Pain Relief Beyond Belief





From Blakey to Brown, Como to Costa, Eckstine to Eldridge, Galbraith to Garner, Harris to Hines, Horne to Hyman, Jamal to Jefferson, Kelly to Klook; Mancini to Marmarosa, May to Mitchell, Negri to Nestico, Parlan to Ponder, Reed to Ruther, Strayhorn to Sullivan, Turk to Turrentine, Wade to Williams… the forthcoming publication Treasury of Pittsburgh Jazz Connections by Dr. Nelson Harrison and Dr. Ralph Proctor, Jr. will document the legacy of one of the world’s greatest jazz capitals.


Do you want to know who Dizzy Gillespie  idolized? Did you ever wonder who inspired Kenny Clarke and Art Blakey? Who was the pianist that mentored Monk, Bud Powell, Tad Dameron, Elmo Hope, Sarah Vaughan and Mel Torme? Who was Art Tatum’s idol and Nat Cole’s mentor? What musical quartet pioneered the concept adopted later by the Modern Jazz Quartet? Were you ever curious to know who taught saxophone to Stanley Turrentine or who taught piano to Ahmad Jamal? What community music school trained Robert McFerrin, Sr. for his history-making debut with the Metropolitan Opera? What virtually unknown pianist was a significant influence on young John Coltrane, Shirley Scott, McCoy Tyner, Bobby Timmons and Ray Bryant when he moved to Philadelphia from Pittsburgh in the 1940s?  Would you be surprised to know that Erroll Garner attended classes at the Julliard School of Music in New York and was at the top of his class in writing and arranging proficiency?


Some answers  can be gleaned from the postings on the Pittsburgh Jazz Network.


For almost 100 years the Pittsburgh region has been a metacenter of jazz originality that is second to no other in the history of jazz.  One of the best kept secrets in jazz folklore, the Pittsburgh Jazz Legacy has heretofore remained mythical.  We have dubbed it “the greatest story never told” since it has not been represented in writing before now in such a way as to be accessible to anyone seeking to know more about it.  When it was happening, little did we know how priceless the memories would become when the times were gone.


Today jazz is still king in Pittsburgh, with events, performances and activities happening all the time. The Pittsburgh Jazz Network is dedicated to celebrating and showcasing the places, artists and fans that carry on the legacy of Pittsburgh's jazz heritage.






Duke Ellington is first African-American and the first musician to solo on U.S. circulating coin



       In Her Own Words

Sammy Nestico

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sammy Nestico
Nestico in 2006
Nestico in 2006
Background information
Birth name Samuel Louis Nistico
Born February 6, 1924
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died January 17, 2021 (aged 96)[1]
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Composer, arranger
Associated acts Count Basie

Samuel Louis Nistico (February 6, 1924 – January 17, 2021), better known as Sammy Nestico, was an American composer and arranger. Nestico was best known for his arrangements for the Count Basie orchestra.[2]


Nestico was born on February 6, 1924 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Nestico joined his high school's beginner orchestra in 1937 as a trombonist. In 1939, he wrote his first arrangement. At age 17, Nestico joined the ABC radio station WCAE in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as a trombonist.[3]

During his career, he arranged music for the Count Basie Orchestra (1967–1984), the U.S. Air Force Band (fifteen years) and the U.S. Marine Band (five years) both in Washington, D.C. In addition, he played trombone in the big bands of Tommy Dorsey, Woody Herman, Gene Krupa, and Charlie Barnet.

In 1998–1999 Nestico was a professor at the University of Georgia, teaching commercial orchestration and conducting the studio orchestra. He also directed music programs at Los Angeles Pierce College, Woodland Hills, California, Westinghouse Memorial High School, and Wilmerding, Pennsylvania.

During his long career in the television and film industry, he arranged and conducted projects for Bing Crosby, Sarah Vaughan, Toni Tennille, Frank Sinatra, Phil Collins, Barbra Streisand, and Count Basie. As orchestrator, he has worked on nearly seventy television programs, including Mission: Impossible, Mannix, Charlie's Angels, and The Mod Squad.

He has written commercial jingles for Anheuser-Busch, Zenith, Ford Motor Company, Mattel Toys, Pittsburgh Paints, the National Guard, Dodge, Remington Bank, and Americard.

He has published nearly 600 numbers for school groups and many for professional big bands. He has conducted and recorded his arrangements with several leading European Radio Jazz Orchestras, including the BBC Big Band in London, Germany's SWR Big Band and NDR Big Band and the DR Big Band.

Nestico received a Bachelor's degree in music education from Duquesne University in 1950, and he has received an honorary Doctor of Music degree from his alma mater. Nestico died on January 17, 2021 at the age of 96.[4]


  • 1982 Dark Orchid (Palo Alto)
  • 1986 Night Flight (Sea Breeze)
  • 1998 Big Band Favorites of Sammy Nestico (Summit)
  • 2000 Sammy Nestico – For You to Play (Jamey Aebersold)
  • 2000 Basie & Beyond The Quincy Jones-Sammy Nestico Orchestra (Qwest / Warner Bros.)
  • 2005 No Time Like the Present (Hänssler)
  • 2005 Basie Cally Sammy: The Music of Count Basie and Sammy Nestico (Hänssler)
  • 2009 Sammy Nestico, Vol. 3: Fun Time (Hänssler)
  • 2011 Fun Time & More Live (Hänssler)
  • 2017 A Cool Breeze with Sammy Nestico with the SWR Big Band (SWR Music)


As arranger[edit]

With Count Basie

With Frank Sinatra

With Sarah Vaughan

The Sammy Nestico Award[edit]

The Airmen of Note, the premier jazz ensemble of the USAF, sponsor an annual competition[6] for composers and arrangers of big band music, in honor of Sammy Nestico. Previous winners are:

Year Award Recipient Place of Residence
2016 Ike Kalapos Deep River, CT
2014 William Longo II Miramar, FL
2011 Scott Ninmer Taylorville, IL
2010 Jeremy Levy Hannibal, MO
2009 Sara Jacovino Middlebury, CT
2008 Michael Dease Augusta, GA
2007 Christopher Schmitz Anchorage, AK
2006 Carl Murr Dallas, TX
2005 David Cutler Pittsburgh, PA
2004 Stephen Smith Denton, TX
2003 Aaron Lington Denton, TX
2002 Earl MacDonald Mansfield Center, CT
2001 Curtis Stephan Carrollton, TX
2000 Jeff Antoniuk Annapolis, MD
1999 no award issued -
1998 Joey Sellers Brooklyn, NY
1997 Lyle Durland Provo, UT
1996 William Straub Syracuse, NY
1996 Charles Bayne Dallas, TX


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Replies to This Discussion

sad news, but what a life and contribution to the beauty and learning of our culture. I remember playing his arrangements in Junior High and High School and the teachers telling us he was from Pgh and went to Duquesne.

John Clayton Remembers Sammy Nestico

The bassist pays tribute to a late great jazz arranger (2/6/24 – 1/17/21)

Sammy Nestico Sammy Nestico in 2006 (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jack Braden)

Everyone from my generation of jazz musicians heard Sammy Nestico’s music. If you played in a high-school jazz band, you played Sammy Nestico. All those compositions and arrangements for Basie, he published them. The great thing about Sammy is that his music is so easily accessible, not only to hear but to play. Band directors who maybe aren’t great jazz people can make sense of his music. When I was playing it in high school, it just sounded good. I didn’t know what it was.

Clarity is one of the hallmarks in his writing. The voicings aren’t the complicated voicings that you hear from other writers, like Bob Brookmeyer or Thad Jones. You could always hear his unisons or counterpoint. Sammy had so much respect for Basie and his tradition that he found a natural and brilliant way of bringing his background to Basie’s blues. Basie loved that because he felt he needed that different perspective. Grover Mitchell brought them together, because Grover and Sammy were in the service together. It was a marriage that Basie really appreciated. The Basie band still does Sammy’s charts.  

When I was in Basie’s band, I did get to see Sammy work with us. It was remarkable because he was one of the guys. He never made you feel like he was the leader. In most of the photos of Sammy, you’ll see a huge grin, and that grin was a part of his music. His music was always bouncy, happy and grooving. 

By the time I joined Basie, Sammy’s music had already been established. We played it every night. Usually we opened with a chart by Sammy. And if someone had a question like, “Hey Sammy, what do you think about this?” Sammy would say, “I don’t know, what do you want to do? Do whatever you want. Whatever sounds good there.” He was that kind of a guy. 

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I would seek him out every chance I got. There were several occasions when I could sit down and talk with him about his beginnings and the things he did musically that I loved. Writing-wise, I would analyze what he did to the point that when I’m writing something now and I want it to be like Sammy, I’ll write a note on my sketch “à la Sammy.”

I really love how, instead of having the trombone section play the same chord that the saxes were playing, Sammy would have the entire trombone section playing, in unison, the melody that the lead alto was playing. The melody was so powerful but in a way that was warm and thick. The ear always goes to the melody. With Sammy, you have the lead alto playing the melody and the other sax players playing the chords underneath, but suddenly, in the background, you’ve got the melody being supported by this dark, brassy trombone sound. Those were the kinds of things that I learned from studying his music. 

Sammy was really giving, like most of the musicians I know and run into. I didn’t really ask him for help. Instead, I wanted to hear more about him and his life. I learned from him the importance of bringing a good vibe to the situation. Going back to his grin, when he walked into a room, it was never a quiet “Hi John.” It was always “HEY JOHN!” with a big smile and hug. If he’s in a good mood and he brings that to the room, then the next thing you know, the whole band is in a good mood. 

I think Sammy’s legacy will be that he wrote playable, listenable, and swinging large-ensemble music. If you have an amateur big band, you can play Sammy Nestico’s charts. Same with a professional big band. And everything in between.

[as told to Lee Mergner]

Sammy Nestico 1924-2021

Sammy Nestico: Leaving the Shores of Security


Many of those arrangements were also great for dancing -- as I did and do. His influnce extended to my writing as well.


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