May 27, 2024

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I love Sammy Nestico’s music. All those crazy foot-tapping albums for Count Basie in the ’70s and ’80s: Photos, Videos

The swingin’est arranger around today is Sammy Nestico. In fact, Sammy probably has held that title since the late 1960s, when he first arranged Count Basie’s album Straight Ahead.

My first encounter with Sammy’s finger-snapping scores was in the early 1970s, when I was in high school. As member of the school’s dance band, I recall that Mr. Lowery, the band’s teacher and conductor, ordered Sammy’s charts for the band. Music parts came in an envelope along with a floppy vinyl disc recording of all the songs so we could hear what they were supposed to sound like. It was an ingenious educational enterprise Sammy had going. [Photo above courtesy of Sammy Nestico]

I love Sammy’s music. All those crazy foot-tapping albums for Basie in the ’70s and ’80s. And Sammy’s own albums in the decades beyond. They all swing. Now, the Jazz Ambassadors, the touring jazz orchestra of the United States Army, has recorded The Sammy Sessions (IAN). Formed in 1969, the 19-piece band is sharp and crisp, and perfectly disposed to take on Sammy’s swing.


Of the 13 tracks, seven are Sammy originals—Toni, Cell Talk, Shirley, Hip Music Box, A Cool Breeze, Softly From My Windowand Dimensions in Blue. The rest were composed by others but arranged by Sammy—Moonlight on the Ganges, Close Enough for Love (Johnny Mandel), I’ll Follow My Secret Heart (Noel Coward), Tippin’ In (Erskine Hawkins), Frankie & Johnny and Poor Butterfly.

Dimensions in Blue

Cell Talk

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