Catching Up

Jack Bowers By

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As our most recent column was devoted exclusively to the Ken Poston / LAJI event, "Modern Sounds," held October 20-24 at the Los Angeles Marriott Airport Hotel, and to the day-long tribute to bandleader Stan Kenton on the hundredth anniversary of his birth that followed, a number of substantive items slipped through the cracks. Before they vanish forever, herewith a belated attempt to overtake and retrieve them.

On October 31 (Halloween, appropriately enough), I was back on the radio, co-hosting a three-hour big-band program on KSFR-FM in Santa Fe with my friend (and woodwind virtuoso) Arlen Asher, with whom I'd shared the studio for a Christmas big band show in December 2009 (hard to believe that much time had passed). This time, the theme was big band arrangements, more specifically my fifteen favorite charts, recordings of which I'd brought with me from Albuquerque. The show went well, and Arlen said he'd like to have me return as soon as there's an opportunity (he usually co-hosts the Monday morning program with drummer John Trentacosta, who was out of town at the end of October). We played the fifteen charts in reverse order, opening with No. 15, Don Schamber's inspired arrangement of "Time After Time," performed by the Barrett Deems Big Band, and working our way up to No. 1, Bill Holman's definitive version of "Stompin' at the Savoy," in its original incarnation by the Kenton Orchestra. For those who may have missed our column on the topic a year or so ago, the others are (in order): 14. Angel Eyes (Ray Brown—the trumpeter, not the bassist); 13. Allisamba (Allan Ganley); 12. A Warm Breeze (Sammy Nestico); 11. A Little Minor Booze (Willie Maiden); 10. What's New (Bill Holman); 9. Tumbling Tumbleweeds (Mike Barone); 8. Here's That Rainy Day (Dee Barton); 7. Opus de Funk (Nat Pierce); 6. The Touch of Your Lips (Rick Wilkins); 5. Young and Foolish (Frank Mantooth); 4. Big Swing Face (Bill Potts); 3. When You're Smiling (Tom Kubis); 2. Love for Sale (Pete Meyers).


Every so often I surf the web, canvassing online CD stores for big band albums I may have overlooked. It was while doing so several months ago that I happened upon a CD, ReChordings, by trumpeter Ed Nuccilli and his Detroit-based ensemble, Plural Circle. The excerpts sounded good, and so, as is often the approach before buying, an e-mail was sent to Nuccilli asking if he would appreciate a review in my "other" column, Big Band Caravan. A few days later a response was received, not from Nuccilli but from his daughter Alicia who said her father had passed away suddenly in April 2011. She would be happy, she said, to send me a copy of ReChordings, adding that her father had produced three more CDs, which she thought were available from a nearby record store, Street Corner Music, in Oak Park. "My father," Alicia wrote, "never wanted to commercialize his music, to the dismay of all who knew him and his talent. . . . but I feel it deserves to be heard, and to get some recognition. . . . He 'hand' wrote all of his original songs (all 18 parts) and devoted his last ten years or so to his original [compositions]. The band is trying to stay together as well, so the music can live on." Nuccilli, as it turns out, had been playing trumpet since age twelve, and as a young man had toured with bands led by Shorty Sherrock and Bobby Sherwood before leaving the music business for a time, then returning in the 1960s to write arrangements for Motown recording artists. He organized his big band in the early 1970s.

First, my thanks to Alicia Nuccilli for sending a copy of ReChordings, which is the third of the four CDs recorded by Ed Nuccilli & Plural Circle. The most recent, All About Sounds, was released in 2011. Besides ReChordings, it was preceded by Performances (2009) and Ed Nuccilli & Plural Circle (2006). Second, Nuccilli is a first-class composer / arranger / trumpet player who led a very good band. As far as I can tell, all compositions and arrangements on the various CDs are his (as well as all of the trumpet solos). Three of the albums were made in-studio by Nuccilli's eighteen-piece ensemble, while Performances was recorded live at the Montreux / Detroit Jazz Festivals from 1983-99. After receiving ReChordings from Alicia Nuccilli, I went online to streetcornermusic.com, got the phone number (248-967-0777) and ordered the other albums, which arrived in short order. The price, as I recall, was around $10 per album plus shipping, and the music therein is well worth hearing. Even though the players aren't well-known (the only name I recognized was that of saxophonist Wendell Harrison), they are by no means amateurs, or even less than capable. In other words, they play together well, and Nuccilli gives them splendid music to work with. These are four albums I'm pleased to have in my library, even though the circumstances under which I learned about them are regrettable. If you're feeling adventurous and would like to unearth some interesting new big-band music, aim your compass toward Ed Nuccilli & Plural Circle.




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