Leonard Belota’s Rehearsal Band

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.