Saturday, May 07, 2005

Profile - John Worley Jr.

Profile is a regular feature on the Redhouse Jazz blog in which you get to know a San Francisco bay area jazz musician a little better. Check out previous Profiles from the pull down menu in the right hand column.

John Worley is a much in demand full time trumpet player and teacher.

When did you first start playing an instrument?
I started playing music at 8 years old. I thought playing the drums would be cool after hearing the song “Little Drummer Boy”. I used to set up my Dad’s coffee cans with the plastic lids and beat on them with my mother’s chop sticks along with Beatle records in the backyard. That was until I saw a picture of Louis Armstrong on the back cover of a Reader’s Digest Treasury of Short Stories and read his article. I was so taken with the idea that no matter where Satchmo went, people would always know how he felt by his trumpet playing. I switched to the trumpet the next year and never looked back.

Who/what were your first influences?
In the early years, Herb Alpert was popular so I naturally gravitated towards him and to this day, when you ask other trumpet players about Herb, they always say that it was the cover of the “Whip Cream” album that hooked them. From there it went to Al Hirt, then to Maynard and Don Ellis, to Miles, Fat’s Navarro, Chet and down the hardbop line of trumpet player’s till I discovered Woody Shaw and thru him the Avant-Garde cats like Don Cherry, Lester Bowie, Leo Smith and so on.

How did you get your experience?
My first gig was with a asian rock/cover band called the “Far East Coalition”. We played at the Kabuki Theater, July 2nd, 1971 along with two other bands, The Intrigues and Sand. The three trumpet players in those bands Johnny Serrano (who got me started listening to Miles & Diz and gigging. Thank you Johnny!), Gary Woods and Jerry Lum, are still around. I always wanted to learn different styles of music, latin, rock, classical, dixieland, straight ahead jazz and also the skills needed to play shows, sessions etc… I was a jack of all trades and proud to be considered a working musician.

What instruments do you play?
Trumpet (Bb, C, D, piccolo, herald), flugelhorn, cornet and my newest love, post horn.

What instruments do you own?
All of the above (I have around 30 different horns including an old French alto horn).

Do you compose?
Yes, but I don’t consider myself to be in the same league as cats like Wayne Wallace, Jim Norton and Ed Johnson.

How do you come up with ideas?
Usually I will wake up at 5am with musical ideas swirling around like paper in the wind and I have to get up and jot them down and develop them later when I can make some noise at a decent hour.

What is your fondest gig memory?
There have been many but here’s one that stands out at the moment. I got the pleasure of backing up Ella Fitzgerald at the Mac Convention a year or two before she passed on. I got to play the part of Sweet’s Edison and play a solo behind her and I was totally thrilled by it. Afterwards, I went up to her and said, “Ella, I waited all my life to play with you” and her reply was “Honey, that’s so sweet”. Her words purred from her lips to my ears and I’ve never been the same since.

What was your worst gig from hell?
There have been so many great experiences and I don’t like to dwell on the negative. I try to focus on the positive aspects of things and hope that that continues to guide me towards many more positive life/musical experiences.

What current projects are you involved in?
Ed Johnson and Novo Tempo, Wayne Wallace and Rhythm and Rhyme, Jon Jang Seven and my own band WorlView.

What would you like to plug?
Check out my web site at
and my blog at


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