in the NYC area, guitarist Doug Munro released an excellent
instrumental jazz tribute album to songwriter icon Harry Warren in
early 2017. The album features his band, Doug Munro And La Pompe
Attack, while the CD is called The Harry Warren
Songbook. The timeless "Great American Songbook"
music of Harry Warren has long been a favorite among jazz musicians
simply because everyone all over the world knows Harry's melodies.
Related to Harry on his mom's side, Munros guitar playing is
in superb form throughout the sixteen track album. To help Doug bring
it all about, hes got excellent backing musicians including
fellow guitarists Vic Juris, Howard Alden, Vinny
Raniolo, Ernesto Pugliese and Ted Gottsegen along
with bassists Matt Dwonszky and Michael Goetz, a couple
violinists and more. While Munros guitar is front and center,
the round robin guitar interplay between all the great players harks
back to the Gypsy Jazz sound of Django and Stephane Grappelli, and
more recent Gypsy Jazz aficionados such as John Jorgenson and Bireli
Lagrene. Speaking about the unusual album title, Doug tells mwe3.com,
"Now, La Pompe Attack, thats the name of my Gypsy swing
group. We have two CDs out, A Very Gypsy Christmas and The Harry
Warren Songbook. You are correct, the name of the group is a bit B
movie Sci-Fi-ish. La Pompe is the vigorous strumming of the rhythm
guitars in the Gypsy swing groups. La Pompe Attack translates as the
attack of the vigorously strumming guitar players! As for
the music on the CD, who hasnt at least heard Harry Warren songs
like I Only Have Eyes For You, Were In The
Money and You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby? Liner
notes by Harry Warrens granddaughter Julia Riva, in which
she takes pride in the fact that Doug is Harrys nephew, seals
the deal on Doug Munro's latest foray into timeless Americana. www.dougmunro.com
mwe3.com presents an interview with
I did not know you were related to Harry Warren. Is this more proof
that greatness runs inside the family? You even got Harrys granddaughter
Julia Riva to write liner notes, how did you arrange that? Harry was
one of eleven kids born to his parents.
Doug Munro: My great grandparents were Leon Charles Munro and
his wife, Mae Bronson. Mae had been married before, her maiden name
was Guaragna. Her parents where Antonio and Rachel Deluca Guaragna.
My paternal grandfathers wifes brother was Harry Warren,
my great uncle. I grew up in my grandparents house, my grandfather
would often talk about my Uncle Harry, the famous composer
who lived in Hollywood. When I was a kid I was way more into surf
music, which on the East Coast we called garage rock, and then the
Beatles etc... I was also into soul music and Latin styles. I always
heard the Harry Warren songs growing up in that house but I didnt
appreciate the music until later. When I started the project I reached
out to Julia Riva, Harrys grand daughter. She administers Four
Jays music, which controls part of Harrys catalogue. She was
very supportive of the project. She gave us some nice quotes that
we put in the liner notes as well as the great pictures of Harry you
see in the booklet.
mwe3: Youve made eighteen albums to date. Is that why
a tribute album to your great uncle took so long? And can you explain
the significance behind the title, while explaining the connection
to La Pompe Attacks The Harry Warren Songbook? It sounds kind of sci-fi,
(lol) because it sounds more like you are refining or distilling Harrys
music rather than attacking it!
Doug Munro: Ive been a closet Django Reinhardt fanatic
my entire career. I never started to do recordings in the hot swing
style until I started my own label. With the advent of digital technology
the old model of the recording industry sort of collapsed. You could
get music for free online. It wasnt legal or ethical but thats
what happened. Most of the independent labels went away. I was signed
to a few labels, most notably Chase Music Group. I was on that label
for 15 years. It got to the point where I was able to do everything
on my own that an independent label could do. The up side to all this
was that by creating my own label I was able to pretty much release
what ever I wanted and promote it as I felt best. So after many years
of being caste as a jazz-fusion guy I was able to stretch a bit more
and explore other areas that I liked. So, thats the long-winded
answer to why I waited so long to do this recording.
Now, La Pompe Attack, thats the name of my Gypsy swing group.
We have two CDs out, A Very Gypsy Christmas and The
Harry Warren Songbook. You are correct, the name of the group
is a bit B movie Sci-Fi-ish. La Pompe is the vigorous strumming of
the rhythm guitars in the Gypsy swing groups. La Pompe Attack translates
as the attack of the vigorously strumming guitar players!
What about the CD cover art? Its excellent. Tell us where youre
standing on the album front cover? We all have our connections to
Brooklyn and NYC as youre from Yonkers. How has New York changed
for you over the years? Does it still have the magic?
Doug Munro: Yeah, the cover pic is pretty cool. It was taken
by Simon OKeefe. He did all the pics for the Harry Warren Songbook
as well as all the videos including the documentary video about the
project. The picture was taken outside an apartment building in Peekskill,
N.Y. down by the Hudson River near the train station. Robert Mag did
all of the layout and design for the CD cover and booklet. These guys
are great artists and good friends! Ive lived in the New York
area my whole life. Ive seen NYC ebb and flow with the times.
To me its like a giant organism, the only way to really drastically
change NYC would be to knock it all down and start from scratch, but
I wouldnt want to change it. I think when people wax on that
it was better in the old days they are mostly just longing
to relive some fleeting memories of their youth. Right now the scene
in NYC will be the good old days for some of the 20-somethings
coming to try their luck in the big apple today.
mwe3: How many Harry Warren songs did you choose from? I know
you covered a lot of his most famous ones but you did omit Thats
Amore from the movie The Caddy, but you got most
of the big ones in there. I know Harry wrote 800 songs or so, are
there some you wanted to do but didnt and would you consider
a Volume 2 in the future? You mentioned in the one sheet that you
recorded more than the sixteen songs you released on the CD.
Doug Munro: I started by picking songs that would work well
in the Gypsy Swing style. I love Thats Amore but
I didnt think it would work well as a muzette because
it didnt have a minor section. I probably went through about
30 songs and settled on the 16 on the CD. But, its really 14
Harry Warren songs because I included 2 original compositions. I dont
plan on doing a Volume 2, it took a Herculean effort to complete the
CD, with 4 sessions with 4 groups, everything played live and half
of it filmed. It was a huge project!
mwe3: Harry worked with many different lyricists including
Mack Gordon and Ira Gershwin. Which of his lyricists do you prefer
when it comes to Harrys songs? Its amazing to learn that
Chattanooga Choo-Choo was the first gold record in history.
Do you have any insights into the way Harry wrote with the lyricists?
Harry wrote the melodies first? Where did Harry get his ideas from?
Munro: There is a great interview with Harry Warren done by Ian
Whitcomb in 1972. Heres a link
to the filmed interview on Youtube. Harry Talks about a lot of his
songs. He says that he couldnt really tell you how he wrote.
I think he did his best stuff when it was for specific parts in films.
He talks about it in the interview. I actually got permission from
Ian to use some of the footage in the documentary we made about the
Harry Warren Songbook CD, heres the link.
I dont really have a favorite lyricist, I think that all the
cats were great!
mwe3: Harrys songs appeared in 300 movies and over 100
Warner Bros. cartoons. Which movies and cartoons that featured Harrys
music do you think were the best and/or most influential?
Doug Munro: Well, Were In The Money from
the Gold Diggers Of 1933 is still one of my all time faves. In the
middle of the song Ginger Rogers comes out and sings the melody in
pig latin. I liked it so much I did it on the Harry Warren
Songbook CD! Theres also a horror movie from 2001 called Jeepers
Creepers. They use Harrys song in the most unexpected way!
mwe3: Did you film any of the Harry Warren tribute recording
sessions? You say there are some videos. A project like this would
deserve a wide scope documenting the project. What led you to record
the album on four different sessions with four different groups of
musicians? It was all recorded last summer?
Doug Munro: Yes, we filmed nine performance videos plus the
documentary linked above. Here are links to all the performance videos.
Of Broken Dreams
More I See You
Got a Gal in Kalamazoo
In The Money
Only Have Eyes For You
In The Rain
I recorded it in four sessions because I wanted to get as many players
as I could on the CD. It was crazy coordinating schedules so we wound
up with four dates. Everything went down live. You can watch the actual
recorded tracks as they are being performed on the videos. We recorded
everything in the summer of 2016.
Can you mention some of the guitars you and the other players feature
on the Harry Warren tribute album? Are they all vintage guitars? We
were discussing about the old 20th century guitar mag days, so of
course Im interested in your guitars. Did you, Howard Alden,
Vinny Raniolo, Vic Juris and the other players use similar type of
guitars and what else can you say about guitars played on the album?
Sounds like an electric guitar was used in the intro to your version
of Forty Second Street.
Doug Munro: I love talking about guitars, so I guess Ill
start with my guitar. Its a hand made custom Legend 503
built by John Kinnard for Alain Colas DellArte guitars.
It is an extremely close replica of Django Reinhardts Selmer
#503 that sits in a museum in Paris, France. Its an amazing
instrument, it was built in 2011 and it just keeps sounding better
and better as the years go by. The electric sound that
you hear on Forty Second Street is that same guitar fitted
with a Dupont reissue of Djangos Stimer pickup. Its played
through a modded 15 watt special edition tweed Fender Blues Junior
Vinny Raniolo is playing a Collings acoustic guitar. Sadly I just
heard that Bill Collings had passed away. He was a great, uncompromising
luthier of the highest quality.
Ernesto Pugliese also played a DellArte guitar. Its a
prototype version of their Swing 42 Palo Escrito guitar.
Howard Alden was playing his amazing Benedetto 7 string guitar through
Rhythm guitar to the biggest names in Gypsy jazz, Ted Gottegen, played
on a Favino guitar that was specially made for him. It has the traditional
D hole or Grande Bouche, but, it is smaller than the normal
D hole. It is an amazing sounding instrument!
Vic Juris had a Custom made Borys that looked like a 335 except maybe
a little deeper. I dont know if it was semi hollow. I do know,
however that it sounded fantastic! He played through a small amp too.
Did you choose to include the other guitarists who play on the CD
to make the album very guitar-centric or is that how you hear Harrys
music? What else can you tell us about the other guitarists who play
on the album as theyre all quite accomplished recording artists
in their own right too. Did you add violin to enhance the Django connection
to the sound? Who else was key to the albums success including
the engineers and I also see Robert Mag worked on the cover design.
Hes another great singer-songwriter too!
Doug Munro: The Gypsy Swing style is based on an all string
band, guitars, bass and violin. So, yes I definitely set out to make
this a guitar-centric CD. I actually didn't get everyone I wanted.
I also wanted to include Frank Vignola and Bucky Pizzarelli. The guitar
players on this project are all fantastic! Ernesto Pugliese is a great
guitarist out of the Philly area, who now lives in NY. You may remember
him from way back when he used to review CDs for some jazz publications.
He was the first guy that I played Gypsy swing with on the bandstand.
As mentioned before Ted Gottsegen is a world-renowned Gypsy Swing
rhythm guitarist. He has toured with the biggest names in modern Gypsy
jazz. Howard Alden is a well-known name in guitar circles. He's an
amazing player in the George Van Eps tradition. He also did all the
guitar parts for Sean Penn's movie Sweet And Lowdown where
Sean Penn is the second best Gypsy guitarist next to Django Reinhardt.
It's a great movie!
Vic Juris is another well known jazz guitarist who has a singular
voice on the instrument. I was so happy to have him on the recording!
Vinny Raniolo is a young cat, who is making a name for himself internationally.
He is best known for his work with the great Frank Vignola. Django
Reinhardt's partner up until the start of World War II was violinist
Stephane Grappelli. We have two fiddlers on the CD. Howie Bujese was
one of the first cats I played this style with. He is mostly known
for his amazing bluegrass work. Andrei Matorin is a young cat on the
scene in NYC. I met him at the Litchfield Jazz Camp where I do a residency
The engineer is Adam Pietrykowski. He's a masters student at Purchase
College where I teach. My longtime friend Peter Denenberg did the
mastering for the CD. The videographer/photographer is Simon O'Keefe.
He did all the videos and the documentary. My long time friend Robert
Mag did the design and layout for the cover and booklet. It takes
a village to make a CD!
Did you choose to arrange Harrys songs in the spirit and style
of Django and Stephane Grappelli because thats your favorite
guitar style to play in or was it to give the music a kind of hipper,
retro-tinged 21st century flavor? Did Harry know Django Reinhardt?
Because as you say their music came out of the same period. Its
amazing how many different artists have covered Harrys music,
Ive even heard surf-rock instrumentals of his songs.
Doug Munro: Yeah man, for sure Django knew who Harry Warren
was. He covered a lot of his compositions including "Nagasaki"
and "Jeepers Creepers". I don't know if Harry knew Django
but my guess would be that he did. I can't say that Gypsy swing is
my favorite style to play. I would say that it is one of my favorite
styles. I still love Brazilian, Afro-Cuban, Bebop, Soul Jazz, funk
etc. I just love music, period.
mwe3: You also wrote a couple of tributes to Harry which compliment
the album. Tell us about your own Blues For Harry and
You Again? Both are the only two non Harry Warren songs
on the album. What do they bring to the album?
Doug Munro: I still fancy myself a composer so I wanted to
put a couple of my compositions on the CD. "Blues For Harry"
is pretty much a straight Bebop style blues more for the Django side
of the equation. "You Again" is a contrafact written over
the chord changes to Harry Warren's "There Will Never Be Another
You". That tune is more Harry-centric.
mwe3: I didnt know you had a bad accident when you were
20, which resulted in you quitting your drums and turning to guitars
in 1977. Seems like so many people have these life changing accidents
but in your case it yielded some positive outcomes. Do you still play
drums sometimes although your albums dont have drums usually!
Any other memories of Yonkers? Where are you living these days?
Munro: That was a tough period for me. I had always played music,
it was a very natural thing for me to do. By time I was 14 I was playing
all the school and church dances all around Yonkers and lower Westchester.
I also loved sports, especially gymnastics. To make a long story short
I wound up fracturing my 3rd lumbar vertebrae. It never healed right
and I eventually underwent a bilateral fusion of my spine from L3
to S1 in September 1977.
For the next year I was on welfare, I couldn't work. I laid on my
back and played guitar all day, every day. After that year I could
play guitar. It became my new instrument, the symbol of my new life
after surgery. I don't think I'm very good at guitar, I guess that's
what's motivated me to keep practicing all these years! Yes, I still
occasionally play drums but I don't really have any chops because
I don't own a drum set. As far as living in Yonkers goes, I really
never wanted to leave Yonkers. Anyone that knows me knows that Yonkers
was my home. That was my comfort zone. I never wanted to leave, but
hey, life happens!
mwe3: Times have sure changed for the record labels and even
the print mags. Whats your take on the current state of the
music business and is that why you started your own label Got Music
Doug Munro: Well you know, things change. I got in the music
biz at the beginning of the "rock as popular music" era.
All the jazz guys hated it. All the composers hated it because the
groups wanted to write everything
themselves. The session guys hated it because the bands wanted to
play everything themselves. The labels loved it because they could
make a ton of money. Media loved it because they could market worldwide.
All these things came together and formed the next 40 years of the
music biz. Now things are changing again. Artists are angry because
they can't sell their music, you can download it for free. All the
small labels became useless because now any person can distribute
their product as well as any small label. The big labels are changing
gears and going back to single person celebrities that are not just
singers. They are also dancers and actresses and designers etc...
The music business is not over, it's in a state of change.
mwe3: Youve also done quite a bit of arranging and production
work. What about your favorite production work? You also won an Academy
Award, 20 years ago for your work on the Muhammad Ali documentary.
Tell us more about your work on the Vitamin Records releases... Im
pretty sure I remember those!
Munro: Yikes! We are opening up a big can of worms here. Okay,
Ill try to see what I can remember and keep it brief. Most of
my production work came from my long association with producer Joe
Ferry. Hes the one that introduced me to that whole NYC scene.
Before that I was doing arrangements for HS concert/jazz bands, shopping
pop songs at the music building at 1500 Broadway and a little writing
and arranging for jingles.
The first major run of work I did was with Joe Ferry through Shanachie
Records. We did a series of CDs called The Soul Of R&B.
We worked with pretty much all of the top NYC session guys and a lot
of great R&B stars like Rufus Thomas and Chuck Jackson. We also
brought in rockers/blues celebs like Todd Rundgren and Jimmie Vaughan.
The series culminated in a live concert that was filmed and released
on VHS (lol!). It was called The Soul Of R&B Revue.
There were so many cats on it. I cant remember them all. Just
the band itself was incredible. Dave Weckle on drums, Will Lee on
bass, Cornell Dupree on guitar, Richard Tee on piano along with Crispen
Ciao and the Uptown Horns. There were also 3 or 4 backup singers.
Billy Vera was the MC.
Through my work at ACME studios with Peter Denenberg I got the call
to do some post-production orchestration on the 1997 movie When
We Were Kings, which was about Muhammad Alis title fight
in Africa. There was a big concert along with the event. I had to
add in the missing horn parts for B.B. King and some of
the other artists in this concert. In the video you could see the
horns playing but you couldnt hear them. I got the Uptown Horns
to do the session. Everything went down smooth. B.B. King liked it
so much he asked if he could use the charts for the post-opening night
celebration at the Beacon Theater. I said yes and didnt ask
for a penny. I did, however, ask if I could get a couple of tickets
to the show. The person I spoke to said of course, yes, just
call the box office, there are still tickets available that you can
I started a ten year 35+ CD run with Vitamin Records doing String
Quartet tribute records. Joe Ferry got me the gig. I think the
first one we did was A String Quartet Tribute to Pink Floyd.
The label had the right to refuse the product until it was to their
liking. At first it wasnt to their liking. I finally asked them
to send me an example of something they liked. Once I heard it I understood
what they wanted and I was able to deliver it. At this point Joe Ferry
said to me that he was kind of not into doing these and if I wanted
to I could just do them on my own, which I did
for 10 years!
We did tributes to everyone from Enya to Metallica, crazy! I also
did a string of Boogaloo records for Scufflin Records,
a subsidiary of Vitamin Records. Our first record was Boogaloo
To Beck, It featured Dr. Lonnie Smith on B-3, David fathead
Newman on tenor, Lafrae Sci on drums and myself on guitar. It featured
the music of pop artist Beck Hanson. The record was a huge hit. I
like to think it helped get Dr. Lonnie signed to Palmetto Records.
After that we got the green light for Boogaloo projects playing the
music of the Beastie Boys, Kanye West and MnM. I also did a few Bossa
Nova covers for them of artists like Feist. A few years ago I did
a full blown orchestration of the Frank and Vinny Show
for Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo. This was a super huge but fun
project where they hired me to take their existing show and orchestrate
it for full symphonic orchestra. The end result is that they are able
to play a pops style concert with very little rehearsal.
The orchestra practices the score and then Frank and Vinny just do
their show. The two fit together seamlessly. It was a masterful move
on the part of Frank! I think they have done the show with 3 different
orchestras and its worked great each time.
Back in 1993, you also founded the jazz studies program at Purchase
College upstate N.Y. and youre still on the faculty there too?
How does that fit in with your music education work as well as writing
musical education books about jazz guitar technique? Do they go hand
in hand? Tell us something about Purchase.
Doug Munro: I started teaching at Purchase College part time
in 1989. I started with 3 private students. Jim McElwaine was the
cat that hired me. He knew me from a jam session I ran at a club in
of all places! Each semester I got more students
and I also started teaching all the jazz elective classes. There was
no jazz major at that time. In the fall of 1991 we got a new Dean
Of Music, Donald Steven. He approached me and asked if I would be
interested in creating an official under grad and masters course of
study. I spent the summer of 1992 researching what other colleges
were offering and then writing my dream curriculum. In the beginning
the main thing that separated our Jazz program from most other colleges
was that our students took jazz classes starting in their first semester.
Many other colleges were classical study for the first two years and
then two years of dedicated jazz study.
We started in the spring of 1993 with ten students, all internal transfers.
We grew to our target size, eighty under grad and twenty masters,
in a few years. I ran the program for ten years, then Todd Coolman
ran it for ten years and now Pete Malinverni is the head of the program.
Next year we will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Jazz
Studies program at Purchase College, its hard to believe! Im
still faculty there, its the closest think to a straight
job I ever had. On the book front I am switching over to video streaming
and PDF downloading instead of the traditional hard copy book. I did
three books for Warner Bros. Publishing and one for Alfred music.
Im not against writing a traditional book, I just dont
think there is any money in it anymore. Im doing a lot of work
with an online guitar instruction site called TrueFire.com.
mwe3: With so much going on, what else are your planning for
the second half of 2017 and even looking ahead to 2018? Good to hear
and see this great new music from you so lets hope therell
be some more!
Munro: The rest of 2017 is mostly dedicated to shows promoting
The Harry Warren Songbook. Im still doing a bunch of
gigs at smaller venues and working as a sideman for other artists.
Right now I dont feel like making another CD. Its a lot
of work being your own label! The only new project I would consider
would be a recording built around the Fender Telecaster guitar. I
really love that instrument. I would enjoy writing a set of music
specifically to highlight what the Tele can do. If the muse hits me,