Mike Cottone pictured with his French Besson trumpet. Photography Credit: Michael Dispenza

With a new album out produced by Grammy Award winning drummer Ulysses Owens, jazz trumpet player and Juilliard graduate Mike Cottone’s star is rising higher than the interpolated riffs he plays. I caught up with the busy musician to discuss his music, mentors, meeting Anne Hathaway, and of course… food.

Jacob Paul: First of all, I’d like to congratulate you on “Just Remember”

Mike Cottone: Thank you sir!

JP: The album was produced by Grammy Award winning drummer Ulysses Owens… how did that come about?

MC: I went to Smalls Jazz Club one night last fall to check out one of his performances and we had the chance to catch up. He asked what I was up to and the ball started rolling from there.He is starting his producing career to supplement his playing so it was a win-win situation for the two of us… it was exactly what I needed. I’ve known and seen him play since I was in high school, and I always looked up to him!

Mike Cottone. Photography Credit: Michael Dispenza

JP: You mention that Ulysses encouraged you to write one more song for the album,which ended up as the title track “Just Remember”. How does this song represent your journey? 

MC: After our first or second meeting (with Ulysses), we realized there would definitely be a need for more tunes on the album to supplement what I already had prepared, so I decided to channel the inspiration for the whole project in the title track. I’m very thankful to be a professional trumpet player/performing artist and it would not have happened if I didn’t have some key people in my life. Mr. McMurray being a huge influence ( Daniel McMurray was Mike’s high school band directer who passed away during his senior year in High School).

JP: What was the most important lesson you learned from Mr McMurray?

MC: Having an ego may be good for trumpet players, but always keep it in check. Modesty never goes unnoticed. People won’t call you to perform with/for them if you are full of yourself. As artists, we perform FOR the people. Sometimes it’s easy to slip into performing only for yourself. Basically, be humble!

Mike Cottone. Photography Credit: Michael Dispenza

JP: Kyle O’Brien recently praised you for putting out good, accessible jazz in Jazz Scene Magazine…can you tell me why its important for youto be an “accessible” musician?

MC: I recently saw an interview with guitarist Russell Malone where he spoke perfectly about this. If your music isn’t accessible, many times it is only enjoyed by other musicians. The trick is to make the music fun for the performers, but not so crazy that it is over the head of the audience. The music can’t be so dense the listener checks out. However, it doesn’t mean the music is “dumbed down.” It can still be challenging for the musicians.When it comes off right, the energy of the music reaches the performers and listeners.

JP:As a New York City musican, you’ve had an array of gigs which span Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, the Four Seasons Restaurant to the Broadway Productions of “HAIR”. Can you tell me what the most memorable gig you’ve played was?

MC:The craziest gig I ever played was the 2009 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall. It’s funny as we didn’t actually play. We pre-recorded the music at Clinton Studios the week before. On stage, we were playing, but the audience was hearing the studio recording. Even better than the performance was winning the Tony for best revival musical and being taken up to the Rainbow Room across the street. I’ve never seen so many camera flashes in my life. Meeting Anne Hathaway was a nice cherry on top of the whole experience. I have to thank Chris Jaudes for calling me to sub for him!

JP: Who do you look up to most in the music world? 

MC: I greatly admire the success of Christian McBride. He has the ability to play EVERY style of music to the fullest and is the nicest guy you will ever meet. Jazz, Pop, Funk, R & B, etc. He can do it all. When you asked about music being accessible, he’s the go to guy. I had a blast rehearsing with Ulysses and Christian  a couple weeks back for a project Ulysses is working on. He makes you feel like family from the first note.

JP: What are your favorite NYC hotspots? 

MC:  I love Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola. It was the first club I went to right before moving to NYC and I always wanted to perform there. The staff, the vibe, the music, and the VIEW make it my favorite place. Smalls is another favorite. It is the complete opposite of Dizzy’s though. No view and only one bar tender, but the music is always happening.

JP: What are some of your favorite foods? 

MC: I love my Dad’s spaghetti. It always hits the spot, and for dessert… Rochesterused to have a place called Louie’s Sweet Shop. Best peanut butter ice cream you will ever eat! 

Mike Cottone on Fashion's Night Out at Diana Warner New York wearing a "Blue Print" Tee

JP: What is your favorite place that you’ve visited? 

MC: I Worked for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines in 2006. Every week I’d free dive at Warwick Long Bay in Bermuda. Part of the beach was under construction for the summer so my bud from South Africa and I would sneak down and have a mile worth of beach to chill, jump of a massive rock into the water, and swim. The fish were ridiculous!

Long Bay, Bermuda. Courtesy of Mike Cottone

JP: Where would you like to visit that you haven’t already seen?

MC: I’d love to go to Italy…  Southern Italy. Somewhere near the beach!

As always, Mike Cottone wishes to thank the incredible band. Jeremy, Kris, Paul, Jared, and Ulysses. “They made the music pop!”

For more information on where to catch this elusive musician, and to hear him play CLICK HERE! You can also order a signed copy of “Just Remember” by visiting www.mikecottone.com. If you’d like a cool Blue-Print t-shirt like the one Mike wore for Fashion’s Night Out, simply visit dianawarnerstudio.com