This last month I played two different gigs at the Las Vegas Hilton showroom. The first was with Paul Anka (May 4-5) and the second was with Johnny Mathis (May 11-12). Both gigs were on the baritone sax with just a flute double for the Anka gig and the full complement of bass clarinet, clarinet, and flute for the Mathis gig. The usual routine is to show up at 3pm on the first day of the gig for rehearsal and sound check. The Anka group utilizes a basic big band format of 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, 4 saxophones, and 5 rhythm section members including piano, bass guitar, guitar, drums, and a Latin percussionist. The band is made up of mostly known professional Los Angeles musicians who fly or drive up to Las Vegas for the two days. They filled two of the saxophone positions locally in Las Vegas with Jay Rasmussen on tenor and me on baritone sax. This band knew the music well and with the help of Scott Morin the alto saxophonist next to me I was able to negotiate through the heavily edited charts. Some of the baritone parts were just trombone parts with the key signature modified for Eb baritone sax (add 3 sharps). The overall attitude of the band was a little tense at first but very professional especially considering the high caliber of musicianship of the band members.
When the gig started I became aware of a very loud vocal side-monitor just next to me facing the center of the stage. It was a little difficult to hear myself on the baritone, but I could hear my flute during soft passages. We played arrangements from Paul’s early hits like “Diana”, “Puppy Love”, “Put Your Head On My Shoulder” through the comeback years with his “The Times Of Your Life”, his songs he wrote for Sinatra including “My Way” and all the way to his Rock Swing version of “Jump”. One of the highlights is the conductor Jon Crosse who is an excellent saxophonist with an amazing mastery of the altissimo registry.
Playing for Johnny Mathis is like going to a musician’s reunion for me. I know almost everybody in the 40 piece orchestra because except for the talented rhythm section that tours with Mathis; all of the musicians are local. The piano/conductor/arranger was Scott Lavender who is originally from Las Vegas and is well known and liked by all of us. At break time I got to catch up with all of my musician friends that I have known for most of my life. It is also great to work with strings, french horn, and a harp in addition to the trumpets, trombones, and full 5 piece woodwind section. On this gig I play mostly bass clarinet, then clarinet, followed by baritone sax, and some flute. Marty Radunz sits next to me and has the most exposed oboe and english horn parts in the woodwind section. Marty also sat next to me 6 nights a week for 6 years at the “Lido de Paris” (Stardust Hotel). He is a great guy and always has good things to say. He is also playing flute clarinet and tenor saxophone. We played all of his main hits like “Misty”, Chances Are”, “Gina”, “I’m On The Outside Looking In”, and “Brazil”. This was an enjoyable low stress gig. –Garrett