Magnificent Mendez

Jim Santella By

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Magnificent Méndez
Dr. Jane W. Hickman and Dr. Del Lyren
Softcover; 161 pages
Second Edition
Hickman Music Editions

Rafael Méndez (1906-1981) was often billed as "The World's Greatest Trumpeter, and he had the chops to back it up. As evidenced by Jane Hickman's and Del Lyren's biography, he helped thousands of aspiring young musicians, both through his clinics and by presenting a positive and successful role model.

This second edition of Magnificent Méndez, transposed into a larger, 8-1/2 by 11 format, includes numerous black & white photos and several personal anecdotes from some of those whose lives he touched.

Hickman and Lyren explore Méndez's life and career in music from the very beginning, revealing the trials and tribulations that took him from a small, rural home in southern Mexico to worldwide fame. Along the way, we're able to share in Méndez's motivation and real sense of purpose.

Méndez started playing cornet when he was five, so as to be able to join the family band. Around 1915, the family was forced to travel with the legendary General Pancho Villa for several months, and young Méndez remained as the general's favorite cornetist. The book goes on to trace the trumpeter's life through military service, immigration, marriage, fatherhood, U.S. citizenship, and a great deal of practice. His teaching methods are detailed at the back of the book.

Méndez loved American ragtime. He improvised somewhat, but his drive for perfection demanded long hours of repetitious practice in order to get things just right. His professional breakthrough came when bandleader Russ Morgan heard him play in a pawn shop in Detroit. This was at the height of the big band era, and Méndez went on to work with the bands of Tommy Dorsey, Meyer Davis, Joe Reisman, Rudy Vallee and Carlos Molina. Radio and television studio work followed, and Méndez played with Xavier Cugat at the Hollywood Bowl for three years.

There's a lot more to read about, of course, and along the way Méndez reveals his secret for success. Appendices include a comprehensive discography, enumerated by song title, a listing of Méndez's numerous compositions, a specific annotated listing of his tours between 1957 and 1958, and a detailed timeline. There is, however, no general index.


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