Rat Pack Roundup #2 – Los Angeles

Following all my good intentions at the end of 2007 about keeping up with News updates, I singularly failed to actually write anything! Here’s the next installment of my Rat Pack US Tour ’07-’08 adventure.

Los Angeles – Dec ’07

Los Angeles, Dec.'07.We had a great time playing at the Wilshire Theatre in Beverley Hills for the first 2 weeks of December. I previously mentioned that I had the legendary Rick Baptist and Dan Fornero joining me in the Trumpet section but that turned out to be just the beginning of the story!!

We had a great time playing the show and I count myself as extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to listen to, play with and learn from these wonderful musicians first hand. Both are players I’ve admired on records for many years and it took me some time to get over the fact that I was playing with them at all! To put it in context; I was asked on the rehearsal break, by one of my friends and colleagues on the stage crew, how the band was in LA? My response: –
“I might as well be sitting between Santa Claus and Superman!”

More important even than the musical side of things was the friendship they both showed me. I was invited on various excursions with them throughout our stay in LA. Rick did me the honour of taking me to work with him one day! Sounds ordinary when you put it like that but, in fact, he took me to the recording stage at Fox Studios to watch a session for the TV show “American Dad”. That was a tremendous thrill! Not only because it’s the same production team that works on my favourite of the current US cartoons, “Family Guy” but also because of the living legends I met in the band! The other Trumpets flanking Rick on this occasion were none other than Warren Luening and Charley Davis! The trombones were no slouches either: Bob McChesney, Charlie Loper, Ira Nepus and Bill Reichenbach! It was a fantastic day out – thanks Rick!

Dan was kind enough to take me on an equally star-studded excursion the following day. We met up at the Musicians Union building in Hollywood where I had a chance to sit in on the rehearsal with Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band! It was definitely an experience to sit back in the Trumpet section with Dan, Wayne Bergeron and a pair of stellar subs; Willie Murillo and Serafin Aguilar. Willie, who also subbed for Rick on the show for a couple of days, is best known as Lead Trumpet with Brian Setzer’s Orchestra, and Serafin was a member of the last Big Bop Nouveau band led by the late, great, Maynard Ferguson. Of course, the particular thrill was to hear Wayne Bergeron who is undoubtedly one of the greatest trumpet players out there, and a really nice guy! It was awesome to watch them all put through their paces by Mr Goodwin’s wonderfully complex music – I’m glad I didn’t have to play!! It was also great to meet the other guys in the band as well as seeing some familiar faces; the two Tenor saxophonists, Brian Scanlon and Jeff Driskill, were playing the show with us in LA, and Baritone saxophonist Jay Mason had been with us a couple of weeks before in San Diego. The rehearsal was for a gig the following week, on the day we were due to leave (!), but it was such an experience to see this band live that I changed my flight and stayed the extra day – well worth the expense!!

While we were in LA, I was delighted to be invited to head down to Fullerton College to coach their Jazz Band I. The Director of the Fullerton Jazz programme is Bruce Babad, a fine saxophonist who also played the show when we were in San Diego. More importantly, Bruce is better known for playing in the Big Band of legendary composer/arranger Bill Holman! Bruce has been doing a great job at Fullerton and the band was really good. We had a lot of fun and I particularly enjoyed having the chance to give my demonstration of “what not to do” as a member of the trumpet section. That can sometimes be as important and useful as demonstrating the right way to do things and has proven helpful in previous workshops I’ve participated in. I’m also pleased to say that Bruce has invited me to come back and be Guest Artist with the band in October ’08. There will be a proper announcement about that in due course.

That just about wraps up my highlights of the Rat Pack trip to Los Angeles. I’d like to thank all the guys who joined us in the band and I’m pleased to say that I can name them all for a change! They were:

  • Trumpets: Rick Baptist/Willie Murillo, Dan Fornero
  • Trombones: Jim Sawyer, Bob McChesney & Craig Gosnell
  • Reeds: Brian Scanlon, Jeff Driskill, Gene Cipriano & John Mitchell
  • Guitar: Mike Higgins
  • Bass: Kenny Wild/Chuck Berghofer
  • Keyboards: Nelson Kole

…and not forgetting our regular travelling team of:

  • Andy Rumble – Piano/MD
  • Dave Bryant – Drums

More Rat Pack Roundups shortly….