job might look like. But with Zeger’s artistry and flair for performance, and given her knack for mastering all things music—at the moment, she’s learning the bass guitar—Broadway is not unachievable. For now, she says, “I’d love to be a headliner at jazz festivals.”

The Ring of Success: A Career in Jingles Keeps Annagrey in Business

Annagrey of Local 72-147 (Dallas-Ft Worth, TX)

Annagrey of Local 72-147
(Dallas-Ft Worth, TX)

Singing jingles—the ubiquitous refrain on the radio that usually gets stuck in your head—is serious business. Local 72-147 (Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX) member Annagrey Wiechman, who now goes by the mononym Annagrey, landed her first jingle for Lays Potato Chips at just 14 years old. At 18, she was singing at a wedding when she was discovered by producer Otis Conners.

Now 45, Annagrey has done radio identification and advertising packages for home builders, cheese, dog and cat food, doctors, and a lot of car commercials. There are no sure-fire formulas for success in the industry, but her distinctive voice has secured gig after gig. Nearly 30 years after her first commercial, she’s surprised by her own success.

Right around the time the Broadway musical Annie came out, with Andrea McArdle of Local 802 (New York City), Annagrey decided she wanted to become a singer. She was in seventh grade when the young star inspired her. Annagrey eventually attended the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

In the jingle world, art and advertising coexist to meet a particular need. In this case, Annagrey’s career singing jingles allows her to compose her own songs and do solo work. “One feeds the other. After a long session of singing call letters, that’s usually when I like to write my own music. It’s therapy, detox from jingles,” she continues. “You spend four hours using your voice—and emoting. It’s all about the sound and the emotion, but you’re not saying words that are emotional.”

Jingling requires talent and tremendous vocal agility. Being able to calibrate one’s voice, knowing which words to emphasize, not only takes practice but plenty of experience. Within the commercial, the cadence, the perceived emotion must all be readily accessible. In other words, it takes acting ability.

In the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s the jingles sound was more of an ensemble sound, a chorus—think “Buy the World a Coke”—which eventually morphed into a solo sound, with unique voices instantly recognizable. Annagrey says, “I feel like I’ve become one of those voices, and I’m proud of it. To do live work is fun, and jingles has been a great living. I honestly love to sing jingles.”

Annagrey was doing jingles at Rosewood Studios when producers for LeAnn Rimes heard her singing and they asked her to do backup. Since then, she’s also done backup singing for pop artist and Local 257 (Nashville, TN) member Meghan Trainor. She was on The Oprah Winfrey Show as part of the Pop Star Challenge, competing on three episodes, and finishing as a finalist. 

A regular lounge singer, who also plays with bands and artists around the region, Annagrey says, “I love the fact that I can take an old, old song and almost remake it. It’s like singing a brand new song. It’s been cool to experiment with songs that I’ve been singing since I was seven years old. It feels fresh because there’s a different style. I can add a little bit of jazz or blues, even classical music.”

Annagrey’s influences are as diverse as her vocal range: Billy Holiday, Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder of Local 5 (Detroit, MI), Robert Plant, Celine Dion, Carly Simon, and Joni Mitchell of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA). Vocally, she evokes Etta James and Norah Jones. With three CDs to her credit, she has covered and written songs that showcase an array of styles, from country to funk.

“As long as it’s from the heart,” Annagrey says, “Sometimes it’s jazzy, sometimes it’s bluesy, or straight out rock ‘n’ roll!”

Denton Declares Jay Saunders Day

Jay-SaundersAt the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival in Denton, Texas, Mayor Chris Watts read a proclamation designating April 29, 2016 as Jay Saunders Day in Denton. In a short speech Watts highlighted the Local 72-147 (Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX) member’s career contributions to the University of North Texas (UNT) Jazz Studies Program. Denton Arts & Jazz Festival Director Carol Short also recognized Saunders and his wife Pat for more than 32 years of volunteer service to the festival.

Saunders earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree at UNT, where he was lead trumpet for the school’s premier jazz ensemble, the One O’Clock Lab Band, during the 1960s. In his distinguished career, Saunders has played with the Stan Kenton Orchestra, US Army Studio Band, Dallas Summer Musicals, Casa Mañana Musical Theater, Dallas and Fort Worth symphony pop series, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Ray Charles, The Supremes, Henry Mancini, and countless others. He’s recorded 11 albums with the Stan Kenton Orchestra and one with Doc Severinsen. Plus he’s recorded music for documentary films and countless commercials on every major television station.

Saunders has served with distinction on the faculty of the UNT School of Jazz Studies for 16 years as a full-time lecturer and for seven years as an adjunct faculty member. He has directed the school’s Three O’Clock Lab Band for many years, has directed the Two O’Clock Lab Band for the past six years. He’s directed the One O’Clock Lab Band for two years, during which it received a Grammy nomination.

Neil Balm: Trumpeter’s Career Hits the High Note

nEIL-BALMNeil Balm of Local 802 (New York City) is co-principal trumpet of the New York City Ballet and principal trumpet for the New York Pops and Mostly Mozart Festival. All along, he’s demonstrated his virtuosity, recording with the Canadian Brass, as a soloist with award-winning conductor Gerard Schwarz of Local 802, and on tour in Europe with Louie Bellson’s Big Band. The experiences were revelatory for Balm, who hails from Hamilton, Ontario. He says, “They are such fabulous musicians!”   

Balm’s father was a high school music teacher who also repaired instruments. Balm picked up the trumpet and never put it down. He showed promise, and at 12 years old, when he formed a band, his father told him, “If we’re going to do this, let’s do it right. Let’s join the union.”

His father passed away before Balm entered high school. Balm, who at the time was studying with Ronald Romm of the nearby Canadian Brass, found an extended family. Romm became a father figure. When Balm entered the Juilliard School to study with William Vacchiano, it was Brass member Fred Mills (also trumpet coach for the National Youth Orchestra of Canada) who introduced Balm to top New York musicians.

In 1979, Balm was practicing concertos and orchestral music, in between his bachelors and masters degrees at Juilliard, when the phone rang. Peter Frampton of Local 257 (Nashville, TN) needed a horn section and somebody asked if Balm was available. He was hired based on references. Opening the four-month tour with the band in Flint, Michigan, to more than 7,000 people, Balm (who played lead trumpet and keyboards) says, “I had never been to a rock concert until I played that one. I couldn’t believe my eyes and the roar of the crowd. It was fantastic!”

“I was fortunate to have had rich exposure to such a high level of playing,” Balm says. His main teacher and chamber music coach, conductor Gerard Schwarz,  gave him playing opportunities which Balm says, put him on the map. On Schwarz’s recommendation, Balm became principal trumpet for the preeminent summer concert series Mostly Mozart Festival. This year will be Balm’s 33rd season with the 50-year-old festival.

Balm credits old friend Marvin Stamm of Local 802 for inroads to the jazz scene. “I went to recording sessions and got to see some of the great players, how they played and how the business worked. Eventually, I started covering for some of those guys.” For five years, he worked with Ted Weis, long considered the first trumpet of New York. Balm says, “He was a pro, and if you were observant, you could learn how to survive on the job.”

That’s where the union comes into play. He stresses, “It’s a team sport, not just on the stage or on the band stand, but also behind the scenes. It’s a mistake to think you can do it on your own. Without the union, negotiations, contracts, CBAs, and the fraternity that we have, we’d be making $50 a night the rest of our lives.”

The camaraderie he found in the union positioned him to help other musicians. Partnering with timpanist Jonathan Haas of Local 802, he formed Gemini Music Productions. The contracting and consulting firm provides educational and business outreach for musicians so they can build and use the area’s vast union-connected resources.

Between the New York City Ballet Orchestra, the New York Pops, the All-Star Orchestra, Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart, and his production company, the 58 year-old Balm stays busy. He has no plans to stop working—but when he does, his investment in the union means he has a pension to cushion retirement.

Balm maintains, “If you can really play, you’re going to work.” He admits it may not be a 52-week contract with a symphony orchestra, but he says it’s easier nowadays for artists to create music, especially with today’s technology. Ever mindful of the shifts and metamorphosis of the music business with each decade or generation, Balm nonetheless proclaims it’s alive and well.

“After the ’40s, people said, ‘the big bands are done, the business is gone’; in the ’50s, when radio orchestras started dying out, people said it was over. In the ’70s and ’80s, when the jingle business dried up, people said, ‘the business is gone.’ But it’s still here. The music business changes, but it’s still here!” he says.

Maggie Scott and the Great American Songbook

Local 9-535 (Boston, MA) member Maggie Scott has had a long career performing from the Great American Songbook and teaching it to students at Berklee College of Music.

Local 9-535 (Boston, MA) member Maggie Scott has had a long career performing from the Great American Songbook and teaching it to students at Berklee College of Music.

In a career that has spanned seven decades, jazz vocalist and pianist Maggie Scott of Local 9-535 (Boston, MA) still draws inspiration from the music she grew up with, in an era when the big bands were in full swing.

Scott remembers waiting at the stage door of the RKO Theatre on Washington Street after shows for autographs of Gene Krupa, Anita O’Day, and Tex Beneke. Hearing the Tommy Dorsey band, with Frank Sinatra, was a highlight. “He was thin,” she recalls, “He sang really well—and in those days, girls swooned. I was still in high school and the fare going into Boston was 10 cents!” 

The smoky piano lounges and full jazz orchestras may be long gone but Scott, who still performs at the Top of the Hub in Boston, has done her part to introduce the canon of standards to a new generation. At Berklee College of Music, where she has taught since 1978, Scott is something of a legend.

Her own story lends an illuminating dimension to the course she teaches: The Great American Songbook. She draws on her experiences to help students develop phrasing, tempos, style, and artful presentation. She is a purist who urges students to learn as many jazz standards as possible, a solid repertoire of George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, Irving Berlin, and Johnny Mercer.

“The lyric is the song! Tell the story,” she instructs her students. “A jazz piece never requires vibrato, but straight sound always,” she says. Only when a student has mastered the song and knows it inside out can he or she improvise, change keys and tempos.

“An experienced singer starts to hear other melodies that fit the chord progression,” she says. It’s a natural process, but one Scott insists takes time. For diction, unparalleled tone, and range, she points to First Lady of Song, Ella Fitzgerald. “As a singer matures and sings them long enough, the lyrics take on new meaning,” she says, adding, “Billie Holiday, for example, her pain came through on so many of her ballads. You could just hear it.”

To learn harmony and chord progressions Scott studied the piano stylings of Art Tatum and Teddy Wilson. Later, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, and Tommy Flanagan all inspired her playing. She says, “These trios were exceptional—I thought, very swinging, beautiful harmonies.”

Vocalists who had a strong influences on her development included Peggy Lee, Julie London, Chris Connor, June Christy, and Jo Stafford. Classical training came later, in 1950, when she auditioned for Arthur Fiedler. After nearly three years of practice and a second audition, she earned a solo with the Boston Pops, playing Gershwin’s “Concerto in F.”

Scott, who in the 1970s accompanied many of the greats—Cab Calloway, Eartha Kitt, John Raitt, Tommy Tune, Toots Thielemans, and Natalie Cole—studied at the Juilliard School of Music in the late 1940s with jazz pianist John Mehegan.

She had joined the AFM in 1946, just out of high school, and was already playing piano at hotels and clubs around Boston. “I knew the best musicians belonged to the local and I aspired to play with them—and ultimately I did,” she says. “There is a certain amount of respect given a member, and playing with my peers was all part of it.”

She went on to become the first woman elected to the union’s local executive board, where she served for 31 years, from 1979 to 2010. Back in the days of crowded, smoke-filled union halls, the exchanges could become quite heated. Scott says, “I charged 25 cents for every swear word, and actually collected $11. And I bought donuts with the money!” She adds, “I also bought a ‘no smoking’ sign.”

Scott laments the loss of live venues for musicians, noting DJs have flooded the industry, competing for wedding and club engagements once reserved for casual-date players. “There has been a tremendous loss of gigs for the union musician. The jazz clubs have suffered as well,” she says.

Her job now, as she sees it, is to educate a new generation of Songbook devotees. “The lyricists were unbeatable. Students should know the music, become familiar with it because it may influence what they may want to pursue as part of their music education,” she says. Given the scores of young stars and high profile students—Lalah Hathaway, Antonia Bennett, Lauren Kinhan, and Robin McKelle—who have all crooned their way through her classes, there is no doubt of her success.

Pablo Diemecke Playing with Heart: Violinist’s Versatile Career

Violinist and Local 247 (Victoria, BC) member Pablo Diemecke is frequently asked to give master classes in Canada, the US, and Mexico.

Violinist and Local 247 (Victoria, BC) member Pablo Diemecke is frequently asked to give master classes in Canada, the US, and Mexico.

Violinist Pablo Diemecke has a wide-ranging career that has taken him around the world, throughout Europe, North America, Asia, Russia, and Iceland. After two decades as concertmaster with the Victoria Symphony, he opened a private music studio, and founded his own group, the DieMahler String Ensemble.

“Since then, I have been teaching and training young performers in chamber music, in Canada and in Mexico,” says the Local 247 (Victoria, BC) member. He runs the academy in Canada, while his sister manages the family’s music academy in Mexico, both under the name Diemecke Music Academy.

Diemecke, who is affiliated with the Royal Conservatory of Toronto as a private teacher, was born into a family of classically trained musicians. His father, Emilio, was a cellist and a renowned conductor. His mother, Carmen, was a piano teacher. Together, they opened a music academy in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, during the 1960s.

“The house was always filled with music. We listened to recordings of famous violinists and orchestra music,” Diemecke says. And the number of children—eight in all—was perfect for competing quartets. “I was first violin and concertmaster of my father’s orchestra,” he remembers.

Diemecke’s father first bought a violin for his younger brother. “My father was teaching Enrique how to hold the instrument and I was watching. My father asked if I wanted to try—and that was the beginning. Once I held the violin, I knew I wanted to become a violinist,” he says. Enrique, a member of Local 542 (Flint, MI) is now conductor of the Flint Symphony Orchestra, the Bogotá Philharmonic, Politécnico Orchestra in México, and music director of the Buenos Aires Philharmonic Orchestra. His brother Augusto Diemecke of Local 380 (Binghamton, NY) is violinist and concertmaster of the Orchestra of the Southern Finger Lakes.

Other generations have also secured a place in the family’s legacy: Pablo Diemecke’s daughter, Jeanette Bernal-Singh of Local 145 (Vancouver, BC) is assistant principal violinist in the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and his son is a violinist and violist in Australia, with the Brisbane Philharmonic Orchestra.

Success came quickly for Diemecke, who made his professional solo debut at 17 years old, and began studying under renowned violinist Henryk Szeryng at the State of Mexico Symphony Orchestra, in Toluca. He became concertmaster of the National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico at just 26 years old.

In the US, he studied with Hungarian virtuoso Robert Gerle and with Daniel H. Majeske, the celebrated concertmaster of The Cleveland Orchestra. In 1980, he became assistant concertmaster of the Washington Chamber Orchestra, and would occasionally play with the National Symphony, then under the direction of Mstislav Rostropovich.

Diemecke credits the AFM Showcase in Washington, DC, with presenting further opportunities to perform, meet other musicians, and acquire contracts.

Diemecke’s 1994 recording of the Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 1 with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra was nominated for a Grammy. In 2002, he received a Gold Medal Grammy Award for his live recording of the Carlos Chavez Concerto for Violin, with the National Symphony of Mexico. He was also presented the Lira de Oro (Golden Lyre) award from the Musicians Union in Mexico.

The dynamic of living in a large musical family taught Diemecke to balance solo and ensemble performances. “A soloist has achieved the highest level in an instrument. You transmit all your emotions to the audience. In chamber music, you share the responsibility with the other instruments and musicians,” he says. To communicate that emotion, Diemecke encourages students to come into their own, drawing on his father’s advice to play from the heart.   

Whether it is in Canada, an international venue, or in his hometown of Monterrey, Mexico, Diemecke makes time at least once a year to perform with his siblings. “I just played ‘Ginastera Concerto’ in January in Mexico and will be performing it again in Argentina, with the Buenos Aires Philharmonic, where Enrique is the music director,” he says. At 65 years old, he says he is playing better than ever.

Johnny Cowell

Johnny Cowell: Toronto Trumpet Soloist Still Performing at 90 Years Old

Johnny Cowell

Johnny Cowell of Local 149 (Toronto, ON) is a recipient of the local’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Johnny Cowell, a 73-year member of Local 149 (Toronto, ON), is considered to be one of Canada’s most renowned trumpet soloists. Over the years, he’s worked with many of Canada’s symphony orchestras and concert bands.

Born in Tillsonbur, Ontario, Cowell played his first trumpet solo at age six. At 15, he became the youngest member and soloist of the Toronto Symphony Band, which presented weekly broadcasts on CBC radio. During wartime, Cowell was a soloist with the Royal Canadian Navy Band and Victory Symphony Orchestra. Upon discharge from the Navy Band he was awarded a scholarship to study at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto.

Cowell was a member of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for 40 years. After he retired from that orchestra in 1991, he became a principal trumpet with the Toronto Philharmonia for 10 years. He was also a featured soloist with the Hannaford Street Silver Band, which included some of Toronto’s finest brass and percussion players. He even had the opportunity to substitute for Doc Severinsen when Doc cancelled a solo performance with the Hamilton Philharmonic at the last minute.

Cowell is also an accomplished songwriter and composer who has had more than 100 of his songs recorded by musicians like Floyd Cramer and Al Hirt (“Strawberry Jam”). Two of them—“Walk Hand in Hand” (1956) and “Our Winter Love” (1963)—became number one hits. His credits also include a number of symphonic pops compositions. Two composing highlights came in 1984 when he was commissioned to compose both a special fanfare for Governor General Jeanne Sauve, as well as fanfare for Her Majesty the Queen at the opening of the Metro Convention Centre (Toronto).

Cowell was honoured by many Toronto professional musicians at his 90th birthday celebration this year and he has received Local 149’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Though semi-retired, he continues to perform occasionally. In February, he was a featured soloist with the Hannaford Youth Band.

Jimmy McIntosh Creates CD with His Heroes

Jimmy McIntosh

The album Jimmy McIntosh, a Downbeat editor’s pick, features the Local 369 (Las Vegas, NV) guitarist jamming out with some of his musical heroes, including John Scofield (left) of Local 802 (New York City) .

You could say that Las Vegas guitarist Jimmy McIntosh has built his life and career around music business connections. The best example may be his latest CD, Jimmy McIntosh and … which features McIntosh exchanging licks with some of his personal heroes, including John Scofield and Mike Stern of Local 802 (New York City), plus Ronnie Wood of The Rolling Stones.

McIntosh’s earliest connection to the music industry goes way back to his mom’s friendship with Duke Ellington, who was a major influence when McIntosh was a young musician. Ellington bought McIntosh his first instrument when he was in 7th grade—a Bb French horn.

“Whenever he was playing in Detroit, Cincinnati, or Toledo we would go see him,” says McIntosh, who grew up in Temperance, Michigan, on the border with Ohio. “He would chip in money for private lessons.” The afternoon before McIntosh’s first school performance Ellington called to give him a pep talk.

McIntosh began playing guitar in 9th grade, influenced by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and David Bowie, and later, Jimi Hendrix, Allman Brothers, Jim Hall, Pat Metheny of Local 34-627 (Kansas City, MO), John Scofield, Mike Stern, Scott Henderson, The Neville Brothers, and The Meters.

After graduating from college, McIntosh moved to Las Vegas, a city he was also profoundly connected to and visited frequently while growing up. “Our roots are in Las Vegas,” he says. “My grandfather built the first permanent structure—a saloon called the Arizona Club.”

When he arrived in Vegas in 1981, McIntosh reached out to a musician he’d met at Berklee College of Music who was already working there. “I didn’t have any experience as a professional musician,” says McIntosh. “He told me to start at one end of the Las Vegas strip and go to every place that had live music and introduce myself to the band and see if I could sit in.”

McIntosh also joined the union, Local 369 (Las Vegas, NV). “My goal was always to get good union gigs. The best jobs are union,” he says. “There was a really nice union hall on Duke Ellington Boulevard and they would have bands on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights where they would get together and play big band music. I would go down and hang out.”

Throughout the years, his career expanded until he became an in-demand Vegas guitarist. McIntosh says the union has been important to that growth. Though he admits he’s played some “Vegassy” gigs that were kind of corny, he’s also managed to share the stage with quite a few big name musicians.

For a while, McIntosh played a show called Legends in Concert at the Imperial Palace. Through that job, he also worked as the house band for several annual cerebral palsy telethons. “Billy Preston was on the last one,” he says. “Playing with him was a real highlight. I was about 26 at the time.”

One steady gig for the past 25 years has been with the Lon Bronson All-Star Band. “We do a lot of Tower of Power and that kind of thing,” McIntosh says. “It’s made up of some of the best players in town who do other full-time gigs.” Aside from playing after-hours shows a couple nights a week, for a while, the All-Star Band played on a show on Comedy Central called Viva Variety.

A big fan of Penn & Teller, McIntosh was particularly pleased to get a gig playing for the magician duo’s Sin City Spectacular variety show broadcast on the FX Network 1998-1999. “It was fun and challenged your reading,” he says. It also gave him an opportunity to work with a wide variety of musicians, including Lyle Lovett of Local 257 (Nashville, TN), Jennifer Holiday, and Slash of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA). Other career highlights include working with David Foster and Kenny Loggins of Local 47, Donna Summer, and Gloria Gaynor.

Though McIntosh works steadily, he says the Vegas music scene is not as great as it used to be. “I think the heyday for working musicians was the ’60s and ’70s, when every little lounge had a duo or trio playing,” he says. “Now there’s some lounge work, but not that much. Musicians still move here, but like any place, it takes a little while to get plugged in.”

“Broadway shows have been really good for Vegas,” he continues. McIntosh played Mamma Mia in the Mandalay Bay for five years and then moved over to Jersey Boys for the past eight years. “I enjoy the steady gig, and then I can do something creative on the side. I have a trio with Keith Hubacher and José “Pepe” Jimenez [both members of Local 369].”

Having a steady gig allowed McIntosh to launch his first solo album, New Orleans to London, in 2006. “It was always in the back of my mind that I wanted to make a record. All of my musical heroes wrote their own material, so I kind of think that’s the ultimate thing to do,” he says. “Then my father passed away in 2001. That’s what got me thinking—life is short; it’s time for me to make a musical statement.” He wanted to ask the Neville Brothers to be on the album, so he set a date when they would be in town.

It was Art Neville of 174-496 (New Orleans, LA) who first introduced McIntosh to Ronnie Wood backstage at a Las Vegas Stones show. They reconnected through Wood’s manager, and Woods agreed to play on that first solo project, New Orleans to London. McIntosh flew out to London to record five tracks with Wood, and was surprised when Jeff Beck also showed up and played on three tracks.

“Ronnie and I hit it off fantastically and we stayed in touch, so when I started the second record, Jimmy McIntosh and …, I was hoping he would play on it,” says McIntosh. Wood agreed and he and McIntosh played two improvised jams to open and close the album, plus Wood played on McIntosh’s cover of Wood’s “I Gotta See.” “The Rolling Stones have been my favorite band since I was a kid, so getting to work and play with Ronnie is literally a dream come true.”