Neil Capolongo


Jorgen Andersson, December 2003

Can you tell me something about your time with Blood, Sweat & Tears and share some memories that you have from that time?

My name is Neil Capolongo. I am a Blood Sweat and Tears alumnus.
When I originally auditioned for the band, I made the audition; but I was subsequently passed over because management felt that my questions about scheduling meant that I was going to be a problem.
Years later I was asked to sub for the drummer in the band at the time. Clayton ( as we call him ) apparently liked what he heard, remembered me from the audition, and asked me to be in the band.
My experience with the band, from July 17, 1991 until August 13, 1993, a period of 25 months, was a good one. During that time, the band played 100 towns in the U.S. and 50 towns in Europe. By all accounts, some of the best venues in memory were played during that time: North Sea Jazz Festival, Lugano Festival, Molde Festival, Pori Festival, a TV show in St. Petersberg, an ancient amphitheater in Istanbul, and many more.
By the way, out of 153 dates, I missed only one- to be Best Man at my brother's wedding- so I like to feel that management's initial fears were unjustified.
Playing that great music in front of appreciative audiences was a beautiful experience. I had a ball with one of my favorite rhythm sections I have ever had the pleasure of playing with: the incomparable Larry DeBari on guitar ( We all miss him greatly. He died of Cancer some years ago at age 45. There will never again be sounds like the the ones he made. ), the great Gary ( Foot Man ) Foote on bass, and the very versatile Glen ( Mack ) MacClelland on keyboard. The great horn section consisted of Charley Gordon on trombone, Jerry Sokolov on lead trumpet, Steve Guttman trumpet and M.D., and several great players on sax- Jack Bashkow, Tim Ries, and Chuck Fisher among them.
One of the experiences I will never forget was the: 19 one-nighters in a row. The band really got tight as we bussed all over Germany's Autobahn- sometimes making it just in time to run out on stage and play to those great audiences. The German road crew was very professional, and my drum tech was incredible! By the second night, he knew exactly how I wanted my drums! I mean exactly! At the end of the tour, I told him he had "spoiled" me. He frowned and asked someone in German what is meant by "spoiled." I intervened and told that person to tell him that when you give a baby everything it wants- that's "spoiled." A big smile and a hug with a "oh, das is good!" was his response.
When we played at Lugano, it was a beautiful summer night, outdoors, overlooking the Alps! Breathtaking. I was told that the festival was being broadcast throughout Italy. I got a thrill when I saw my live shot on a very large monitor, with my name captioned, and realized that some cousins were probably watching in Italy.
Another experience which will always remain was the time- I think we all agree- the small commuter plane we were in came close to a tornado and almost went down over Kansas. It felt like a very large hand had simply swatted the plane down like a bug. Long-time band members still say it was the worst flying experience in memory. The plane was pivoting- the rear swinging back and forth in a 90 degree arc. A trombone case came flying past me, missing my head by about an inch! Clayton sprained both wrists, holding on so tight. I don't know how, but even belted in, our heads hit the ceiling!
The gig at "The Theater at Madison Square Garden" was eventful. I was straightening out the drum kit before the show. Someone said to hurry it up. I jumped down from the drum riser into the dark. My left foot hit a microphone junction box, resulting in a massive sprain. When my shoe was removed, my foot expanded like something from an old animated cartoon! Well- to make a story short, we went through with the performance. My high-hat technique was not so good that night. I was in therapy for three months.

What are you doing right now, what are your plans for the future? And can you tell me something about your main influences as a drummer?

Since my tour with BS&T ended, I have been freelancing in the New York City tri-state area scene- filling my calendar, year by year, with everything "from Broadway to Bar Mitzvah" and everything in between. I've also done some studio work with various artists.
Having studied Film at New York University in the 80's, I recently finished a film/video called "Club Date Stories" which, I am told, is fast becoming an Underground hit among the musicians. In it, various New York City players and vocalists talk about funny, amusing, and hopefully interesting things that have happened on the gigs.
But my main love continues to be playing drums, and hopefully providing a joyful experience for those with whom I come in contact- on and off the bandstand.
As far as my main influences are concerned, I must say that my older brother Albert Capolongo, a fantastic drummer, was my main one. I started out "fooling around" on his drums. He is the one who encouraged me to take it more seriously, saying I had a talent.
Together, we listened to all the jazz greats- Tony Williams, Buddy Rich, too numerous to name them all. For years afterward, I was listening mostly to Jazz, and playing mostly Rock. So when the Fusion thing happened, I locked-on to that- listening to all the great Fusion drummers- Billy Cobham, Lenny White, and Tony Williams again. Of course, Steve Gadd influenced everybody. ( At that Lugano festival I spoke about, Steve Gadd took an INCREDIBLE drum solo playing with Herbie Hancock right before we went on. THAT was an experience! )
As far as Pop music is concerned, the great R&B, Funk, and Motown drummers were my main influence- The pretty man- Bernard Purdie ( one of my teachers ), the great drummers with James Brown like John "Jabo" Starks- the Motown drummers, Benny Benjamin in particular- and the great Dave Garibaldi.
I must say Bobby Colomby had to be an influence because I owned all the BS&T albums. I know this is an age give-away; but I remember groovin' on BS&T's first album on the 8-Track in my car! That's why I think I made the audition with the band. I was very familiar with the material, to say the least.
Right now, my plans for the future include continuing working on my two loves- playing drums and filmmaking. ( A film about Blood Sweat & Tears- now THAT would be something! )
And the beat goes on!