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Jazz Talk

My Love for Jazz has been a lifelong journey starting from birth. The 3 major influences were the New York City jazz clubs, Richard’s Lounge in New Jersey, and Ira Sullivan in Miami Florida. A few of the people I have had the joy of playing with, or have been in close to over the years. I  have written a few lines below in order to paint a bit of a picture of my journey in Jazz at a time when Jazz was just plain smokin…Ill be Blogin on the matter in the Jazz Talk section of this Blog. Ira Sullivan,my brother Tony, and Richard Stein who owned Richards Lounge in Lakewood New Jersey, had a huge effect on me and how I heard the note and rhythms of the music and the life. Chris Braun’s Loft was a sweat factory of improvisation, and laid down a life long friendship with Chris…

My Brother Tony

My Brother  Bertolotti, played Saxophone back in the 60’s 70’s and 80’s like a madman on a mission, the list of Great Saxophone players he has dealt with on the stage, and dealt with hard, goes on and on and on. Back in the day a jam session was a polite name for melodic warfare in the Jazz world, Tony played Saxophone with everyone from Chubby Checkers, Bruce Springsteen, South Side Johnny, David Sanchez, Joey D and The Starlighters,  Joe Simon, and Undisputed Truth,  to Alfons Muzon, Jeremy Steig, Lee Konitz, Chris Braun, and Sam Rivers, Dave Liebman, that’s just to mention a few. Tony blew through New York City like a firestorm. Our backgrounds and our addictions beat us both up in the long run, and eventually brought the two of us to our knees at different time in our journey. Later in life, he pointed his energy’s to correcting his path, and making the changes necessary to be a better man and a great father. He still kept the horn close and the reed wet. This is the hardest thing any man can do in this life, Change! Most men cant even see they need correcting, let alone set out to change their ways.Tony got Clean and Sober almost 30 years ago, and built a life for himself and his family around Christ, and recovery, and can still blow the house down with his Saxophone when the spirit moves him too. That my friends, is called success in any ones book. This is the man I love most of all in this world, my brother Tony, and the man I’m most proud of.

Ira Sullivan

My good friend and mentor Ira…When it ccomes to influences Ira Sullivan is, and has been the single most influential men in Jazz I have ever known, and I have met most of them along the way. We all look to Miles DavisJohn ColtraneJaco PastoriusMonkCharlie Parker, and so on, but Ira seems to be the silent Giant among us, walking softly and caring a BIG stick!. I know first hand, he likes it that way. Weather it be Ira playing Trumpet, or Sax Hes the man. Ira was the driving force behind so many great Jazz players just by his very presence and his uncanny capability to share his huge gift with just about anyone. When most players were all about building their rep, Ira was working with the young players everywhere from the street to the university’s. This man may very well be, the best thing that ever happened to Jazz, and the funny part about it, some players don’t know who he is… Thats insane, the man went up for jazz player of the year for the Academy Awards 5 times! Ira told me he just stopped going out the the award presentations  because it just cost him money, and he never came home with the prize. Then he laughed. Here are three links to get you started on a musical path to Ira’s contribution to Jazz. Take the time and check it out. Its worth it…Big Time!



Richard Stein

Owner of Richards Lounge and fine friend…”Throughout recorded history( and I’m sure before too )creativity has been a driving force for civilization. Often it is an individual effort. Just as often it is a collective gathering of many creative people gathering to a message that sends and receives an undeniable universal force. Each member of this collective effort has his / her destiny already chosen and reacts to that energy by combining forces creating an undeniable force. In the larger scheme of things it moves a pebble or can move a mountain. A wiser judge will determine it’s strength and place in our lives. The above words are indicative of “Richard’s Lounge”, a gathering of many energies melding into one thrust, with the common denominator being “creativity”. That magic word is cloaked in all types of clothing. Such was the gathering of forces that planted positive seeds that in it’s own way helped to contribute to what ultimately has and will become a better world.”
Jeff,…..I am not sure if that might be what you are looking for……but it did help me recall special times for all…………….Richard New Jersey.


Richards Lounge…New Jersey has never been the same after having Richard Stein in it and his lounge grace their presence. It was one of the best memories I ever had in this life. For a year or so I sat in front of the best music on this planet, up front and personal, with all the bells and whistles – smoke filled rooms, wine glasses full, women sitting watching the musicians with not so subtle gleams in their eyes while puffing slowly on imported cigarettes. This is what movies and classics are made of. It changed my life forever. Today I’m in my 50’s and still surrounded by Jazz in all aspects of my life. I’ll never get away from Richard’s Lounge and the sound of all that jazz, and I hope I never do… A memory of one smoldering hot night at Richards… The lights were low and the smoke-filled room was packed with people; it was one of those nights you just knew something real extreme was going to happen on the stage. Dave Liebman at the time was just off of a Miles Davis gig. Dave worked with everyone who played hard core stright ahead jazz – Elvin Jones, Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Dave Holland, and the list goes on. Tony always had the Fire of Hell burning in him; when he stepped up on the stage to play, he would burn everything around him with his horn then leave you sitting wondering what happened. The boy just blew hard – I mean real hard. Brother or no brother, this man was off the hook and playing to his own notes in his own way. Anyway Tony, Liebs, Edgar Bateman and Richie Beirach set fire to the roof of this club that night and even stopped the alcohol from being served at the bar. It was just one of those nights you don’t forget, and there were many many nights like that at Richard’s Lounge. Richard, this section is dedicated to you. We all still love you, man…


David Leibman

  Lieb’s take on Richard’s Lounge was like a big incubating tank where guys who were just starting out got the chance to stretch out under the wise eyes of Richard who knew exactly what was going on. He was the master and we were the students. I put my first group, “Lookout Farm” together there, sometimes with Richard playing drums himself. Jeff Bertolotti and his bro Tony Bertolotti, (and Tony hit the horn hard, often right next to me) were part of it right from the beginning, lending support, just being who they were. This was a time of our lives that will never be forgotten by any of us.”

– David Liebman     http://www.daveliebman.com/

Terry Silverlight

  Terry Silverlight on Liebs Richard’s Lounge holds a dear place in my heart, as it was the main club I played in with my brother, Barry Miles, and his group when I was a teenager back in the ’70s. I played many live performances with Barry in concerts and clubs at that time, but Richard’s Lounge was pretty much home base and we played there on a regular basis.
Jazz club owners are notorious for being cold, insulting, and interested only in how many people are in the place and how much money they’re making. Treating the musicians with respect and making them feel relaxed and welcome is usually the last thing on their minds. Richard’s Lounge was totally the opposite. The gracious, relaxed, hip and warm atmosphere is all credited to its owner, Richard Stein. He made both the performers and audience feel like family and he set the vibe the minute you walked in the place. Consequently, the performances there were special events and the rapport between performer and audience was unique.

I clearly remember how I felt while I was playing the challenging music Barry had written. The joyous and relaxed atmosphere allowed me to release any nerves and tension and concentrate on bringing the music and my playing to a higher level.

Barry had some outstanding musicians in the band at that time and I was honored to play with all of them at Richard’s. Al Di Meola was one of them, and I remember I was 16 years old and he was 18. I think one of the nights Al taped there with us was the demo tape he showed Chick Corea, and that’s how he got the gig with him.

I also played there several times with my own band, and that was a great experience.

Whenever I play in clubs today, I try to live up to the standards that I tried to achieve at Richard’s Lounge.


Chris Braun’s loft was one of the hottest Jazz Loft’s in New York City!

  Chris Braun was, and still is to this day one of a few people I consider to not be just a friend, but family. He has been a friend of mine since 1972 or so. I met Chris through my brother Tony when Tony and I were in Manhattan in 1972. Tony and Chris had been friends and playing sessions together for a while at that point. Chris was the up and coming be-bop drummer in Manhattan at the time; he played at a high level right from the start. Cats from all over the city would go to Chris’s loft to blow when they were off the road from whatever gigs they were on. Players like Steve Grossman, from Miles Davis‘s band, Joe FerrellAlex FosterMichael Brecker, Joe Lovano, you name them and they played at Chris’s loft. And this went on all the time – sometimes for days. Players back then just wanted to play -it didn’t matter where, when, or how – everybody just wanted to play. I can’t remember all the hours I spent with Chris playing duo, sometimes until 3 or 4 in the morning, to then do it again the very next day. Chris should go down in the annals of jazz as having had the hottest loft in New York City, thereby giving jazz a steady stream of life for a very long time. Somehow Downbeat magazine never got around to writing about Chris. Pity, because Chris gave a whole lot of his life force to Jazz.
Chris put a jam session on at 23rd and 7th in a club called The Star back in 1970 with Ed StrikerJoe Lovano and Ed Schuller. It started out as a small jam session and before you knew it, it became a burning space for the hottest cats in town to blow at. Everybody who could play straight ahead jazz sat in at The Star. This seems to be what happened everywhere Chris went and set up a drum kit. You know, the recording artists and the jazz superstars are real nice and all, but the real stuff took place with guys like Chris, and my brother Tony Bertolotti, and all the monsters around town that the general public never got a chance to hear or know about. They lived, breathed, and ate jazz 24/7; these guys are what jazz is all about. These guys are the roots of jazz. The CDs, the jazz stars, media, and so on are the offspring of the real stuff, but make no mistake the real stuff was in the street, not uptown! Anyway, after Chris left The Star club on 23rd Street, Junior Cook took the thing over and it went on from there, continuing to burn every week, bringing the jazz from the street to the patrons of New York City.
I still talk to Chris a few times a week, and one thing never changes. I say, “Hey Chris, what’s goin’ on bro?”, and he says, “Ahh … you know, man… just practicing.” This is 35 years later. I don’t know a man alive with more love for jazz than Chris Braun. Chris lives in San Francisco California today doing gigs and teaching, and yes, still practices 6 or 7 hours a day. So if you want to know something about be-bop, or the drums, or what love for jazz is all about, Chris is the man for sure. I’m 52 and last year I asked Chris what he thought about me learning the drums at this stage of the game. He told me, “Yeah, man, you already got it man, you have always been a monster, just practice … let’s see what come out of there, man.” LOL. So I did just that along with 2 or 3 phone calls a week to Chris, and a lot of hours on the drums and pad. It’s coming along real good, starting to swing man, starting to swing real nice. This is my way of bringing Chris and his love for jazz into light. Thanks bro.

Chris Braun

My name is Chris Braun. I’m a drummer, and I also play Hammond Organ, and study Martial Arts. I’m also considered disabled resulting from getting hit in the head with a shotgun years ago in New York City in 1973. I have been involved in a 18-year recovery process from that accident. The life I led in New York City was of a serious nature, and that life itself was a major contributor to both the deterioration of the injury I incurred in 1973, and also led me to have to leave NYC to recover from that injury. The crack in the head left me with both post-traumatic stress syndrome, and left temporal lobe epilepsy. The combination of both resulted in me in having me to leave NYC and move back to California in order to have any kind of recovery at all.

  I met Jeff and his brother Tony when I first arrived in New York City in 1973. This time, like every time in New York City for me, was an incredibly active time musically. My life there could be described in phases. In this first phase I had a loft on 18th. Everybody ended up playing there every day: my roommate Alex Foster, Jack Walrath, Mike Richman, Barry Finnerty, Mike Wolfe, Steve Grossman, Benny Wallace, John Scofield, just to name a few. I will only say that the hundreds of musicians I played and lived my life with were far more than just friends. There was and is only one thing: the music. We were and still are in the deepest way more than brothers or even family, at least for me. This is my family.
Jeff and Tony have been involved in my life in every phase. Both of them possess the highest level of intelligence and understanding.They both have helped me when it was necessary, and both of them have been there for me for any kind of problem I may have had. Because of their life experience and street knowledge coming from the same origins as myself, we can understand each other, when others are lost for words or thought . What I’m talking about here is stone cold,hard deal, for real, no phony bullshit. This level of reality transforms itself into what becomes real meaning in life. This truth should be not only respected, but sought out by all people.
Jeff Bertolotti and Tony Bertolotti are real friends in a world where I have few, and they deserve absolute recognition for who they are and what direction they both are working in. I will always stand by them both, for we act for what’s pure, strong, real, and good only. The power that exists in the universe can only be accessed in this way.
To me,this is what Love is.
For Tony and Jeffrey,

South Florida Jazz Scene

South Florida Jazz Scene. Driven by the sounds of New York City and Richard’s banging around my head day and night, I looked up a great man and a great musician in South FloridaIra Sullivan. Ira was a mentor for me and a whole lot of other kids in South Florida who wanted to play jazz. Through Ira, I became friends with Jaco Pastorius, and a host of other real fine players like Donnie Miller,Wally Cirillo, and Vincent Bredice, all who loved the same thing I did – jazz. I had all the fire and talent one kid could ever possibly ask for.
Trouble was, I had a a bad drug habit too, and along with it a bad attitude. These kept me from the studies I needed to complete, to get the music to where I knew I wanted it to go. I played hard and had all the stuff, but I just couldn’t study;Drugs and alcohol dose that to a man. I got into Dade Junior College’s Music Department without a high school diploma. Trouble was, I was snorting a gram of coke a day, and racing around the school like I was on fire. As you might imagine, school didn’t work too well for me. But I just kept on playin’ … Knowing I was in for a crash at some point, I just put all that juice into music, and prayed God would take care of the rest. He did! The music in South Florida was the most well kept secret on the planet. This place was rockin with some of the greatest players anywhere. Ira Sullivan, Jaco Pastorius, Michel Gerber, Tony Castellano, Dolph Castellano, Joe Diorio, and the list goes on and on, this place was on fire, and no one could get their heads out of N.Y.C. long enough to se their was Jazz outside N.Y.C. Finely Jaco let the cat out of the bag, big time! He let everyone know Jazz was living well in South Fla…I really miss that guy…

Donni Miller

Donnie Miller, good friend and great bass man…I have known Jeff Bertolotti, and his brother Tony Bertolotti for over a quarter of a century now (damn we’re getting old ). I have always known Jeff’s life to be profoundly affected by music. Although Jeff and I have been separated by time and distance for some years, it is the same common thread of our backgrounds, influences, history, and love of music that brought us together and contributed to who we are and will be for the rest of our lives that keeps us bonded together. This bond between continues to exist, impervious to the very time and distance it is challenged by. Funny, music….. especially great music has a way of doing this and other “Other Worldly” things. Ah yes, the wonderful power of music.
Jeff certainlyy shared the fortune of being in the right place at the right time those many years ago in Florida. It was a true treasure trove of great music played by great musicians who we’re there to set the bar as high as it could go, consistently keeping it there, and in doing so made you say “Hey, this is really possible, this can really be done and maybe, just maybe I have the chance to do it too.” These great musical forces in his live we’re subsequently always there to guide, give direction, answer the wild eyed questions on music (no matter how silly they may seem now) and give the chance to develop your art by always lending their stage to any of those that shared the same desire and love of music. Many of these genius’ of expression have left us, far too early. Some of them we are fortunate to still have to share their knowledge, skill, talents, rare gifts, to uplift all our lives, and in the process and make us all better human beings for it.
Oh, what’s that you say? These “people” you refer to do not sound like mere mortals. Well, in a way they weren’t. You may also be saying, “Well who are they already and won’t you please tell?” Oh, pardon my oversight. Sure I will! There were so many to have touched the musical lives of Jeff. First and foremost I must include the great Ira Sullivan. Ira certainly needs no introduction, arguably the greatest multi instrumentalist to ever draw a breath on God’s green Earth. He was always more than willing to share his incredible knowledge and passion for music with young aspiring musicians of all ages and backgrounds. Ira would commonly hold court in the parking lot of the nightclub du jour till the wee hours of the morning or perhaps the local greasy spoon to all ears willing to listen, often till the sun crept up. Fortunately this brilliant and kind man is still sharing his gifts with the world. From there I move on to whom many in the fold at the time would consider to be a protege of Ira’s, a local bassist from Fort Lauderdale who cut his teeth in Ira’s band in the early 70’s, the one and only Jaco Pastorius. It was in deed Ira who encouraged Jaco to learn and perform the head to Donna Lee and the rest, as they say, is history. Jaco was a tremendous influence on the world of bass and more importantly music. Jeff was fortunate to have him as a friend and teacher for as long as he did. There were so many others to come out of that musical hotbed of the time in Florida who touched the lives of the privileged few. The amazing guitarist Joe Diorio was there. So too were greats like trumpet genius Pete Minger(almost a dozen years as soloist with Basie). Pete embodied to me the brilliant melodicism and rapid fire delivery of Clifford Brown, the soulful business of Lee Morgan, and the fire and chops of Freddie Hubbard all in a style uniquely his own. You are sorely missed Pete. There were cats like one of the swingingest drummers ever, the great Bill Peeples. Billy was formerly Ray Charles’ drummer somewhere around the late 50’s into the sixties. He was a kind and gentle man. Bill is gone but all were touched deeply by his great sense of time and feel. The list continues with greats like the great identical twin pianists Dolph and Tony Castellano. They left us with great music and great wisdom. Fortunately Dolph is still with us. The drummer who always left other drummers in his presence, no matter how great, saying “How did he do that, THAT is impossible” and childhood friend from Chicago of Ira Sullivan, Guy Viveros. We miss you Guy! There was also the incredible child prodigy of the drums, bass, piano, scat singing, etc., etc., and one of the funniest humans on Planet Earth, Duffy Jackson. Duffy did several stints as Count Basie’s drummer, played in the bands of Sammy Davis and Lena Horne as a young teen, and much more. Let us not forget Jeff’s former teacher, Vincent Bredice. Vince was also Joe Diorio’s teacher and many other of today’s great guitarists and bassists. He was a great motivator and a great teacher. I look at him as the Vince Lombardi of music instruction. Fortune also smiled by way of other greats of the bass to share and inspire, such as the brilliant master of the upright bass, Lew Berryman. There was also the fantastic bassist and professor of music at University of Miami, Don Coffman. Don’s former students include JacoMark Egan, Hiram Bullock, and on and on. Many others were there at the time, like Spider Martin, the miracle of the steel drums, Othello Molineauxorganist Jeff Palmer, and many more.
There was seemingly almost no end to the great players and places for JAZZ music to be played and heard at that time. I could go on and on but I think the point is stated. Many things have changed and many of these great souls have left us since those times. But the indelible influence they have etched upon the lives of Jeff and anyone privileged enough to have shared the stage, the stage “of life”, the music they continue to create, and moreover, they as human beings, is now theirs to carry on and share in the best ways they know how. Jeff, you were there and this was a gift. You will always be the greater for it. It is who you are and will always be.
Oh yes, how do I know all this? I was there TOO!

“Bird cut through this world like a knife through Provolone!!!”
……Tony Castellano

Bebop, The Music of the Future, Don Miller

official Don Miller website: donmillerbass.com

4 Responses to About

  1. Scott Freiman says:

    Great stories about Richard’s Lounge and your brother Tony. Brings back lots of memories. I remember your brother Tony well. I was just a little kid when my mom Elaine was a bartender at Richard’s.

  2. Kim Peters says:

    Richards was one of my favorite memories of living in South Jersey (Ocean County College) in the mid to late 70’s. I remember being so saddened in there very very early 80s when I went up there to find that was closed it was such a unique place specially with the drinks which is probably most eclectic drink menu ever including a little Army soldiers in the toys in the drinks in those curtains . Creating another Richards just like that one on route nine down here in South Florida would “own it” . You don’t have anything you could post online with maybe the menu or photos of the inside it was such a great memory ?

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