In this interview Bill Ortiz talks about his new EP.
By William Hernandez
WHO?MAG: Talk to me about the new EP you just put out. Bill Ortiz: Well let’s see. I just put out the new EP, which was entitled “Winter In America”. We put it out at the end of January as a way to lead into the new CD which will be out at the end of May and the title track is a cover of the “Winter in America” which is a great classic by one of the great icons of our music, Gil Scott Heron. That track I had one of the greatest voices in conscious Hip-Hop today and The Grouch who was kind enough to perform on the track as well as fellow band member, Tony Lindsey who is a singer with Santana along with myself. On the second track, I have Zumbi from Zion I who also one of the great conscious Hip-Hop people today so it’s real important for me to have people associated with this project and my CD that we’re about consciousness and trying to raise the bar and trying to bring people together as opposed to just celebrating the lowest common denominator which it seems like we get into a lot these days. One of the things that I really value about playing with Carlos Santana is he uses the music as a tool to enlighten and bring people together and break down boundaries. One of his albums was actually called “Psalms”. Music is one of the things that can have a healing force for people. I figure that’s really what I try to do with my art as well.
WHO?MAG: How did you hook up with Santana? Bill Ortiz: Well, I started playing with him late ’99 or early 2000 as far as being a regular member in his band. That started with me being one of the musicians on that song “Smooth”, which of course that whole album sold 30 million copies worldwide. At that time, he added his horn section and I already played with him before on a few spot things and did some recording with him. I played on the album “Milagro” in the early 90’s, but with the tune “Smooth”, that’s when he decided to put horns in his touring band, so fortunately I was one of the people he picked. I already knew a lot of people who were already in the group, which most of the people in the Bay Area. I was fortunate to be in that mix.
WHO?MAG: How is it working with Santana? Bill Ortiz: Well it’s great. He’s a bandleader that is really interested in taking everybody’s personal contribution, their musical voice, and add it to his voice. There are a lot of people on that level that set everything up so everything is about them and pretty much not everybody else’s. He comes from the old school way of you having an actual group so he hires people that hopefully have something original and personal to say. It’s like making a soup with a lot of different ingredients that add to the soup as opposed to having just one thing and everything else is just kind of bland. It’s great working with him. He really encourages you to really kind of go beyond yourself every time you play and to try to bring it every night.
WHO?MAG: How do you get into music and end up playing the trumpet? Bill Ortiz: Music was always in my house growing up. My parents always had records. I remember having Louis Armstrong records in the house so that was probably the first trumpet player I listened to. I started playing when I was 10 years old. They were recruiting people for the school band when I was in school. That always seemed to be the most fun and exciting instrument to play so I started playing when I was 10 and then I started playing professionally when I was 16. I was playing in bars and clubs trying to sneak in when I wasn’t supposed to be there.
WHO?MAG: How did you end playing with the Souls of Mischief on their album “93 til Infinity” album? Bill Ortiz: Well, that was a great moment. At that time I was playing with a group, Tony! Toni! Tone!, which is at that time, they were really at the top of their career. Playing with that group, a lot of people who were in the Hip-Hop world and also the R&B world were aware of what I did. I was fortunate enough to get a call from Domino from Souls of Mischief, so that was a lot of fun. I have also been a huge Hip-Hop fan. I started playing R&B music before I was even playing Jazz. Hip-Hop is just the latest music in the long tradition of the style. It’s a natural progression and for me and I always value playing music that’s contemporary or cutting edge. I also think it’s valid to preserve music. But to me, I get most excited for playing something that’s current and cutting edge and trying to find new things to do. I’ve always been a big fan of people like Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock. They are artists that are always pushing boundaries and trying to do something that haven’t been done before or try to see things in a new way.
WHO?MAG: What are your first memories of Hip-Hop? Bill Ortiz: Well, I’m old enough to remember when Hip-Hop first became known to the general public, music that was happening in the South Bronx, so we’re talking about late 70’s and so. People like Grandmaster Flash Sugar Hill Gang with “Rapper’s Delight” where they took the groove from “Good Times”. For a lot of people that weren’t aware of Hip-Hop, that was kind of the first moment that put it on the map. I always been interested in people that were political and had something of substances, people like Public Enemy, KRS-One, and people like that who were really trying to be conscious and talk about things that mattered to, not only their community, but the world as a whole. When it comes down to it, we are all connected and there’s only one community when it comes down to the bottom line.
WHO?MAG: What’s next for you Bill Ortiz? Bill Ortiz: Well, like I said, I’m really looking forward to getting my full length CD out which will be out in May. I’m actually doing the final and last mixes and mastering and hopefully we will get that out in a timely matter. I’m so excited for that. Also looking forward to, not only going back on the road with Carlos in a couple weeks, our first tour of the year, but I’m really looking forward to doing more performing when my CD comes out with my own group and getting the chance to play my own music.
WHO?MAG: What’s the name of your group? Bill Ortiz: Right now we perform as Magnabilities.
WHO?MAG: Do you have a website or anything else for the fans? Bill Ortiz: Yeah I do. My Facebook is billortizmusic. My website is BillOrtiz.com. I’m also at Twitter.com/billortizmusic. People can check it out and find out what the latest thing happening with my project and gigs and what’s going on Santana being on the road.