Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers include some of the greatest musicians you'll ever hear! Scroll down to read the biographies of our regular band-members.

Mike Olmos (Trumpet) was raised in Merced, CA. He moved to the Bay Area in 1997 to attend California State University, Hayward, to pursue a degree in music. Mike is currently the Trumpet player for the legendary Etta James. He has performed with Rosemary Clooney, The Stan Kenton Alumni Big Band, Michael Feinstein, Jon Hendricks, Michael Brecker, Maria Schneider, as well as many other local Bay Area greats. He has recorded with Matt Catingub's "Big Kahuna and the Copa Cat Pack", Rosemary Clooney, Mike Vax, Cannonball, Madeline Eastman and The Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra. Mike is regularly seen performing around the Bay Area with Madeline Eastman, the Contemorary Jazz Orchestra, and the Fil Lorenz Nonet/Big Band, as well as his own quartet.  You can visit Mike at myspace.

Bill Ortiz (Trumpet) was born and raised in San Francisco. Bill is currently the Trumpet player for the legendary Carlos Santana.  He has played/and or recorded with Tito Puente, Quincy Jones, En Vogue, Bobby Hutcherson, Bennie Maupin, Peter Apfelbaum and the Hieroglyphics Ensemble, Don Cherry, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Otis Clay, T.L.C., Pete Escovedo, Toni, Tony, Tone, Airto and Flora Purim, and Boz Skaggs. Bill played on Santana’s historic multiple-grammy winning album “Supernatural”, including the smash hit "Smooth”. That’s right-that was Bill performing with Carlos Santana at the Grammies! He has been touring with Santana ever since, and is featured on Santana's upcoming album. Bill’s hot new album is now available.  To find out more, visit Bill at billortiz.com, facebook and myspace.

Allen Smith (Trumpet) was raised in and around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and played with the Navy Band during World War II, replacing Clark Terry. After World War II, Allen moved to San Francisco and worked with T-Bone Walker, Saunders King, and many others. He then went on the road with Johnny Otis in 1947. He has recorded with Duke Ellington, Gil Evans and Benny Goodman, and has performed with many of the biggest names in jazz, including Ella Fitzgerald, Nat “King” Cole, Sarah Vaughan, Quincy Jones, Gerald Wilson, Joe Williams, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and many others. Allen’s fantastic new CD, "Cornocopia" is now available on BluePort Records.


Danny Armstrong (Trombone & Vocals) was born and raised in San Diego. Danny has performed and recorded with many greats, including Rufus Thomas, Archie Bell and the Drells, Pete Escovedo, Elvin Bishop, Elouise Laws, Ann Peebles, The Legendary Sy Klopps Band, The Coasters, Bobby Freeman, and Lee Oskar. He performed with the legendary  Johnny Otis’ working band for years in addition to his work with Lavay Smith. In addition to being the world’s greatest trombone player, you can hear Danny’s wonderful singing in duets with Lavay as well.

Trombone & Vocals


Jules Broussard (Alto and Tenor Saxophones) was born and raised in Alexandria, Louisiana. He learned to play by listening to Louis Jordan, Illinois Jacquet, and Earl Bostic in the 1940's. He has played and/or recorded with Ray Charles, Little Esther Phillips, Johnny Otis, Big Mama Thornton, Earl Grant, John Handy, Santana, Boz Skaggs, Steve Miller, Van Morrison and many other music greats. Jules is a renowned bandleader in his own right with a superb brand-new CD out entitled “Jules Broussard...With Strings Attached”.  You can find out about Jules and his band and order his CDs at broussard.com.

Pete Cornell (Alto, Tenor and Baritone Saxophones) grew up in Richmond, VA. He is longtime mainstay on the Bay Area Jazz and Latin music scenes. He has appeared at the Monterey, San Jose and San Francisco Jazz Festivals, and performs regularly with many great San Francisco Bay Area Jazz artists, including The Contemporary Jazz Orchestra, The Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra and Steffen Kuhn. Pete has been playing with the wonderful Bay Area salsa group Mazacote for over a decade, and performs regularly with many other outstanding Latin music acts. Pete was an original member of Steve Lucky & The Rumba Bums Featuring Miss Carmen Gettit, with whom he recorded two albums. Pete also spent 5 years with The Chazz Cats, touring the USA and Europe.

Charles McNeal (Alto and Tenor Saxophones) hails from Denver, CO. He has worked with John Faddis, Wynton Marsalis, Leslie Drayton, McCoy Tyner, Ray Obiedo, Dave Garabaldi, Barbara Morrison, Junior Mance, Roberta Flack, The Temptations and the great Ruth Brown, among many others. In addition to Lavay Smith, Charles performs with other great Bay Area artists, including Clair Dee and The Contemporary Jazz Orchestra. Charles tours as the third member of the James Brown Horns along with Fred Wesley and Pee Wee Ellis.  Check out his website for his schedule and complete bio. While you're there, check out the great Jazz transcriptions, which you can download for free at charlesmcneal.com.

It is with profound sadness that we say goodbye to our friend and long-time saxophone player Ron Stallings. Ron left us on April 13, much too young at age 62. We are heart-broken and devastated. Ron, known to all as "Rev", was one of the most beautiful and soulful people that we have ever known. We will never forget him and we are honored to have played with him and called him our friend.

Ron Stallings (Tenor and Baritone Saxophones) was born in Oakland, grew up in Houston until the age of 8, and lived in San Francisco for most of his life. He was a pillar of the Jazz scene, the Blues scene, the R&B scene, the Afro-Cuban scene and the Rock scene. Over the course of his career, he performed and/or recorded with Gladys Knight, Ruth Brown, Joe Williams, Big Joe Turner (one of his favorite blues singers), Julian Priester, Jimmy McCracklin, Louis Bellson, Otis Rush, Dr. John, Merl Saunders, Linda Tillery, The Dells, The Four Tops and The Temptations. He was Jazz royalty, the first cousin of our friend and favorite singer, Mary Stallings. Ron loved Cuba, Cuban music, Cuban culture and the Cuban people. He went to Cuba to study music in 1994 and, in his own words, "flipped out". He brought his unique and soulful behind-the-beat feel to many Afro-Cuban ensembles, performing with Cuban bass legend Cachao, John Calloway, John Santos & The Machete Ensemble, Mark Levine & The Latin Tinge, Pete Escovedo, Tanaóra, and Wayne Wallace, and co-led the Latin Jazz group Que Calor. His Rock credits included Boz Skaggs, Elvin Bishop, Huey Lewis & The News, Jerry Garcia & Reconstruction, Jesse Colin Young, Mike Bloomfield and Southern Comfort.

Howard Wiley (Tenor Saxophone) is a Bay Area native. He performed with Lauryn Hill’s band on her 2007 world tour. He has worked with Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, David Murray, Faye Carol, Marcus Shelby, Bill Bell, Bishop Norman Williams, and many other greats. Howard has several superb CDs under his own name, including his latest CD “The Angola Project”, which features an exciting lineup that includes vocalists Faye Carol, Jeannine Anderson and Lorin Benedict, trumpet, tenor sax, two violins, piano, two basses and drums. You can find out more about Howard and order his CDs at his website, howardwiley.com.

Rhythm Section

Charlie Siebert (Guitar) grew up in New York City and Los Angeles. He has performed with Larry Vukovich, Mal Sharpe and the Blue Room Boys. Charlie was the co-founder of the Molasses Brothers along with his brother Chris. He is currently teaching English in Jinan, the capitol of Shandong Province in China, and plans to travel throughout Asia and beyond. You can reach Charlie at emailcharlie@yahoo.com. You can also visit Charlie and check out some great photos from China at facebook.

David Ewell (String Bass) hails from Berkeley, CA, and graduated from Berkeley High's nationally renowned music program. David toured the world with Lauryn Hill in 2007. He has worked with Arthur Blythe, Bobby Watson, Greg Tardy, Babatunde Lea, Mark Levine, Bishop Norman Williams, Randy Vincent and many other greats. David often performs in a trio format with New York-based Piano player Marc Carey as well as The Howard Wiley Trio. He is also a founding member of the excellent Brazilian band Vivendo de Pao and performs regularly with The Supplicants. You can visit David at myspace.

Darrell Green (Drums) grew up in Oakland, CA and lives in Harlem. Darrell tours with Sherman Irby from the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Steve Turre and Jeremy Pelt. He has performed with Dr. Lonnie Smith, Stephon Harris, Marlena Shaw, Myron Walden, Tony Monaco, Faye Carol, Marcus Shelby, Howard Wiley and Dave Ellis. Darrell is also a Jazz educator, and he works with students of all ages at Jazz Camp West and The Young Musician's Program at UC Berkeley. You can visit Darrell at myspace.

Chris Siebert (Piano, Arranger, Bandleader) grew up in New York City and Los Angeles. In addition to founding the Red Hot Skillet Lickers with Lavay Smith in 1989, he has also played and/or recorded with Snooky Pryor, Taj Mahal, Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir, Howard “Louie Bluie” Armstrong, Alvin “Youngblood” Hart, Little Charlie & The Night Cats, Big Bones, Los Lobos, The Turk Murphy Alumni Band, Bo Grumpus, Denise Perrier, Brenda Boykin, Ledisi and Sugar Pie DeSanto. A noted authority on swing, jazz, and blues music, Chris, along with Lavay, was a special consultant to MCA Records for their re-issue of the classic Decca recordings of Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, Jimmy Lunceford and Ella Fitzgerald with Chick Webb. Chris is the musical director for the band, writes most of the arrangements and composes the original songs with Lavay Smith. You can visit Chris at myspace and facebook.

David Berger (Arranger) is from Long Island and makes his home in Manhattan. He is a renowned arranger, and is know as the world’s foremost authority on the music of Duke Ellington.  In addition to his outstanding original arrangements and compositions, he is a noted transcriber.  He has contributed a large percentage of the arrangements performed by Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. David has written for John Hendricks, and his arrangements were featured in the Broadway show “Sophisticated Ladies.”

David’s leads his own orchestra, the Sultan’s of Swing, one of the finest Big Bands in the world, and has featured such legendary performers as Jerome Richardson, Jerry Dodgion, Marcus Belgrave, Britt Woodman, Bill Easley, Art Baron and many others.  The wonderful Aria Hendricks is the featured vocalist. They perform regularly in Manhattan, and go on the road as the house band for the acclaimed jazz ballet “The Harlem Nutcracker”.

David travels the world as conductor, presenting his own music as well as programs of the music of Duke Ellington.  He often conducts his own transcriptions of Ellington’s Sacred Concerts, featuring all-star ensembles that include performers such as Jessye Norman.

David Berger & The Sultans of Swing have 3 CDs available on Such Sweet Thunder Records: “The Harlem Nutcracker”, "Doin' the Do!" and their latest release, "Marlowe", which Dan Morgenstern of the Institute for Jazz Studies at Rutgers University call "some of the best big-band writing and playing you're likely to hear".

David has contributed many arrangements to the Lavay Smith repertoire, including 7 charts on our CD “Everybody’s Talkin’ ‘Bout Miss Thing!” David's chart for our original tune "The Busy Woman's Blues" from that album is now available from Smart Chart Music in an expanded Big Band version which includes lyrics. You can hear it and order it at smartchartmusic.com.

Further information about David Berger can be gleaned from “The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz” by Leanord Feather and Ira Gitler (Oxford University Press). For more information about David Berger & The Sultans of Swing, check out sultansofswing.com.


Marcus Shelby (String Bass)was raised in a family of Memphis blues musicians. Marcus began playing the stand-up bass as a child and studied at Cal Arts, where his teachers included Billy Higgins, Tootie Heath, and John Clayton.  While in school, Marcus formed the band Black/Note which recorded for Sony Records and Impulse! Records.  Black/Note toured the US, and toured Europe with Wynton Marsalis. He has performed with many of the greatest names in Jazz. Marcus' label, Noir Records, has released dozens of albums, including CDs by The Marcus Shelby Trio and his big band, The Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra.  Marcus is a prolific composer, who has written ballets and suites.  He is currently composer-in-residence at Intersection For The Arts in San Francisco.  You can find out more about Marcus at marcusshelby.com..

Photo © George Laoutaris

Photo © Manolo Santana

Photo © William Mercer McLeod

Photo © Tony Ziemba

Photo © George Laoutaris

Photo © Tony Ziemba

Photo © Tony Ziemba

Photo © Tony Ziemba

Photo © George Laoutaris

Photo © Ron Biron

Photo © Marius Moscovici

Photo © Ed Homich

Photo © Chris Siebert

Photo © Tony Ziemba

© 2009 Fat Note Records.  All Rights Reserved.

Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers

Meet the Band

(L-R) Chris Siebert, David Berger & Marcus Shelby. Photo © Lavay Smith

Photo © Lavay Smith