Click !

Paul Faulise

This page is updated:
October 17, 2020 4:13 PM

Written by Jack Schatz

Paul Faulise, a native of Buffalo, New York, first became known to jazz audiences for his work with Kai Winding's trombone septet but can also be heard on the recordings of such jazz luminaries as Cannonball Adderley, Oscar Peterson, Art Farmer, Jimmy Smith, Quincy Jones, and Benny Goodman. He is also one of the most in-demand studio musicians, having played on thousands of recording sessions including countless jingles, feature films, TV and movie soundtracks, and a twenty-year tenure with Frank Sinatra. In 1987 and 1989, the New York Chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences named Paul, "Most Valuable Player."

Paul is one of the greatest bass trombonists of our time as well as being one of the greatest musicians and persons I have ever met. I first heard Paul play when a teacher of mine suggested that I switch to bass trombone because I had a good low register and then handed me a copy of Quincy Jones' Quintessence, and Jimmy Smith Christmas '64. Well I was completely blown away. Paul's playing had such an impact on me that I knew that I wanted to be a bass trombonist. When you listen to him play, whether live or on recordings, his sound is big, dark, and rich; but most of all, it's musical.

I first met Paul in the fall of 1991, while I was on tour with Louis Bellson in Europe. Paul was doing a ten-week tour with the Phillip Morris Super Band, and we both played the Maastricht jazz festival in Holland. He has inspired me as well as countless other musicians because of the kind of person and musician he is. There is simply no one better.

I had the extreme pleasure of interviewing Paul at his beautiful home in Rivervale, NJ on June 30, 2008. He has lived there for 45 years with his lovely wife, Karen. There, they raised two daughters and now have four grandchildren.

Jack Schatz: What was your musical upbringing like? Were your parents musicians?

Paul Faulise: Neither of my parents were professional musicians. However, my father was a self-taught trumpet player, and when I was nine years old, he gave me a few lessons. That was during the big band era. And playing trumpet was "in". I continued taking lessons at school and joined the band.

Then in high school I was on the track team and had a mishap: my mouth and the gymnasium wall became one. As a result, I lost my front tooth. One of my buddies suggested that I play the trombone to help rebuild my embouchure. I became so enamored with the sound of the trombone that eventually the trumpet became history. In my senior year, I heard the Stan Kenton Band with George Roberts playing "Stella by Starlight" That was it! I talked to my parents into buying me a bass trombone and proceeded to take lessons with the first trombonist of the Buffalo Philharmonic. I literally spent day and night with the instrument, constantly practicing and sitting in with the local bands and orchestras just for the experience. I listened to any record that I could get my hands on that had a bass trombone part on it, especially if it was George Roberts.

Shortly before I was drafted into the army, I played with the Buffalo Philharmonic. Then, while I was serving in Europe, I auditioned for the Seventh Army Symphony and toured with them until my discharge from the army in October of 1956. In January of 1957, I came to New York to attend Manhattan School of Music. I studied with Jon Clarke and Allen Ostrander. On the weekends, I went out with the name bands and eventually started to work in town - including with Les Brown and Billy May.

Early Career

JS: How did you break into the recording studios?

At that time there were many rehearsal bands in New York, and one of them was Dan Terry's band. Dan was a music copyist and contractor for Ernie Wilkins, an arranger who had written for the bands of Count Basie, Harry James, and Tommy Dorsey and was currently the hottest arranger for jazz artists. After playing a few times in Dan's rehearsal band, he put me on one of Ernie's sessions. Ernie liked my playing, and from that time on I was Ernie's first call.

JS: As a veteran of the recording studios, how has the scene changed over the years; and how is playing for the microphone different from live performance?

PF: Studio playing is more controlled. With the help of an engineer and the aid of headphones, you can control your sound quality and be reasonably assured that you will be heard on the recording. In live performance, especially with large orchestras or big bands, it's all on you. It's sometimes difficult to hear yourself, and there is the danger of overblowing. You have to work harder to achieve the same performance as in a recording studio. Depending on the band or orchestra, a great live performance can go unnoticed.

JS: What was it like playing in the original Tonight Show Band?

PF: It was an incredible experience. When the first show started in 1962, it was an hour and forty-five minutes long. The first fifteen minutes was all music. Skitch Henderson, the leader at the time, would feature players in the band such as Doc Severinsen, Clark Terry, Walt Levinsky, and Tony Mottola. Thanks to Johnny Carson's love of the big band sound, the band continued to be featured when Doc became the leader. It was one of the most rewarding musical experiences of my career.

JS: Any funny stories?

PF: Sure, several. I remember one New Year's Eve we were playing a live TV special, and all of these balloons were supposed to let go above the band at midnight. Needless to say, they didn't come down; and people started to laugh. Something got stuck in the net right over me; so Doc said to me, "Paul, get it with your slide." So I reached up with the slide to pull the net, and the slide got stuck in the net. I tried to get the darned thing loose, of course, the whole time on live TV. Johnny Carson finally shouted over, "Leave it there"; and the band pretty much lost it for the rest of the show.

I also remember playing this demo for a new singer. She sand "Happy Days Are Here Again"; and I thought, "She's OK, but she'll never make it." Well I guess Barbara Streisand has done pretty well for herself!
Tech Talk

JS: I know you have just completed your third method book, but could you tell us a little about your first two books?

PF: My first book is a warm-up and maintenance exercise book based on my own daily warm-up routine. I've incorporated the use of the double valves into the warm-up exercises. I specifically designed it for the F and D double-valve bass trombone, which is the most popular double-valve tuning.

The exercises are divided into six sections covering long tones, lip flexibility, lip slurs, valve flexibility, staccato tonguing, and legato tonguing. In the final section, I include a "quick warm-up" exercise. Each section is designed for a specific aspect of playing and allows the player to focus on a particular weakness. There are optional exercises that include the extreme range of the instrument from double-pedal Bb to high Bb. This secures the "normal" playing register.

My second book is similar in format but differs in that it's written specifically for the in-line double-valve bass trombone pitched in F, D, and Gb. Because an in-line double-valve bass trombone has valves that operate independently of each other as well as together, it gives the player far more flexibility in valve/slide combinations. This book concentrates on utilizing the available combinations with specific focus to the Gb valve.

My new book is geared to the beginner bass trombonist and/or the "doubler" who would like to start playing the in-line double-valve bass trombone. It stresses a lot of fundamental exercises that will help the beginner better acclimate to the bass trombone.

JS: What equipment do you use?

The first bass trombone my parents bought me was a New York Bach 50 with a 6 ½ AL mouthpiece. I played that until I was hired to play with Les Elgart. I realized that the Bach 50 with the 6 ½ AL wasn't the right sound, so I bought a Conn 72H with a 1 ½ G for the right sound. I played that horn for a few years until the double-valve bass trombone was invented. I settled on a Conn 73H. I also played an Old P-24G for a while, which I'd had some input in designing along with Phil Teele, Ernie Tack, Barrett O'Hara, and Ralph Craig.

Around 1980, I got a call from Conn asking if they could send me one of two prototype bass trombones that Larry Minick had designed for Conn. Well, I got the horn and liked it so much that I called Conn back and said, "I like it, and you're never getting it back." Larry Minick built this horn by hand using Conn parts. The bell is a 60H with tuning in the bell. The open wrap is Larry's design. After playing it for a while, I had the valves bored to enlarge the ports. The slide is a medium weight with a stock Conn lead pipe. My mouthpiece is a stock Bach 1 1/2G with the throat and backbore bored. I also had the stem shaved so that the mouthpiece fits further into the receiver.

JS: Most musicians have one performance that is most memorable to them. Do you?

PF: There is one that I will never forget. It was a Frank Sinatra concert in Rio de Janeiro. The concert was held at the world's largest soccer stadium, with a capacity of over 200, 000 people. The fans there take their soccer very seriously. The stadium had a moat that circled the playing field to keep the fans from running out onto the field and killing the opposing team. Anyways, the roar that greeted us from those 200,000-plus Sinatra fans as we walked out onto the field and then onto the stage, was to say at the least, memorable.

JS: What are your memorable recordings?

PF: The first one that comes to mind is Dizzy Gillespie's "Gillespiana Suite," written by Lalo Schifrin. To this day, it is one of the most exciting and challenging pieces of music that I have ever played. Another jazz album that I enjoyed playing on it Jimmy Smith's Christmas '64 album, arranged by Billy Byers. Then there is the Deodato "2001" recording.

I must say that most of the recordings that I enjoyed and had the most fun with were the jazz recordings. To work with such incredibly talented musicians as Cannonball Adderley, Art Farmer, Ray Brown, J.J. Johnson, Kai Winding, Carl Fontana, Oliver Nelson, Quincy Jones, Phil Woods, and Urbie Green, to name a few, is truly memorable.

JS: Do you think young players today should concentrate on one style of playing - such as jazz, classical, commercial - or should they be able to play all styles of music?

PF: In my opinion, to be a complete musician, one should be able to play all styles of music. However, it's up to the individual. Musicians that want to have a career in studio or commercial music must be able to play all styles of music, and musicians who aspire to be jazz artists or to perform in chamber and symphonic orchestras would do best to concentrate on those individual careers.

JS: How has the music business changed, and what advice would you give to young players just getting into the business?

PF: Well, when I broke into the studio scene in New York in the 1950s, there was a lot of work: not only record dates but commercial recordings or jingles. Madison Avenue was the advertising capital of the world. The ad companies worked hand in hand with the jingle houses. The busiest recording musicians were typically doing 15 to 20 dates a week. On most jingles for many years, you typically had eight brass: three trumpets, three trombones and two French horns, along with woodwinds and strings as needed and of course, rhythm section and percussion.

Then in the early 1990s, things changed. Eight brass went to six, and then four. Arrangers started writing for fewer musicians because of cost. The same thing has happened to Broadway, where for years you had 24- and 26-piece orchestras. Now the minimum number of musicians has decreased at all big Broadway theaters, from 24 to 18. It is a very different music business now, then when I came into it.

I would advise young players who are just getting into the business to get as much musical education as possible and to study with the best teachers available to them before attempting to break into the business. Because of the intense competition today, the best-qualified musicians stand the best chance of getting the available jobs.

JS: Thank you for your time and thoughts on music.

PF: I welcome any comments and questions at
Jack Schatz is a native New Yorker who for the past 25 years has been a top-call bass trombonist in New York City. Involved in every fact of the music industry including studio work, jazz and concert work and Broadway shows, he is an active teacher and clinician, having taught at Hofstra University, Queens College CUNY, and New York University. Jack is currently in the Broadway orchestra of "Billy Elliot." Email him at

~This article appeared in the April 2009/Volume 27, Number 2, International Trombone Association Journal

Musikhaus Thomann Linkpartner

Copyright 2020 René Laanen - Trombone Page of the World
Please direct comments and questions about this web site to René Laanen ~