Drummer Rick Montalbano has had a long and varied career that spans over three quarters of his forty years. Growing up in Central New York, he was surrounded by deep musical influences both in and outside the home, centering on jazz and beginning with the work of his father, renowned pianist, organist, and arranger Rick Montalbano Sr. By the time he was in his early teens, he was one of the most frequently called drummers in the area, accompanying world-class musicians including saxophone legends Sal Nistico, J.R. Monterose, and Nick Brignola, with whom he worked steadily for many years. This unique exposure put Montalbano on the fast track to early industry success, first accumulating honors during his high school years (including the inaugural J.R. Monterose Memorial Scholarship and a scholarship from the prestigious National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts) then granting him a full scholarship to the Manhattan School of Music, one of the finest music conservatories in the world. There he formed musical alliances that have lasted throughout his professional life, and studied with Justin DiCioccio, an esteemed drummer and professor who had a lasting influence not only on Montalbano, but on many other jazz drum luminaries.
Moving to New York City, the virtual center of the jazz world, proved to be a major career turning point. Within mere months of his arrival on the scene at twenty years old, he was constantly in demand. Honing his skills on the late-night bandstands of clubs like Augie’s (now Smoke) and the legendary Small’s led to sideman work with New York’s most acclaimed jazz musicians, including Brad Mehldau, Chris Potter, Randy Brecker, Clark Terry, Phil Woods, Joel Frahm, Sam Yahel, Joe Magnarelli, Eric Alexander, Kurt Rosenwinkle, and many more. It was during this period of Montalbano’s rise that he formed a relationship (both personal and professional) with vocalist Jane Monheit. This collaboration has proved to be the most prolific of his career, resulting in eight studio albums, two DVDs, nearly twenty years of nonstop international touring, and countless film and tv appearances. These include the soundtracks of feature films “Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow” and “Never Let Me Go”, performances on Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Good Morning America, and Access Hollywood, and many additional talk shows and news programs both domestic and international. Touring with Monheit has also enabled Montalbano to work with many other prominent musicians and producers as well, including Michael Bublé, Michael Feinstein, John Pizzarelli, Ivan Lins, Jimmy Webb, Mark O’Connor, Gil Goldstein, Peter Asher, and Joel Dorn. In addition, his distinction as an expert vocal accompanist has led to engagements with many stars of the New York musical theater scene, such as legendary pianist and singer Billy Stritch and Tony Award winner Christine Ebersole.
At present, Montalbano resides in Los Angeles with his family where he teaches and continues to tour and record with Monheit as well as many others throughout the various sub-genres of jazz and contemporary music. Rick proudly endorses Zildjian cymbals, Yamaha drums, Remo drumheads, and Vic Firth sticks.