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Tribute To Sammy Nestico at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola

Nick Catalano By

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On Monday March 24th Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola was the again the scene of a memorable big band concert from the Manhattan School of Music Concert Jazz Band under the direction of Justin DiCioccio. On the occasion of Sammy Nestico's 90th birthday, the director (who was a cohort of Nestico's in White House dance bands of the 60's and 70's) focused on the legendary charts that the famed composer/arranger wrote for the Count Basie Band from 1966-84.

Beginning with such excursions into seminal swing scripts as "88 Basie Street" and "Have a Nice Day" the band launched an evening of big band jazz that set a new standard for such repertorial performances. Not only did maestro DiCioccio have the musicians in awesome consonance with the fabled Basie rhythmic groove, he had the sax and brass choirs phrasing in the warm blue- noted lines that took Basie years to coax out of his bands. In addition, the student soloists uncannily emulated the ancient Texas tenor sax growls of Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, the trademark rhythmic pulsations of guitarist Freddie Green and the unforgettable single-note piano lines of Mr. Basie himself.

Ever the extraordinary teacher of the techniques and subtleties in jazz history, DiCioccio has put to rest the myth that the "sounds" of great jazz ensembles cannot be truly emulated. Critics in the past have dismissed such repertorial efforts on the grounds that "the feel of the band" can never be taught. But because of his empathic pedagogy (and the prescience of his remarkable students), this critical shibboleth will have to be cast aside.

A Pittsburgh native who received a B.A. (in 1950) and honorary Ph.D from Duquesne University, Sammy Nestico is one of those compositional geniuses whose opus deserves constant revisitings. In addition to his writing for Basie, Nestico earlier played trombone in the bands of Tommy Dorsey, Woody Herman, Gene Krupa and Charlie Barnet, penned and conducted projects for the likes of Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, and Sarah Vaughan and wrote commercial themes for dozens of major advertisers. In the late 90's he was appointed a professor at the University of Georgia and has recorded and conducted his arrangements with several famed European Radio Jazz orchestras.

Those who want to access the wondrous myriad musicalizings of the MSM concert jazz band don't have to wait until the band next performs at a jazz club. There are frequent concerts at the school's campus on the upper west side of Manhattan on Claremont Ave. The PR director is Debra Kinzler.

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