Category: My favorites
- Al Hirt
- Bill Chase
- Boss Brass
- Bucket List Jazz Band
- Buddy Rich
- Chuck Findley
- Classical or symphony pops
- Dance bands
- Dave Grusin
- DFW Jingles and Show Music
- Doc Severinsen
- Don Jacoby
- Gene Hall
- Harvey Anderson
- John Haynie
- Leon Breeden
- Lew Gillis
- Louis Armstrong
- Maynard Ferguson
- Maynard Ferguson
- My favorites
- My videos on Youtube
- Natalie Cole
- North Texas One O'Clock
- Rare recording
- Rehearsal bands
- Rodney Booth
- Roy Eldridge
- Sherman Jazz Classic
- Sherman Jazz Museum
- The artists
- Them Bones
- Tommy Loy
- Woody Herman
- WWC Jr.
My good friend, Leonard Belota, had a rehearsal band in Ft. Worth back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. I played lead trumpet in the band and Leonard was the jazz trumpet player. This track is from 1978 and one of my favorite tunes called “Neverbird”. The tempo is a little fast for my liking, but some may like it at this tempo.
Sorry about the poor tape quality, but we are lucky to have any tape at all. I think Leonard took his cassette recorder and set it up in front of the band. We played outside in 90 degree heat for 3 hours, and the acoustics were pretty bad. Leonard died last year and his widow, Betsy, donated these tapes to our museum. I’m in the process of transferring them to cd and the iCloud.
Rehearsal bands are interesting; the personnel can be different each week, the band might be sight reading, many of the players have had a few free beers, the stand lighting could be poor, and the audience can be distracting. In spite of all this, rehearsal bands don’t sound too bad like you might expect. Every now and then you hear a train wreck, but not very often. Also, some players might be pros and some might be amateurs–a tough mix for the pros.
As for me and a couple of others that played that night, we had worked outside at Six Flags playing in the outside band four 4 hours already that day. It made for a long day, but we were young and didn’t mind the challenge. My chops loved playing 6-7 hours a day during that summer. It’s just what I wanted to get my endurance better.
This was the only time in my life I was playing lead on a regular basis. From 1982 on, I made a living playing second, or third trumpet in the DFW area. There were so many great lead trumpet players in this area that I didn’t mind playing section to someone better than me. I had played second to John Thomas in high school, and second to Chuck Schmidt in college, so I had learned how to play good section trumpet. Bring a good section player and also being a good lead player made it easier for me to find work as a musician.
As the years went by, I did play lead at times, but not on a regular basis. To have really good lead chops, you need to play lead all the time. I felt like I sounded better back in the 70’s than later on because of that. Even though this band was not a band that played together much, or rehearsed, it was fun to play lead in it just to play lead every week. A rehearsal band is just another way to practice, except with people around you.
All this was preparing me to have a jazz museum someday. I needed every musical experience I could get to appreciate the great ones. Whether I was playing Dixieland, lead, or section, it was all preparation—not my real path. I always figured that’s why I was never the best in town. I was good enough, however, to sit next to some of the best musicians in the world, and I enjoyed every minute of it.
I’ll have more to say about Leonard later on. He was very instrumental in putting the museum together. He was a real jazz historian, and I looked to him as an advisor on things regarding jazz history. He and I had a great 40 year friendship, and was a musical soulmate to me.
I have always loved big bands. When we started the museum, I wanted it to be a big band museum. There is no other musical group that can create the excitement, power, and feel of a big band. When I say power, I don’t mean volume, I mean everyone hitting the note at exactly the same time to create an explosion of sound. To achieve that, everyone in the band actually has to back off their volume and listen to everyone else. So, it’s not at all about sheer volume at all.
Listen to this example of how it’s done when it’s done right. It starts with the rhythm section playing perfectly together and laying down the tempo and feel. They call it a walking bass line because it has the feel of someone walking down the street. And I mean a cool dude walking down the street!
The horn players also have to be aware of the time and feel, and above all they have to listen to make that happen. When you are playing in a band with a great sense of feel and time like this one, you actually feel like the band is one unit and you are just riding along with that unit. You lock in with everyone else and the band takes on a life of it’s own. You feel like you worked your whole life to get to those few moments.
Also, listen to the ensemble after the trumpet solo. It’s like a Corvette driving 20 mph down the street. It’s the most powerful thing in the world to have all that power and not use it. Everyone knows it’s there, and everyone just stares at the car as it drives past. You know it’s going to unleash the power at some point, but you don’t exactly know where or when. Then when the power of the band does let loose, it is amazing to see that much power with so much control and yet, still contain the feel and musicality. It’s not just noise and chaos like most people think when they think of big bands. It’s only chaos if the musicians aren’t listening to each other properly. Every idea we are taught in classical music of balance, blend, tone, dynamics, etc. have to be included in big band jazz, too. The result is that we get a feel and a power you can’t get with any other size, or style of music. A group larger than a big band loses feel, and the ability to follow the lead players and rhythm section. The precision of this band in this recording will be lost. A group smaller than a big band won’t have the power of 15 horn players.
Sammy Nestico wrote for the Count Basie band, and this is in the style of Basie. To me, this is as good as it gets for big band playing. A century of jazz evolution brought us to this recording, which was actually done in the late 80’s, but is so good it is timeless.
They make it sound very easy and simple on this recording. That’s the misunderstanding of jazz—-it sounds easy. These are some of the top musicians in L.A. and they have years of experience. Most musicians, including many professionals, have never experienced playing in a band this good. You have to work yourself to the top to play with musicians who can achieve this quality, and even when you do, you don’t always get to play great arrangements like this.
Sammy is one of the best big band writers in the business, using some of the best big band musicians in the world on this recording. It’s rare to get that combination these days on a cd, and Sammy knew he wouldn’t make money on a cd like this. He wanted to do it and others like it, because he loves big bands as much as many of us do. He wanted to show how it’s done when done right.
This is the best version I have in video of Doc playing Malaguena. I was at home one night watching TV and found this on a PBS channel. Unfortunately I recorded it at a slower speed than I meant, mainly because in 1981 I was new at video recording at home, so the quality isn’t great. But he played great on that show which was produced in Canada. This was the closing number of the show.
At the same concert Doc played Concerto Barrocco, he played Malagueña, also. I edited the 15 minute piece down a bit, so we could hear just Doc. Doc hired a local rhythm section of professional players from the Dallas area, one being Ernie Chapman, who hired me three times years later to play Doc’s show in the DFW area. This is the best I ever heard Doc play this cadenza.
In March, or April of 1981 I went to hear Doc play with the Plano High school concert band, since I was not working that night. Doc had played at my high school in 1967 with the concert and stage band, but only played with the concert band every year when he would come to Plano. I was disappointed he didn’t use their stage band, but instead hired a rhythm section of Dallas professionals for his jazz part of the show. Plano either didn’t have a stage band, or wasn’t good enough for Doc.
Doc was not known as a classical musician, so whenever he played classical music it was a little bit of classical and pop together. Because of that, the classical musicians didn’t appreciate Doc, and the jazz musicians didn’t appreciate him, either. He was in a world of his own musically, and he was good enough to make it that way. Doc could have been anything musically he wanted in life, but he decided to be a showman in order to make more money. He knew what he was doing. Also, he was old school where a big trumpet sound was necessary to be heard across the ballroom floor.
This was the classical side of Doc, except that no classical trumpet player in the world plays classical music like this. Whatever this is, this is Doc at his best, as far as I’m concerned. It’s also when he was in his prime, age 53. His sound and control of the instrument in all registers is something I’ve never heard from anyone. There are a few great players who could play this piece, like Allen Vizzutti, or Wynton, but they would not have this incredible sound. The piece is Concerto Barrocco.
It was so amazing, I’ll never forget where I was sitting that night, just off to his right side. His sound was filling the large gymnasium we were in so much that I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. He never missed a note, either. It was one of the greatest moments in trumpet history I had ever heard. I haven’t heard anyone play like this since.
He played two nights, and I think this was from the first night. At the end of the night I did something I had never done before, or since. I asked the sound man for a tape. He agreed and sent me two reel to reel tapes a few weeks later. I’ll post the second night on another post, but the microphones aren’t as good on that performance. But the playing might be better!
I’ve heard Doc play many times, and have even played in his back-up band three times in my career. Even Doc would like this night. The piece was commissioned for Doc by an Air Force band, and Doc had performed it with them a month, or two earlier. He had been working on this piece quite a bit, and it showed. This was never put onto a cd, and even though Plano High made a record of it that year, this is an example of a night in music that could disappear forever, if not transferred and saved. Most people, even Doc fans, have never heard this concert. It was amazing, and still is to hear it.
In 1981 I was already in the musical preservation mode without knowing it. If only I had known I would be running a music museum someday, I might have tried to video tape the night. But I wouldn’t be aware of that until 2005. At least we have the music.