Playing in the Commodores

I really enjoyed playing in the U.S. Navy Band jazz ensemble, the Commodores, during August and September of 2013. This was a difficult adjustment for me, as I had not been playing in a big band for a couple of decades prior to that. I had to play mostly second or third trumpet, with an occasional lead chart thrown in. The other trumpeters at this time were Nick Cooper (lead), Tim Stanley and Jonathan Barnes, who was always so helpful by my side, making sure I didn’t mess up too much.

From a classical trumpeter’s perspective, it was very interesting experience, emphasizing sight-reading more than preparation. When I arrive at an orchestra or concert band gig, I sit down with my trumpet, warming up and trying out the important passages for the performance. This was what I was used to.

In contrast, when I showed up for a jazz band gig, the first thing was to set up equipment in work clothes—hours before-hand. Then when it gets closer to the downbeat, you change into your uniform (performance clothes). But that’s when you do about 20 minutes of mic checks. So, there is really no time to do that last-minute practice that is so common to classical gigs. And, by the way, in most jazz bands, it’s better NOT to take your book home. The worst thing is to forget or loose your book. So, you leave it on the stand, to be brought by the setup crew. What I did with some of the difficult charts was to photograph them with my phone, so I could practice them at home.

Here’s a brief video excerpt of a performance I did with the Commodores at the Kennedy Center.

Here’s another performance in the town square of Old Town, Alexandria.

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A remembrance of Sammy Nestico

A couple of days ago, world-renowned arranger, Sammy Nestico, died. I will alway cherish memories of high school and college jazz band, learning to play his charts–especially “Basie, Straight Ahead.”

As a college trumpet teacher teaching a wide range of trumpet interests in my studio, I will occasionally get out the “Basie-Nestico” lead trumpet book compilation published by Kendor.

For my jazz/commercial-oriented students, I will often recommend a great solo by Sammy Nestico–“Portrait of a Trumpet,” dedicated to Conrad Gozzo. I’d like to share a live performance I did of this piece seven years ago. RIP, Sammy Nestico.

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