Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sammy Nestico - A Pro’s Pro

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Sammy Nestico is a composer-arranger whose accomplishments and credits have earned him legendary status in the music business.

Today’s word that best describes him is “iconic.”

He has done it all: a host of big band arrangements including those for the Count Basie Band, The Airmen of Note and Germany’s SWR Orchestra, movie and television scores, and a variety of commercials.

Along the way, he has won a bunch of Grammy Awards and, judging by the smile that appears to never leave his face, he has had a great deal of fun doing what he loves to do.

He’s a perfect example of the adage: “Do what you love and the rest will follow.”

The nice folks at the Temecula [CA] Valley Jazz Festival have put together a fairly comprehensive listing of Sammy’s achievements and awards which you can locate by scrolling down a bit after going here.

The audio track on our video tribute to him is taken from Sammy’s Dark Orchid  LP that was released on Dark Orchid Jazz [601-04018]. The label was primarily brought into existence by Art Jenson to provide a showcase for Sammy’s composing and arranging talents. No date is listed for these sessions but if memory serves me right, I believe that it was recorded around 1982 and it represents Sammy’s first release as a leader.

Here are some remarks by Sammy that place this album in a broader context:

“Over the years, I’ve worked with all of these great musicians through my writings for films, television and recording artists. They’ve always encouraged me to stretch out and do any album of my own, and with their help this dream has finally become a reality. I’d like to express my gratitude to each of them for breathing such life into my music.”

Sammy wrote the featured tune and entitled it Shoreline Drive. The arrangement with its rock beat is very characteristic of the music used in movie and TV scores primarily in the 1970s and early 1980s.

On this track, Sammy chose not to use saxophones. Instead he substituted three French horns which he used to create beautiful counter-melodies with a full compliment of four trumpets and four trombones [You can here the interaction between horns and brass beginning at 1:22 and again at 2:56 and 4:31 minutes, respectively].

In addition to the super rock drumming laid-down by Harvey Mason, the “contemporary” sound of the piece is enhanced by Ian Underwood’s synthesizer, Tim May’s guitar and Victor Feldman’s electric, Fender Rhodes piano. The highlight of the arrangement is Pete Christlieb’s magnificent tenor saxophone solo which kicks-in at 3.29 minutes.

Sammy has his own website on which a number of his CDs are available for purchase and there are also Mp3 download venues that feature his music.

Put simply: Sammy is a National Treasure.