Ruben Estrada was born March 18, 1938 in Ventura County, California. He is the youngest of seven brothers and two sisters. H...e comes from a musical family. His father, Louis D. Estrada was a violinist who had a ten a piece orchestra in the 1930's. Ruben started playing professionally as a drummer at the age often joining his old brother Angel's band. Unfortunately, due to the child labor laws at the time, somebody ratted Ruben out to the local authorities and he was put on the sidelines for several years. He continued his education and when he reached high school the musical director of Oxnard Union High School taught Ruben how to play the trumpet. He later took up the congas, bongos and all other percussion instruments. The piano was of course, the first instrument of all the brothers.
Once he turned eighteen Ruben joined his brothers as a regular and permanent member of the Angel Estrada band. This was in 1956. The following year Ruben married his high school sweetheart Delia and started a family. It was a union that would last for forty- three years until Delia's untimely passing in 2000 after a long and courageous battle with cancer. Throughout it all she demonstrated tremendous faith, optimism and bravery that was truly commendable and awe-inspiring. Angel Estrada not only was the leader of the band but also owned and operated four salons in which all four of the brothers cut hair at. It was also he who decided that the group needed a vibraphone. In the late 50's and early 60's it seemed as if all Latin groups were utilizing the instruments so Angel felt that his group needed one as well to remain current and competitive. He and the brothers all pitched in to purchase one. Angel played the piano in the band and when he switched to vibes Ruben would play piano behind him. Angel simply had no affinity for the instrument and lost interest in it almost immediately. This left Ruben who took to the vibes like a duck takes to water. It was also around this time that Ruben became totally enamored with Cal Tjader. He was also a big fan of Tito Puente as well as local latin vibists Tony Martinez, Manny Lopez and Bobby Montez. However, Tjader was and always will be Ruben's main man. Ruben purchased every Tjader album he could get his hands on and attended every personal appearance Tjader made locally whenever he could.
The Angel Estrada band worked steadily and was in great demand in the Oxnard-Ventura-Santa Barbara area throughout the 1960's. They played music for all occasions; weddings, receptions, anniversaries, birthdays, etc. In the early 70's Angel and his wife went into real estate so he left the band. The remaining siblings, Bob, Henry and Ruben now became known as the Estrada Brothers band. The group continued to flourish into the 1980's until Bob left to pursue his own career, thus leaving Henry and Ruben to carry on the tradition of the Estrada Brothers. They did so throughout the 1990's. Henry only plays with the band once in a while now when he feels like it or on special occasions, usually when the gig is close to home. He is every bit the class act and outstanding musician that his brother Ruben is. Ruben is now the sole heir (survivor might be a better word) to the Estrada Brothers legacy. Even son Cougar, who is now the regular drummer with the world renowned Latin-rock band Los Lobos is only available to play with his dad when his busy schedule permits it, which isn't often. If it weren't for Ruben, the Estrada Brothers band would simply no longer exist. It would be like the Modern Jazz Quartet without Milt Jackson. The Estrada Brothers band (or as it now should be called the Ruben Estrada Band) is still one of the most exciting latin- jazz bands around. Anywhere Ruben plays feels like a party whether he is playing at a party or not. This is not to suggest that Ruben or the many variations of his band are not serious musicians. Ruben's many groups have opened for such jazz legends and icons as Dave Brubeck and Stan Getz. He has also opened for Tito Puente, known as "El Rey" the king of latin- jazz who has been called the Duke Ellington of Latin-jazz. These are very impressive credentials to say the least. There are at least half a dozen other bands up and down the California coast that are fronted by vibists who play Latin-jazz in the Cal Tjader tradition. I know all of them personally and am a friend, fan and supporter each. However, Ruben is the chairman of the board. This is not just my opinion. Ten years ago in 1995 conguero, band leader and former Tjader sideman Poncho Sanchez chose Ruben to play the vibes on his recording "Soul Sauce : Memories of Cal Tjader" which to me is a masterpiece that I feel should have won the Grammy that year. It is among the best of Sanchez's many discs and this is due in large part to Ruben's participation and contribution to the project. Poncho Sanchez has the popularity, power, prestige and influence to have acquired the services of any number of big-name vibraphone superstars. The fact the he chose Ruben speaks volumes. Sanchez knew from the get-go that Ruben was the perfect candidate for the job. He was the only one who could fill Tjader's shoes convincingly. It would not have been the same or as good without him.
Of the three or four commercially released Estrada Brothers recordings only two are still available, "About Time" and "Get Out of My Way". This one, "Two for the Road", is without a doubt Ruben's best. Ruben is a true artist who is sensitive yet not temperamental. He loves the creative process of the music itself but has no fondness whatsoever for the business end of it. That part he would gladly do without if he could. Unfortunately, that is simply not an option. He has to be a businessman at times whether he wants to be or not. He is at his best and most comfortable when he is behind his instrument in front of a large and enthusiastic audience. When he feels the warmth and affection from an attentive and appreciative crowd, he can truly be inspired to greatness. What he improvises with his mallets on his vibraphone comes directly from his heart and mind. It speaks louder and clearer than anything he or any one of us could ever say with words. It is his way of reciprocating the love and loyalty his following has given him by gathering to hear him in the first place. (reprinted with permission by Mal Sands 2005)
Originally a drummer, Roger Burn attended college at Cal State, Northridge in 1980 as a percussion major and also studied with legendary drum teacher, Freddie Gruber. He later studied piano, vibes, marimba and composition with the late, great Victor Feldman.
Burn’s credits include appearances as a keyboardist on The Tonight Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Today Show, The John Stewart Show, The Howie Mandel Show, The Magic Johnson Show, The Arsenio Hall Show, College Fund Show, The Next Big Star with host, Ed McMahon and The Grammy Awards with artists such as Vanessa Williams, Lionel Richie, Lou Bega, Ashford & Simpson, The Brian Setzer Orchestra and Bryan Adams.
He has also worked with Barry Manilow, Ambrosia, Chaka Kahn, Shelia E., Stevie Nicks, Richard Marx and Seal. As a session musician, he’s played on motion picture soundtracks such as The Mask, Another Stakeout, McHale’s Navy, The Nanny, Freaky Friday and Sideways. He has also played on gold and platinum albums, including a gold with The Brian Setzer Orchestra on The Songs Of Westside Story, a tribute to Leonard Bernstein and again with Setzer’s orchestra on the double platinum, double Grammy-winning Jump, Jive & Wail.
Burn also recorded with The Wild Colonials and played vibes on two tracks from former Yellowjackets and Steely Dan drummer Ricky Lawson’s debut cd. He has played keyboards, piano and vibes on jingles for such brand names as Target, Cadillac, Dodge, Toyota, Acura, Pediasure and United Airlines and has also been heard on such television shows as The Gary Shandling Show, Beverly Hills 90210, The Pretender, Melrose Place, Spin City, Ed, The Drew Carey Show, Meet The Press, Politically Incorrect and recently contributed his compositional skills to the critically acclaimed drama series American Dreams.
His vibraphone playing can be heard on the Academy Award winning hit film, Sideways’ and is one of the principle members of the Sideways Jazz Orchestra. Roger is also a staff composer for Megatrax, one of world’s largest library music houses and his compositions are heard all over the world on a daily basis. Since January of 1997 he has been an instructor at The Musicians Institute in Hollywood where he teaches courses in sight reading, how to build a keyboard rig and even a class called ‘Musical Director Workshop.’
Nick Mancini is, by his own admission, most at home when behind the vibes and in front of a capacity crowd. As both a vibraphonist and as a bandleader, Mancini enjoys a reputation as one of New York’s most called-upon studio players, trusted bandleaders and kick-ass sidemen. Playing with a maturity that belies his youth, he has accrued both a band and a following that reflects his dual commitment to deep musical exploration and old-school entertainment.
A graduate of the Manhattan School of Music’s prestigious jazz program, his prowess as a musician never obscures his talent as an entertainer. “Honestly, I think of myself as a singer, really,” says Mancini, “Songs are at the heart of what I do. I try to stay connected to the songwriter’s original intent. I think that keeps listeners engaged in a way they aren’t typically used to when listening to instrumentalists. Also, I think that there’s an element of surprise in my playing...not that I’m trying to pull any fast ones. But I do feel that my sense of humor comes out in my playing,” muses Mancini, “I find myself approaching standards as if they were pop tunes and pop tunes as if they were standards. That, too, has a way of drawing people in.”
As a bandleader, Nick has written, produced, and recorded with Kitchen Sink (Everything But The...), the Nick Mancini Collective (Live: New York) and Type II (Flexible Plan), which Cadence Magazine described as “full of drive and lyricism...music with pizzazz and finesse....There is a sense of another era embedded in this music; yet it is not dated. The style is given fresh life in the hands of this band with sparkling improvisations and fine interactivity.” Nick appears regularly at Joe’s Pub, Birdland, Fez, Mercury Lounge, the Living Room, Cornelia Street Café, Detour and Jack’s Joint.
As a sideman he has recorded with Julian Fleisher and his Rather Big Band, Johanna Grüssner’s Manhattan Jazz Orchestra and Dave’s True Story. Outside of New York City, he has played extensively in Europe and upstate New York, in particular the Van Dyck in Schenectady, where he’s something of a hometown hero — if not a prodigal son. Nick originally hails from Amsterdam, New York, a picturesque burg in New York’s Mohawk River Valley where his first forays into music were as a drummer.
Even at the tender age of 13, he was widely sought after among that region’s most accomplished bands. In order to apply to an orchestral program in college — he graduated cum laude from SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music — he needed to learn a new instrument, one that could produce a melody. He quickly picked up the vibes, and the rest is history. Nick also received a masters degree from the Manhattan School of Music where he received the President’s Award two years in a row. “I never intended to become a vibraphone player, but my desire to communicate through melody as well as rhythm led me to the thing, and now, well, it looks as if our love is here to stay.”
Born and raised in San Jose, California, Chris Dingman began piano and percussion studies at an early age. However, it was not until he moved to the east coast to attend Wesleyan University that he discovered the instrument that would become his life's passion: the vibraphone. Since then, Chris has performed, studied, and traveled with many of the most distinguished musicians in jazz. As a composer, performer, and teacher, Chris fuses numerous cultural and stylistic influences into a progressive approach to the vibraphone in improvisational music.
Chris received his B.A. with honors in music from Wesleyan University. At Wesleyan, Chris studied intensively with several master musicians, including vibraphonist Jay Hoggard, drummer Pheeroan AkLaff, and composer/multi-instrumentalist Anthony Braxton. While at Wesleyan, Chris also performed with such distinguished artists as Don Byron, Pheeroan AkLaff, Kwaku Kwaakye Obeng, John Hebert, and Taylor Ho Bynum.
Chris was also heavily involved in the world music program at Wesleyan, studying South Indian, West African, Korean, Afro-Cuban, and Brazilian music. In the summer of 2000, his studies brought him to Kerala, India to study mridangam and South Indian classical music, an experience that greatly influenced his approach to rhythm and form in both his compositions and his improvisations.
After spending three years performing and teaching in the New York City area, Chris was accepted into the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Chris was one of only eight musicians selected by Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and Terence Blanchard to participate in the two year program starting in 2005. At the Institute, Chris is currently studying with jazz masters Ron Carter, Jimmy Heath, Terence Blanchard, and many others. In November of 2005, the Institute's ensemble will travel to Vietnam on a State Department-sponsored tour to perform and give master classes along with legendary musicians Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock..
Chris has performed with a number of the most innovative musicians in jazz, including Ralph Alessi, Mark Shim, Steve Davis, Drew Gress, Steve Kirby, Eric McPherson, and Gerald Cleaver, among others. In 2004, Chris formed his own Quartet which performs his original compositions. The Quartet includes bassist Matt Brewer, alto saxophonist Steve Lehman, and drummer Tyshawn Sorey. As a sideman, Chris has performed with the Steve Lehman Quintet, the Jackson Moore sextet, and the Will Connell group among others. Chris was recognized as one of the "Top Ten Sidemen of 2004" by jazz journalist Phil DiPietro for his playing on Steve Lehman's acclaimed album Artificial Light (Fresh Sound/New Talent 186).
In addition to performing, Chris has been teaching privately for the past 8 years. Chris's teaching experience also includes directing a summer music camp for students ages 11-18, leading group percussion classes for both children and adults, and giving clinics and master classes at high schools and conservatories along with the Thelonious Monk Institute ensemble.
Brad Dutz, born 1960, in Decatur, Illinois, has played music all his life. In 1981, after graduating from North Texas University, he moved to Los Angeles and began studying with Luis Conte, who to this day is a stong influence, both as a teacher and a friend. Other long-term influences for Brad include Don Alias, John Bergamo, Airto, and Emil Richards.
Brad has eleven CDs to his credit, including his solo and duet CDs and bandmember CDs by Submedia, OtherParts, and Sleight of Hand; he has also done a series of eight instructional videos for Interworld Music. In addition, here are a few of his other accomplishments in the music industry:
- Film& TV: Beverly Hills 90210, Mission Impossible, Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek V, Little Mermaid, Nightmare on Elm Street, etc.
- over 140 album credits, including: David Benoit, Tribal Tech, Leo Kottke, Rickie Lee Jones, Uncle Festive, Jeff Berlin, Steve Smith, Terrance Trent D'Arby, KISS, various 'At the Movies' CDs
- live performance with: Airto, Frank Sinatra, Maynard Ferguson, Kenny Loggins, many others.
- active on the LA underground jazz scene
Brad welcomes comments and questions. He can be reached by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Make sure there's plenty of room when you invite Brad Dutz over to play. The standard drum kit would take up some space to begin with, but that's just one small section of the Dutz spread. Blink and one will miss the arrival of what seems like the entire cargo of a boat, all drums from faraway places across oceans, seized by customs and dumped all over the stage, awaiting the careful setting up of the maestro. Then there are a series of special clay drums, vaguely resembling the lineup of ceramic cookware in the front of a Moroccan culinary shop. The space an ordinary drummer might utilize for his complete setup might not even be sufficient for Dutz's phone books of contacts, let alone his percussion ordnance.
After perusing the Los Angeles based percussionist's discography, one can imagine a phone book that is cleaved off into volumes based on each letter of the alphabet. Adventurous listeners discover Dutz through his involvement with the southern California free improvisation and avant-garde jazz scene, performing and recording with artists such as trumpeter Jeff Kaiser, multi-instrumentalist and multi-record producer Vinny Golia, and talented drummer and bandleader Alex Cline. Quite often fans of such artists bemoan the fact that their talents are not put to use on commercial recording projects as well; a Vinny Golia contrabass clarinet solo, for example, would liven up just about every new pop release that comes out of the Hollywood hit factory, and he probably even lives around the corner from one of the recording studios.
In the case of Dutz, here is at least one avant-garde performer whose talents are in demand in the mainstream music business. He has integrated well into the Los Angeles recording scene, appearing on the recordings of top female vocalists such as Alanis Morissette, Rickie Lee Jones, and Maria Muldaur and bringing whatever exotic instruments are asked for to an impressive range of new age, fusion jazz, Latin, and otherwise unclassifiable instrumental projects. He has backed up Frank Sinatra, Tom Petty, and Willie Nelson, none of whom could probably identify the instruments Dutz used on their sessions by name. The percussionist has also created a series of recordings of his own music under his own name, all quite well received. On the other end of the sonic spectrum, he is involved in the Jazz at the Movies band, a group that is working its way toward the release of its tenth CD. He has played on the film and television soundtracks to Beverly Hills 90210, Mission Impossible, Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Ocean's 11, Star Trek V, Little Mermaid, and Nightmare on Elm Street.
The busy whirlwind of activity that is his musical career didn't exactly come blowing in from out of nowhere. Dutz has played music all his life. He moved to Los Angeles in 1981 after graduating from North Texas University and began studying with one of his strongest influences, the percussionist Luis Conte. Dutz eventually began making a contribution to the music scene as a teacher as well, and has done a series of eight instructional videos for Interworld Music. He began working as an applied faculty member in the music department at CSULB in 1992, and also conducts percussion clinics.
He's been called "One of L.A.'s true oddballs. A merger of Harry Partch and Spike Jones, a musical whiz kid and a hopeless crackpot". Many call him "The funky frame drummer" or "The twisted tabla man." L.A.'s hippest musicians call him to ask if he'd come down and give them a bit of his special sound and energy.
Hi! Billy Hulting is a musician, festival director, producer, engineer, adventurer and activist. There is so much to do in this life I like to try everything!
Musician – as a hand percussionist and vibe player I was a touring musician for 25 years having played with Maynard Ferguson, Nia Peeples, Natalie Cole, Barry Manilow, Lou Rawls, The Manhattan Transfer, Patti Labelle, The Rippingtons, Luci Arnaz, and Dweezil Zappa Plays Zappa (with which we won a Grammy)! Currently I do mostly studio work and play live around L.A..
Activism – my baby is vegfest Los Angeles which was WorldFest for 15 years. We are starting fresh in 2016 as vegfest Los Angeles. Our goal is to provide people with a fun way to explore the veg lifestyle. The festival is a blast! Lots of restaurants, organizations, and vendors exhibit and we have live music along with empowering speakers. Looking into some new things this year for the festival and the website.
Adventure – I love the outdoors! I sail, do triathlons, hike, camp, and more. There is so much to do out there – get into it!