Sammy Nestico: Disney Salute

I always say, never begin anything with a qualifier.  I used to hate it while in school when some kid would step up to do some boring presentation in front of the class would preface it by saying something like, "Well, this is going to royally suck, so get ready."  Fantastic. And here I am thinking that your presentation on "The Crucible" was going to show a comparative analysis of John Proctor and that bald guy from the old Who's Line is it Anyways show.  So, be warned- this entry is not as exhaustive as my usual standard of writing goes.  I must go back on my hatred of qualifying my work because as of today I've worked about 55 hours this week and with any luck we'll push that well into the 70's by the end of the weekend.  So really, if you wanted a quality Listening Friday this week...

This week's offerings puts out a belated 'Happy Birthday' to one of my favorite composers, Mr. Sammy Nestico (b. 1924).  He has the distinction of being one of the few composers featured on LF that is still living as it seems we tend to focus on old, dead white guys pretty frequently.  Euro-centric views aside, Nestico is truly one of the greats, boasting 600+ published compositions over his still-continuing career  of a whopping 73 years!

Meanwhile the rest of the nanogenarians are doing landscaping.

Besides being the premier arranger for the Count Basie Orchestra for over two decades, Nestico also grew his fame pounding the pavement in LA writing commercial jingles and anything else that would pay. Eventually he managed to break enough away from the pack and started publishing albums that while not commercially viable certainly allowed him to create something he could be significantly proud of.  

Nestico has a knack for tackling these tunes we've heard millions of times and making us listen to them for the 1,000,001st time as if it's completely new.  His piano writing was (and remains) to have a hint of that Count Basie magic that just blends in so tightly with the wall of brass behind it.  He pulls easily from the American songbook to create unique interpretations of familiar pieces as well as original compositions.  He has such a distinct command of the big band architecture you just kinda sit back as you're listening and think:

So, it begs the question- if Sammy Nestico's written 600+ pieces of music, where the hell do we actually start?  Well, I've zeroed in on a piece that may not be as well known to the purveyors of the higher echelons of musical tranquility, but you bums in the cheap seats will probably get it.  

Written to mark the 25th anniversary of Walt Disney World, "Disney Salute" starts off with a poetic rendition of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme that eventually transforms into a standard version of Zip-a-Dee-Do-Dah which eventually takes us to church with a down home gospel treatment following the soprano sax solo.  

One of my favorite things about Nestico is his dedication to write music that kids will not only want to play, but music that they can play.  One of his driving factors was to generate literature that fit into the junior and senior high school repertoire.  Before his influence, jazz music was either stupid hard or stupid bad.  There was not much entry-level stuff that was any good and Sammy did his best to rectify that.  A noble quest to be sure.

So sit back, relax and a rock out to some good, old fashioned Disney tunes like you've never heard them before.  

See you next Friday.


Go here.  There are recordings of this chart on YouTube, but they're all terrible.  This is the Army Field Band and they rock.  Go to the bottom and click on the triangle next to Disney Salute.  Listen to some of the other charts too.  I'd recommend "A Minor Affair" or "Queen Bee".