It’s been a few weeks since I got back to the UK, following the end of “The Rat Pack – Live At The Sands” US National Tour. I thought it about time to sit down and write the customary blog post about it! The tour has been tremendous fun this year and we’ve been fortunate to have some great local musicians in the cities we’ve visited. I’ve already blogged about our visits to Louisville, Kentucky and Dallas, Texas. The tour actually continued for a week in Schenectady, NY where I was unable to attend, due to my LACJO Tour commitments. When I got back from Austria, the next stop was Tampa, FL.
This was the perfect place to return to following the wintry weather I ‘enjoyed’ in Austria. We had a week of the best kind of summer weather, the kind you rarely get here in the UK. It was so good for the whole company to get some sun in the midst of all our recent travelling. Moods were lifted and the show really lifted as a result!
We were staying in downtown Tampa, just along the river from the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. We were performing in the magnificent Carol Morsani Hall at the TBPAC – a really great room! The Broadway Season at the TBPAC has some of the highest subscriptions in the whole of the USA so we were treated to (almost) full houses for all of our shows. The large audiences were treated to a great show, if I do say so myself, as the local musicians did a great job. Given the proximity to DisneyWorld in Orlando, I’d expected some good players and we weren’t disappointed. Joining me on Trumpets were Brad Turner and Aric (pronounced ‘Eric’) Brian. Brad is a veteran of the Disney music scene in Florida. Aric moved to the area more recently but seems to be keeping busy! Among the rest of the band, a special mention must go to Trombonist Herb Bruce, who played Lead ‘bone for the week and sounded absolutely extraordinary! If you’re not familiar with him, I implore you to check him out.
The week in Tampa was followed by a week off during which some went home to the UK, some stayed in Tampa to enjoy the sunshine and I went ‘home’ to New York. Following that, we reconvened in Portland, Oregon.
Portland is, without a doubt, one of the nicest cities I’ve visited in the USA. I think this is partly due to it being more similar to many places in England than elsewhere in the country, but it also has an energy that you don’t find everywhere. The population seem to be comparatively young and it was refreshing to find a town in the US which is so well set up for pedestrians and cyclists. We had a fair walk from the Marina area where we were staying to get to the Keller Auditorium downtown but, happily, it was one that could be conducted in reasonable safety and without the locals thinking you crazy for even contemplating it!
On the recurring theme of the cities we’ve visited this year, the local musicians did a great job and I was joined on Trumpet by Matt Carr and Dick Titterington. Both great players, Matt had spent many years working in Las Vegas and Dick had done his time on the road as ‘travelling guy’ with a number of shows. We had a great time together, not only playing the show but also hanging out afterwards on a couple of nights. I heartily recommend a visit to Higgins Restaurant and Bar if you’re visiting Portland – good food and a great beer list!!
From Portland, we moved on to our final week of the tour, in Costa Mesa, California.
Costa Mesa, CA
This was a great town in which to finish the tour. Apart from a couple of windy days, we had fantastic weather and were staying right across the street from the venue – the magnificent Orange County Performing Arts Center.
In terms of the musicians, we had a slightly different situation to normal. For the first time since starting the US Tour in 2006, we had 3 local musicians who’d actually played the show with us before. Jay Mason, on Lead Alto, had played Baritone Sax when we visited San Diego in November ’07 and we had two guys from the band in Los Angeles in December ’07; Jeff Driskill on Tenor Sax and Michael Higgins on Guitar. Not only does it make a tremendous difference to the rehearsal process when you have a few more guys who are familiar with the book but also the local musicians had already heard good things about the show, and the travelling musicians, so were excited to play it for themselves. Of course, being close to Los Angeles, all the guys were absolutely terrific players anyway!
Joining me on Trumpets in Costa Mesa were Brad Steinwehe and Don Clarke – both great players and great guys. Given their great playing, and enthusiasm for the show, it would be churlish of me not to mention as many of the rest of the band as I can remember as well so here goes:
Trombones: Charlie Morillas, Dave Ryan, Craig Ware
Saxes: Jay Mason, Glen Berger, Jeff Driskill, Bob Carr
Guitar: Michael Higgins
Keyboards: John Sawoski
and, of course, our travelling team – Craig Schneider (Piano/MD), Ben Groenevelt (Bass) and Dave Bryant (Drums).
It was a tremendous pleasure for me to have 4 members of one of my favourite Big Bands with us on the show. Saxophonists Jay Mason and Jeff Driskill, and Trombonists Charlie Morillas and Craig Ware are all members of Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band. If you’re used to having Wayne Bergeron and Dan Fornero pounding in the back of your head, it has to be disappointing when they’re not there! My thanks go to all the guys for their kindness and patience!!
Talking of Messrs Bergeron and Fornero, Dan was kind enough to invite me to visit a studio session they were doing at Dan Savant’s studio for a Disney show. The charts were written by Gordon Goodwin and the horn section was Wayne Bergeron and Dan Fornero (tpts), Andy Martin (tbn) and Sal Lozano and Gordon Goodwin (saxes). Not only did I get to see these masters at work, but only had the chance to go to lunch with them afterwards! Such a good time!
Finally, to wrap up this roundup, I mentioned the enthusiasm for the show from the local musicians in Costa Mesa. They actually requested to get a band photograph with Frank, Dean and Sammy as a momento of the run. Here it is: