On the morning of 16th September 1997 I received this Vince Montana Jr. biography from Jeff Gordon who is the keyboard player who accompanies Vince Montana's daughter, Denise.
"Vincent Montana Jr. is truly a musical success story. The multi-talented composer-arranger-conductor and renowned vibraharpist is responsible for countless gold and platinum albums. "The Philadelphia Sound" MFSB and the Salsoul Orchestra, are among the many credits to his name.
Born and raised in the heart os South Philadelphia, Vincent was playing local dance clubs by the time he was sixteen. During the early 50's he worked in jazz clubs as a backup for such legends as Charlie (Bird) Parker, Sarah Vaughn, Buddy DeFranco, Clifford Brown, and Red Garland.
Eventually, Las Vegas was the place where Vince, while playing in town at the Freemont Hotel, The Golden Nuggett, and others, worked simultaneously in the big rooms showband on "The Strip" as a vibraharpist and percussionist. Vince returned to Philadelphia after a few years and started his own band playing the dance circuit. In addition, he also did studio work for Cameo Parkway and Chancellor Records. He recorded with such great artists as Chubby Checker, Bobby Rydell, Franki Avalon, Fabian and more. Not long after this, Vince became a member of the Mike Douglas Television Show Band. After leaving the Mike Douglas Band as staff musician, Vince became a major part of the creative force behind the "Philadelphia Sound", as a member of the rhythm section, and used his expertise in many capacities, ie, arranger, producer, vibraharpist and percussionist and worked with, among others , The Delfonics, "La-La-La Means I Love You" and The Stylistic,"Betcha By Gollow Wow" and the Spinners, "Could It Be I'm Falling In Love" on the album the same name. The O'Jays ..All The Greatest Hits, and Johnny Mathis, Eddie Kendricks, Billy Paul, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes(featuring young Teddy Pendergrass), The Intruders, The Trammps, Blue Magic, Lou Rawls, The Whispers, Wilson Pickett, Grace Jones, Charo, Cissie Houston, Whitney's Mother, Vic Damone, Englebert Humperdink, Denise Willimas, The Jacksons, and Brenda and the Tabulations, Barbara Mason. This work produced over 50 gold and platinum albums. Vince also produced MFSB and was the Vibraharpist on "Love is The Message" album as well as the vibraharpist on the "Kemosabe" album which was a million seller.
Imagine a contemporary cast of 42 musicans producing a sound of an era long gone by, the Big Band sound. Add to that a sound of unprecedented expressiveness, blending R&B with lush Philadelphia strings and the exotic overtures of the most tasty elements of Latin "salsa":
In 1974, Joe Bataan introduced Vincent Montana Jr. to the Cayre Brothers. Montana expressed to the NYC entrepreneurs a vision of a large orchestral sound fusing live strings and brass with latin percusssion and good old ethnic funk. Many inventive, skillful band leader sought an orchestra capable of projecting his unique musical concepts. The Cayres, then owner of a small Latin music label were impressed and contracted Vincent to produce three songs: "The SalSoul Hustle", "Nice Vibes", and "Dance a Little Closer". They searched the barrios of NYC and Philadelphia's Spanish harlem for the spicy congas, bongos, and timbales. Percussionists, the likes of Andy Gonzales, and Manny Oquendo, both of Grupo Folklorico y Experimental Nuevayorquino, Larry Washington, Peter Choki Quintero and Roy Armando were recruited for the latin-Afro rhythms and flavor. Montana's multidimensional ensemble impressed the Cayre brothers, who realized Montana's concept involved an arrangement of phenomenal dimension and talent. They decided to give Montana the go ahead to cut an album and they commited to release it under a new label called SalSoul Records. The blending of the words salsa and soul were direct implications to the orgins of the sound. Vincent Montana Jr. envisioned the names as a fusion of musical backgrounds, religions and nationalities that was a perfect description of what you hear: "We could not use salsa along with soul, it just does not sound right." They cut the "sa " from salsa, combined it with soul and the Sal Soul Orchestra was conceived."
"Simple" says Montana as he tells the true story of the beginnings. By spanning every contemporary musical style into a dance matrix, Montana's Salsoul Orchestra set a musical standard by introducing the first disco Orchestra while innovating a new style of dance music. Whether the record company realized it or not, the six albums Montana composed, arranged and recorded for Salsoul changed the face of the disco era.
Merging these diverse talents was not easy, and creating continuous disco to dance to proved to be challenging and exciting. It was a period of intense innovation which Vincent Montana Jr. aptly described and prophetically foretold, I wanted to create a new orchestra that would capture your soul with love and pleasure and lift your spirit to a level healing musical excitement and delight, so overwhelming and outstanding it would last for generations to come. Vincent&'s brilliant blending of various musical instruments and styles into disco has provided a touch of originality and musicianship to disco. Never before had an orchestra of such dimension been assembled for the purpose of creating contemporary music, and Vincent and the Salsoul Orchestra set the standard for what became the disco orchestra. Many of the disco orchestras following the huge success of the Salsoul Orchestra (like Meco with the discofied version of Star Wars) borrowed heavily from the original Montana sound. Montana and the Orchestra have performed all over the world.
Montana and The Orchestra performed all over the world, from Philadelphia to the Philippines. Some of the most memorable concerts were attended by thousands of fans at Radio city Music Hall, Roseland, Madison Square Garden and The Billboard Disco Convention at the Roosevelt Hotel, New York Music Awards and Asbury Park, New Jersey (1976).
Narm convention in L.A.; Center Paul Sauve in Montreal, Canada; Fountainbleau in Miami (1977); Academy of Music in Philadelphia, Araneta Coliseum in Manila (1982).
Montana's intriguing orchestrations, unique opening, and extended compositions made them more exciting on stage than on record.
Their revolutionary sound took the music world by storm, and became the delight of dancers all over the world.
The brightly spirited sound of the albums was so outstanding that when first issued the music trade papers were ecstatic in their acclaim. Their first album The Salsoul Orchestra saw great chart success as it went Gold with four hit singles.
The Salsoul Hustle, their first single, hit the charts and initiated a new phase of entertainment. Montana's music indeed reflected many of the cross currents of present day music. Tangerine, The Salsoul Orchestra's most popular hit, was largely responsible for the group's crossover to top 10 sales.
Magic Bird of Fire, a rearranged version of Russian composer Stravinsky's The Fire Bird Suite, sold over 500,000 copies and became a popular Philadelphia TV station's movie theme for over a decade (ch. 17).
Chicago Bus Stop and Salsoul Rainbow are originals which Montana penned and arranged. It was of special significance in musically telling the story of Montana's Salsoul Orchestra. All of Vincent Montana's compositions were well crafted and very sophisticated, with a funky bottom, lots of Latin percussion, lush string orchestrations over top and don't forget some kickin ass brass. Everything Montana did was quality.
Vincent Montana Jr's musicianship and originality remain as evident in his music today as they have been for the last two decades. Jazzy instrumental solos, R&B funk and Latino rhythms all brought to life during his accelerating performances. Montana can be found today in the thick of things as always, from arranging, composing, producing artist for record companies to live performances. If he is not recording he can be found conducting his orchestra or working with his Jazz Sextet. As long as Vincent Montana Jr. lives on, so does all his music and the Salsoul Orchestra. Says Montana of his experiences, Music has been my whole life. It's like a beautiful spiritual experience. I live, eat and breathe it. Music flows out of my pores.
"All things stand the test of time, says Montana, and the Orchestra will be back to revive and relive it all again"+++++end of quote+++++
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