Attend any Midtown Men concert and it’s hard to miss the first-rate, 7-piece band that plays with them each night. Three of these band members – one saxophone player, one trumpet player, and one trombone player – are known collectively as the Worldwide Horns. The recipe is simple: three handsome guys, shiny brass instruments, crisp black clothing, and smooth choreography. The not-so-secret ingredients are mega musical talent and considerable chemistry. Taken together, it is easy to see why Greg Riley, Jay Webb, and Paul Arbogast have become an expected, not to mention highly anticipated, part of the landscape of any TMM concert. We thought it would be fun to get to know these three a little bit better, and learn more about the Midtown Men experience through their eyes. Sit back and enjoy as we meet the Worldwide Horns.
How long have you been with TMM?
GR: I have been with them since their first show together in Atlantic City.
JW: I have been subbing with them since the beginning and fully with the band by the end of year 1.
PA: Like Greg, I played the very first show to which Michael, Christian, Daniel, and Bobby decided to add a horn section. March 20th, 2010, at Caesars in Atlantic City, NJ was our first gig with them.
How did you first get connected with the guys?
GR: I had been subbing with Frankie Valli’s band for years, off and on, and when the guys were looking for a horn section to play their first show, they asked Frankie’s music director for recommendations.
JW: I had subbed in Frankie Valli’s band years before, in Atlantic City. When Christian, Michael, Daniel and Bobby were forming the group and looking for a trumpet player, a good friend of mine got the job, and when he left, I was fortunate enough to be able to take over.
PA: Similar to the way Greg got involved, I was recommended by Frankie Valli’s tour manager, along with another Philly-area trombonist. Fortunately, my friend who was the first TMM trumpet player interjected with “oh, you definitely want to call Paul first,” and the rest is history.
After almost 7 years on the road together, what can you tell us about the experience, and TMM?
GR: No one knew what it would end up being when it started.
JW: Just the closeness of the band, and the way that we have all become good friends.
PA: All of the people that have played in the band have been a pleasure to get to know. Professionally, the level of musicianship is part of what has made it a continuous pleasure to perform. On the personal side, it’s been terrific to meet and come to know a bunch of really funny, interesting, and talented souls. And the fact that the stars of the show don’t avoid us, but rather engage with the band and embrace our friendship makes it feel like family. All of the guys have become spare uncles to my 15 month old daughter. We have all shared our difficult moments, our vulnerable moments, and our triumphs. The current vibe of the tour is kind and supportive.
What is your current favorite Midtown Men song to play?
GR: I enjoy the challenge of the flute solo in In My Life
JW: Get Together or Got to Get You Into My Life
PA: Daniel’s tune, “Get Together”. The voicings and harmonies Jesse Vargas wrote for the horns are particularly beautiful to play, and the song has a great message.
Best part about touring?
JW: The best parts for me are getting to do what I love, travel all over and see the world, and meet so many wonderful people.
PA: I suppose I have traveled to many places that most people would never think it worth traveling to, but I think that has ended up being one of the best elements of touring, just because of how much it has affected my perspective about people who are different than me. I believe it’s the fundamental thing people in our divided country need: to travel! I have really learned to appreciate the variety in how people do life. It can be starkly different from state-to-state. [And even beyond] the differences in the US; try going straight from let’s say rural Veracruz to Oslo and see the different and beautiful and valid ways they are doing life. It’s an incredible education!
GR: I don’t really love the touring aspect, to be honest. I would rather be home, in my routine, doing my thing. But I have accepted touring as part of the gig, and have made my peace with it.
PA: Not being able to take the people I love with me everywhere to share the awesome experience.
Can you tell us a funny story from the road?
GR: We were in South Dakota walking through town after a show and the Mayor of the city stopped us for a photograph. He hadn’t been to the show and didn’t know who we were, but said “I knew you weren’t from around here because of the way you’re dressed.
JW: I was in a car with another band member, who shall remain nameless, driving through Florida. We were pulled over for driving too slow! We haven’t let him forget about that.
Can you guys tell us some of the highlights from your 7 years with the Midtown Men?
All: There have been so many…playing in front of national audiences on the Today Show and Good Morning America were definitely memorable. Also, just meeting so many people all over the country, and the opportunities that has created.