Fresh off Phil Collins’ recent world tour, The Vine Street Horns talked to Woodwind & Brasswind about playing in a section, equipment, and getting along (more important than you might think in landing a gig). Interviewing Vine Street was a tricky thing. It was impossible to get them all in the same city, let alone the same room under our time constraints, so we conducted four separate interviews with Harry Kim (trumpet, arranger), Daniel Fornero (trumpet), George Shelby (saxophones) and Luis Bonilla (trombone), the transcripts of which are fascinating and voluminous.
WWBW: Harry, when did you form Vine Street?
HK: At the end of 1990, I had been on the Phil Collins “But Seriously” tour with the Phenix Horns, which was Earth, Wind and Fire’s horn section. I decided I’d put a horn section of my own together and called guys I enjoyed playing with and who were really nice people.
WWBW: So, personality is a definite factor. George, how did you get the call?
GS: There are certain people you click with in sections and in life and Harry looks for a number of factors when he puts a section together. I guess I ticked enough of those boxes with playing and getting along well with others, because when you’re on the road, that’s a very close relationship.
WWBW: Dan, you’ve been with Harry and Vine Street the longest. What’s your perspective on this?
DF: Harry and I were old friends already when he put Vine Street together. We used to play a lot with Rudy Regalado, a great percussionist and band leader, rest his soul. That band taught me a lot and I made some lifelong friends out of that. That’s where Harry and I really solidified a friendship that continues to this day.
WWBW: Luis, your thoughts on the soft science of getting along in horn sections?
LB: I’ve known Harry and Dan for more than 30 years because I grew up in LA, and we share a lot of common ground personally and musically. Part of the reason everything is easy on the road is because we all work so hard to make the section sound right. We push the parameters of how good can we actually get the section. Everybody’s tuned into the same frequency.
WWBW: What about getting started as a player, then as a professional?
HK: When I was 17, I started playing in Top 40 bands. That’s when I started getting these horn section things together.
WWBW: Kind of out of necessity. Somebody had to do it.
HK: Or somebody did do it and it was horrible. Actually, that was more the case because somebody would provide charts and I knew they could be better, so that’s when I took it upon myself to work on phrasing.
GS: I went to Monroe High in the San Fernando Valley, and while I was at Monroe, Ted Nash was at Reseda. Matt Catingub was at Grant and Dave Koz was at Taft. There were a lot of great players to be inspired by. I studied with Ernie Watts. I got to see Pete Christlieb play live all the time. Being a professional musician was not weird or esoteric—it’s what most young musicians in the Valley were pursuing.
DF: I was fortunate to go to Tremper High School in Kenosha, Wisconsin. They had a marching band, a concert band and a symphonic band. They had a wind ensemble, two jazz ensembles and a symphony orchestra that used brass every day of the week. It was phenomenal. Some of my first professional jobs were with The Brian Setzer Orchestra and a tour with Tom Jones.
LB: I attended Eagle Rock High School in LA. The band director was a gentleman named John Reynaldo. I was fortunate enough to be under his tutelage for six years. There was Roger Ingram, Larry Coons, Carlos Vega, Sharon Herrada, a bunch of strong musicians.
WWBW: Any final thoughts on The Vine Street Horns before we wrap it up?
HK: If you say, “I'm Harry Kim. If you ever need a trumpet…”that’s one thing. But when you say “I have a horn section,” it’s different in people's minds. Now they're hiring a band. Oh, Vine Street is coming. You do away with that stiff business rigidity that comes along. It's a pleasure.
GS: Working in this section has been some of the most challenging music I've ever had to tackle. It’s technically difficult, but in addition you have to come to an agreement with three other guys playing fast and furious. One of the things that makes it enjoyable is Dan and Harry play with such consistency you know where it's going to be. You don't have to play a guessing game.
LB: You can’t get any better than Vine Street, only different. At this level, it’s just a matter of what your own taste is, not even so much the time you spend on stage because I always refer to that as when the horse finally gets the carrot. In the meantime, the gig is making sure you’re prepared, on time, well-groomed, you know, making sure you’re there the whole way. That’s the real part of the gig. And these guys make all of that so easy.
DF: The thing I really hope you get across through our conversation here is how grateful I am to do what I’ve been asked to do, and how fortunate I feel to be going at this and to be able to make a living as a musician. It’s a real gift that’s not lost on me at all. It’s a dream come true. I just want to get better and better at it and be grateful.