Passenger Profile:
Jeff Lopez

 by Kenny Kerner
taxi member success Jeff Lopez  
Jeff Lopez
Jeff Lopez plays in a very special band. The United States Army’s touring Jazz Ensemble called the Jazz Ambassadors. We are proud and privileged to tell you his story this month. So check it out:

When did you first start playing an instrument? What was it?
1978, electric bass. My older brother played guitar and bass. When I was fifteen I started to sneak his bass out of its case and tried to teach myself how to play. It was a Rickenbacher 2001 model, like Chris Squire's from Yes. I eventually asked him to show me some things on the bass and to ask him to allow me to practice on his bass until I got my own instrument. I sold my minibike, a Yamaha YZ80, to get my first bass—Fender Jazz.

Do you come from a musical family?
My brother played bass in high school and still does it as a hobby. I had a cousin who played piano professionally. He played with Latin-Jazz and Salsa musicians in NYC. He played with legends like Mongo Santamaria, Ray Baretto, Celia Cruz, Tito Puente to name a few.

Are you self-taught or school educated in music?
I started as a self-taught musician but quickly found that I could learn more by getting a teacher. My first steady bass teacher was Ricky Giovinazzo. He is now an orchestrator in Hollywood. He has orchestrated music for 117 movies. You can check him out and all the movies he worked on at He is a great orchestrator, classic Hollywood orchestrations.

After high school, I went to Berklee College of Music for a Bachelors of Music in Performance and Manhattan School of Music for my Masters of Music in Performance. Some of the people I studied with throughout the years were Anthony Jackson, Linda McKnight, Harvie S, Jeff Andrews, Mark Egan, Jaco, John Pattitucci, Cecil McBee ,and Kenny Werner.

What first attracted you to music? Who are a few of your influences?
I was attracted to music because how great it made me feel when I listened to it and played it. I still feel that way, now more then ever. My experiences as a creative musician has made it easier for me to get totally and utterly absorbed by the music. When you are young and just starting out, that feeling happens sometimes by chance. Maybe when you're playing a jam session and the performance experience could make you feel great in an uplifting manner. Now that I have identified that state of mind, it is easily achieved through focus, practice and preparation. I would have to thank Jazz pianist and author Kenny Werner for that particular skill. Thanks, Kenny!

My early influences were typical for musicians my age. I listened to Jimi Hendrix, Cream and Yes. As I matured I listened to Weather Report, Jaco, Mahavisnu Orchestra, King Crimson, James Brown, Otis Redding, Sam and Dave.

At college I was introduced to Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Duke Ellington, Basie, and Gil Evans.

My influences on Bass are, not in any order, Charles Mingus, Jaco, Scott Lafaro, Gary Peacock, Jeff Berlin, Bootsy Collins, Ray Brown, Jimmy Blanton, Oscar Pettiford, Andy Gonzalez, Anthony Jackson, and Dave Holland.

Influential composer are numerous. My top favorites are Duke Ellington, Wayne Shorter, Gil Evans, and Charles Mingus.

When did you join the Army and what influenced your decision?
I joined in 1993 straight after my master's degree. The reason I joined the Army Band Program was mostly because I needed a job and the Army paid well and had a program that would pay my student loans for serving in the Army. I would be playing music while earning a decent living wage. The Army Loan repayment program pays $65,000 worth of loans in just three years of service. I had a new family and a hefty student loan bill from attending Berklee College and Manhattan School of Music. The Army seemed like a great opportunity.

I was the second oldest recruit in my platoon at basic training. I finished it and got into decent shape. After basic, I went to the Armed Forces School of Music were I learned about specific Army Band training. After that period of training I reported to my first band, the 101st Airborne Division Band in Ft Campbell, Kentucky. Shortly after arriving at Ft Campbell I was informed about an opening in the Jazz Ambassadors. I sent a tape of my bass playing which I recorded on a Tascam cassette 4 track to the band. They liked the tape and the band invited me for an audition. A few months later I was in Maryland recording my first CD with the Jazz Ambassadors.

Who are the Jazz Ambassadors?
The Jazz Ambassadors is the United States Army's premier touring Jazz ensemble. This 19-member ensemble, formed in 1969, has received great acclaim both at home and abroad performing America's original art form, Jazz. The Jazz Ambassadors play these concerts to keep the will of the American people behind the members of the armed forces and supports diplomatic efforts around the world.
Concerts by the Jazz Ambassadors are designed to entertain all types of audiences. Original compositions and arrangements highlight the group's creative talent and gifted soloists. Their diverse repertoire includes Big Band Swing, Bebop, Latin, Contemporary Jazz, Standards, popular tunes, Dixieland, vocals, and patriotic selections.
The band has appeared in all 50 states, Canada, Mexico, Japan, India, and throughout Europe. Notable performances include concerts at international Jazz festivals in Montreux, Switzerland; Newport, Rhode Island; Toronto, Canada; Brussels, Belgium; and the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands. In 1995, the Jazz Ambassadors performed in England, Wales, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Czech Republic in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. The band has also been featured in unique joint concerts with major orchestras, including the Boston Pops, National, Detroit, and Baltimore symphonies. Check us out at

What are your responsibilities with this group?
I play acoustic and electric bass for the group. I am the Rhythm Section Leader as well as the group's Road Manager. I am also the Chief Arranger for the group. The arranging position allows me to have my original compositions played during our shows and for our recordings.

We are working on a new project that will put free music in the hands of music educators all over the world to be used with their bands. I am writing original Jazz band compositions for middle school, high school, and university level jazz bands. We will record and publish these composition on our website for free and legal download. The educators can use our reference recordings with their group to let the students know how the music is supposed to be played. I am very excited about this project.

How did you come to hear about TAXI?
I heard about TAXI online and through colleagues. The reason I joined was because some of my friends had some success with their music. I joined specifically for the film and TV opportunities. I was made aware of the TV and Film opportunities from a Berklee College buddy who has a lucrative business promoting music for TV and Film. He is the co-creator and CCO of Megatrax Music. None of my music was appropriate for his business or what he was doing so I saw TAXI as a chance to get my music to the Music Supervisors and Publishers that need the type of music that I create (Modern Jazz).

How has TAXI helped you?
Simply put, they got me in touch with people in the business who need what I create. Through TAXI, I have two compositions that appeared in two NBC shows. Lipstick Jungle and Heroes.
The knowledge and guidance from TAXI has motivated me to get my music to other music publishers in the TV industry and as a result, have placed songs in three other shows and one documentary. Not too shabby for a Jazz guy. For my next recording project, I hope to do some more of my Jazz compositions but I also plan on doing more commercially accessible productions.

What accomplishments are you most proud of so far?
Life: Being a Husband to my best friend and wife Hazel and a father to my intelligent, well adjusted daughters Melody and Julia. Career: Having a fulfilling, challenging music career playing and composing music full time. Performing at Carnegie Hall with the Jazz Ambassadors, twice! Those performances were a little surreal. I never thought I would play at Carnegie Hall, Carnegie Deli maybe, but not Carnegie Hall!

For folks that are sitting on the fence deciding whether to join, I have one thing to say.
Take a ride with TAXI. You'll never know where it might take you!

Name: Jeff Lopez
Residence: Hanover, MD
Hometown: Staten Island, NY
Occupation: Soldier/ Musician
Age: 46
Download Song: LopezMP3.mp3

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