Playing a show with Marc Anthony at Madison Square Garden in the middle of his career, Steve Gluzband was unaware that there would be a pyrotechnic display during the performance.
His trumpet blaring, he was also unaware that he was seated 18 inches from where the fireworks would launch into the rafters. It was a surprise, but not a showstopper.
“I never miss a beat,” Gluzband, of Albertson, said.
Gluzband is full of stories. He can talk about the times he worked with Miles Davis or how horrible commuting is to and from the Bronx, where he works during the day as a music instructor for grades pre-K through five. This spring he’ll retire from P.S. 53, where he has worked for the last 12 years, and he looks forward to diving even deeper into his music.
Gluzband, 66, hasn’t missed many beats in his life. He played alongside Paul Simon, on an album with The Talking Heads and as a staff trumpeter for Nickolodeon’s “Blue’s Clues.”
Before he began his 20-year career as an educator, Gluzband traveled across the globe, playing trumpet in bands and ensembles for renowned musicians. He grew up in Boston, where his American mother and Cuban emigrant father raised him. He was enthralled with the city’s music scene and the rise in Latin jazz. His sister started playing guitar at a young age, and not to follow suit, he picked up an accordion at 12, earning money as a solo act.
Gluzband picked up the trumpet at the age of 14 to pursue his newfound love for jazz, and he never looked back. He graduated from Boston Latin School and received a bachelor’s degree from the Berklee School of Music in Boston.
Gluzband toured the East Coast while studying at Berklee, and after watching a Celia Cruz and Johnny Pacheco concert in 1975, he said he knew that he would move to New York City to play music.
Upon arrival in New York in 1979, Gluzband joined Saoco, a popular salsa band, and played with several later music stars over the course of a few years, including Cruz.
Eventually Gluzband joined the Ray Barretto Orchestra. He played with the band for 20 years and recorded three albums with Fania Records, touring Europe, North and South America. While working with Barretto, Gluzband appeared on more than 250 recordings and the Grammy Award-winning “Ritmo en el Corazon” in 1988 as well as on the Talking Heads 1988 album “Naked.”
Gluzband loves teaching children music and offers private lessons for those who want to pursue music more seriously. His wife, Cheryl Gluzband, is a reading teacher in Great Neck Public Schools.
Gluzband will retire from teaching this March, and said he is excited to dedicate even more time and effort to his craft. He has written a book on great Latin jazz artists, in which he describes their lives in detail. Gluzband even transcribed many of the musicians’ songs, a difficult feat, with only his trumpet and skill for recognizing notes.
Writing the biographical blurbs took more time then transcribing every note in every song, Gluzband said.
He’ll continue to play music, especially with his band Hot House, which plays all over Long Island at festivals and concerts. Hot House’s 2008 debut album “Cuban Tribute to Charlie Parker” was included in five categories in the Grammys that year. The band was a semifinalist in several award categories last year for its album “Hot House @ street level.”
Gluzband often gets lost in his music. Sometimes, after starting early in the day and playing or transcribing or composing for hours, he said, he forgets how to talk. The music floods his mind.
“Music is a language like anything else,” Gluzband said.