The Max Weinberg Big Band is probably the most honest moniker that the drummer could choose for his latest project — the name rings true by genre classification and number of members. Weinberg directs a piano player, a bassist and 13 horn players from the drummer’s seat in a set that spans through the work of his heroes to the work he has done with Bruce Springsteen.
“I grew up in the ’50s and ’60s, and when you watched TV back in those days, there were so many variety shows that always had great musicians,”?he says. “And if you were really lucky you got to see on TV on a fairly consistent basis the Count Basie Orchestra and Duke Elington. In the ’60s on Johnny Carson, Buddy Rich was a staple. ... I think it was Buddy Rich’s dynamism and command of the drums and the way he led the band that even though I was a rock-era drummer, it impressed me that this is how you should approach drumming.”
With Weinberg’s mention of late-night talk shows, he draws attention to the elephant in the room. You know, the one with the red pompadour. The week before our discussion, it was announced that he would not be continuing on with Conan O’Brien on the TBS network. Though Weinberg is reluctant to speak at length about the split, he has nothing but good things to say about his former boss.
“It was a wonderful run we both had and I’m sure that Conan will do just wonderfully at TBS,” he says. “If you’ve read our mutual statement, it was very mutual, so upwards and onwards for both of us.”
On meeting another Boss“What attracted me to the audition was the ad that Bruce put in the Village Voice. It said, ‘Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band on Columbia Records,’ and obviously if he had a record contract, he was doing better than I was,” recalls Weinberg, who at the time was living with his parents and playing in the show “Godspell.”
“I just kept at it, and that’s the most important thing. ... Because if you keep at it, you get lucky and get smarter.”