Talk about being in the presence of the
Top Brass! (writes FORREST PATTEN). Were not
talking about military officers or corporate management
here; but simply two of the finest trumpet masters to ever
grace the concert stage and recording studio. Pete Candoli
will forever be associated with his blazing solos in the
Woody Herman and Henry Mancini organizations. Uan Raseys
masterful playing can be heard in a host of blockbuster
motion pictures from An American In Paris to the
solitary trumpet featured in the late Jerry Goldsmiths
score to the film Chinatown. Frank Comstock arranged
our meeting (as a part of Franks Summit) on
the morning of September 8, 2004. We met at Uan Raseys
home in the Laurel Canyon area near Studio City, Califoria.
Once again, RFS member Rob Keil joined us for the gathering
and participated in the following interview.
PETE CANDOLI AND UAN RASEY
IN CONVERSATION WITH FORREST PATTEN
TOGETHER WITH ROB KEIL
FP: Gentlemen, Id like to welcome
you to our interview today and start out with a question
for Pete Candoli. I heard this famous story about you when
you were with the Woody Herman band. Dressed in a Superman
costume, you leaped over the band (on stage) and performed
quite a trumpet solo on that great Herman hit "Apple
Honey." Tell us about that.
PC: This is funny. I used to work out all
the time in at Sid Kleins gym in New York.
Youd see these guys with 52-inch
chests. I used to be there all the time. They must have
thought that I was high or something because Id always
be jumping around. I was just a health nut at that time.
I was inspired by Uan (Rasey) the first time I met him.
I was in high school at the time and would spend the summer
months playing with the Sonny Dunham orchestra. Thats
where I met Uan. He was one of the first true health food
nuts! He had a bag of carrots and celery that hed
carry around all day. You know, natural foods. I thought
that this guy was pretty weird! He played first trumpet
then, but it wasnt until later that everyone realized
how good this man really is. I sincerely mean that. Uans
probably the finest trumpet teacher that this town has ever
seen. Hes also a composer and many other things. Anyway,
they called me Superman in Woodys band because I could
open windows that nobody else could lift up, things like
that. So they thought I should wear a Superman suit as a
part of the act. They made me a costume complete with cape.
Woody wanted me to come out at the end of "Apple Honey."
That was a great Herd arrangement. We had fine players like
Neil Hefti, Bill Harris, and many others at the time. During
the last chorus (before the finale) Id play a trumpet
break and jump on-stage while ripping my suit off to reveal
this Superman outfit underneath. One time I had this cable
attached (because Id jump off of a seven-foot platform)
and it malfunctioned! Chubby Jackson was announcing over
the microphone "Its Superman!" I was supposed
fly out towards the audience. Somehow the cable pulled me
side-to-side across the stage and I (while holding this
Superman pose) ended up hitting my head on a wall and bouncing
back to the middle of the stage. I had to blow the horn
after that! Thats when I told Woody that the act was
over. There was danger in that act! They wrote a tune for
me called "Superman With A Horn" that I performed
at Carnegie Hall.
FP: Theres an album that Ive
always considered to be the epitome of great trumpet virtuosity.
You both played on it. Its called TUTTIS TRUMPETS
conducted by Tutti Camarata. What do you remember about
PC: Uan was a lead player on that album.
Mannie Klein and Shorty Sherock were there.
UR: And Conrad Gozzo. Pete had some great
solos on that record. That was a lot of fun. Its just
been re-issued on CD.
PC: Its been a wonderful ride and
it still is. I guess at this point, Im too nervous
to steal so Ive got to keep playing!
FP: And, of course, there was all of your
fine work with Henry Mancini.
PC: Hank was a piano player with the Glenn
Miller band after the service. Hed sit there and daydream.
He was like the Gordon Jenkins of the piano. Hed "plink"
something here and "plink" something there. He
was a wonderful guy and a wonderful friend. I love all of
the great things he has written.
UR: Ive got to tell you a story.
I was on a record date along with Conrad Gozzo and Pete.
Im telling you, Pete did everything for Hank. And
you know the kind of jazz he plays. Were making the
first take and Barney Kessell yells out "Pete! Pete!
I know why you stopped playing. The way that you were playing,
you were headed right for Do."
PC: Barney was one of the funniest guys.
He did about three or four albums with my brother Conte.
FP: Im very curious about your particular
style of trumpet playing. When I think of those players
who really hit those "high" notes, the names Cat
Anderson, Maynard Ferguson and Bud Brisbois come to mind.
How hard was it to reach those notes?
PC: I dont remember. I just did it.
I think a lot of the notes were written. I never considered
myself a "screamer", unlike Maynard whos
a wonderful player. I never screamed to be screaming unless
there was a need to be on top of the band following the
last chorus or something.
UR: But Pete was one of the great lead
players, too. Ive worked with quite a few of these
guys, but they dont quite match the quality of Pete
as a lead player.
PC: The best album Ive ever been
involved with (featuring brass and rhythm) was Bob Bains
album with pianist Junior Mance. They had bent notes like
youve never heard. Thats my all-time favorite.
You cant fake those notes. You either have them or
you dont. I remember talking to Billy May, He said
that good players will unconsciously land on the right notes
in the chord and it will just feel good. They wont
have to play louder or softer. A good note will have the
substance in a chord or a phrase. Billy knew that right
away. He was such a natural and one of my favorites.
FP: Pete, did you prefer the live performances
of the big band era, or the work in the recording studios
for motion pictures and television?
PC: Everything has its purpose and everything
is great in its own way. Its wonderful what they did
with the motion picture orchestras, The composer Hugo Friedhoffer
was a dear friend. He was right up there with Robert Farnon.
I was amazed with the artistry of these composers. I always
considered myself just an instrumentalist.
RK: Im a big Henry Mancini and Billy
May fan so meeting the two of you is a big thrill for me.
When working with Mancini or May, they obviously picked
you because you had something special that they heard. When
playing for them, how much was actually written out versus
how much did they actually let you improvise on your solos?
PC: With Hank, hed let me go most
of the time. Except there would be a few instances where
hed say, "Pete, this scene is kind of easy so
stay in bounds on this one." I said "OK",
because I knew exactly what he meant. There was no reason
to "go outside" because I knew what the content
of the compositions were. Most of the time, though, hed
let me go where I wanted to go on the solos. I had a lot
of freedom. I was really thrilled to be able to work with
people like Nelson Riddle, Don Costa and Frank Comstock.
FP: Pete, do you have a comment or two
about Robert Farnon?
PC: Well, Ive known about Robert
Farnon for as long as Ive known about Hugo Friedhoffer
and others. I knew his brother Brian quite well. He had
a band up in Reno and is a fine musician and a wonderful
guy. Of course, Bob headed over to England and has been
there a long time. We sure miss him around here! To me,
hes one of the great pinnacles and always has been.
He introduced so many nuances in music that you have to
stop and ask "what went by there?" when you listen
to his music.
UR: Hes very close to Conrad Salinger
who, I believe, is still one of the very best. I dont
mean to offend Bob when I say that. I worked a lot with
Salinger when I was at MGM.
FP: Are there any brass players from todays
generation that you particularly like?
PC: Yes. Arturo Sandoval. Hes one
of Uans students and always calls on him when hes
in town. Uans one of the finest teachers around.
UR: The mediocrity of the music business
came with the guitar thing back in the late 50s. People
who knew nothing about music (or how to play an instrument)
were, all of a sudden, making half a million dollars a year
from record deals. You just cant fight that. It just
went downhill after that.
PC: To me, it doesnt matter. It became
a commodity. People ended up making millions who were not
even connected with the music business! Its a different
business altogether really. In rap, all you need is a couple
of bongo players in the background while a DJ creates scratching
sounds on his turntable and another guy warbles some lyrics.
UR: We did a parody record with Stan Freberg.
Billy May would tell Stan to "mumble more." Stan
would just repeat "baby, baby" during the whole
take! It was hilarious. I was very close to Billy. He didnt
like artificial sound in the recording studios. With the
proper microphone placements, he wanted to hear the band
(on the recording) just as he heard it from the podium.
He didnt feel comfortable with the engineers who wanted
to artificially "sweeten" a session.
PC: At least in the school system where
they have stage bands, they have various degrees for instrumentalists.
Thats our saving grace.
At that time, Pete Condoli had to
leave for an outside appointment. We continued our interview
with Uan Rasey.
FP: Uan, your bio lists so many famous
films that youve worked on. There were all of those
great MGM musicals starting in 1947.
UR: I was really being auditioned at the
time on different musicals with different leaders. They
didnt like the way that Raphael Mendez played classical
or jazz. That was unfortunate because he was a great player.
One day there was a big argument between Miklos Rosza and
Raphael Mendez about making something a little bit smoother.
Rosza wanted some vibrato and Mendez couldnt seem
to get what he wanted. They asked me to play it and apparently
they liked it. We did the picture ON THE TOWN
and Lennie Hayton seemed to like what I did with the
jazz parts. I stayed at MGM for 35 years.
FP: Tell us about some of the films youve
UR: You know, I was never really of fan
of films. Other guys would come home with a copy of this
or a copy of that. It was just work as far as I was concerned.
I was more fascinated with the craftsmen on the lot who
would build the miniature ships or the locomotives. For
some reason, I enjoyed the work a lot, but I never really
retained a personal interest in the films themselves. I
think my family was rather disappointed that I didnt
have that much to talk about!
FP: How about your solo on AN AMERICAN
UR: The first time, I read through it straight.
Then Gene Kelly came over and said, "Sexy. Play it
sexy." So I played what I thought was "sexy."
I got a screen credit for my efforts in that film which
was rather unheard of in those days.
FP: We know that Gene Kelly had a lot of
input into the choreography of a film. How much input did
he have in the actual musical side?
UR: Gene was the type of guy whod
be willing to change things for a dance sequence where Fred
(Astaire) had to have it one way and that was it. I remember
one time that we had a four bar break and Fred came in wrong.
The 50-piece band was right but Fred insisted they were
wrong. Gene would have simply laughed about it and gone
on. He might have wanted to add a shake here or leave something
out. He might have wanted to emphasize something or completely
change a step altogether. If we came up with a phrase or
something that would prove a little jazzier during the rehearsal,
Gene would say "Try it." We had to be cautious
when adding these bits and pieces because the conductor,
Johnny Green, knew very little about jazz and had his own
way of interpreting it.
FP: When you did the scoring at MGM, did
they always pre-record the tracks and have a playback on
the set for the singers and actors?
UR: Yes. You pre-recorded everything and
they could sweeten it later if they wanted to. Theyd
have a playback on the set when they were actually shooting
FP: Jumping a head a few years, tell about
your work on the film CHINATOWN with the late
Jerry Goldsmith. The trumpet solo actually carries the whole
UR: There were 40 strings, four pianos,
four drummers and one trumpet player. That was it. I had
no idea what the picture was about. Arranger Arthur Morton
told me to play it sexy but like its not good sex!
That was his interpretation of it. It was well written,
FP: Lets talk about your work for
Capitol Records. I remember hearing you all over the place
on many of the Glen Gray Casa Loma Band releases. Did Glen
actually conduct those sessions.
UR: Those were a lot of fun. No, Glen did
no conduct. His arrangers did and were very inept. We really
had to clean up his arrangement of Benny Goodmans
"Lets Dance." It took us something like
two hours to do it and it was chaotic. Jack Marshall was
waiting in the wings to bring in the arrangement he had
put together for the group. He came in and, facing the band,
asked that he be shown the same respect as the previous
arranger! Everyone had a good laugh over that.
FP: You were on the Capitol album SOLO
SPOTLIGHT that was Glen Grays tribute to composer
UR: I worked with Victor going back to
the radio days. He was not only a fine writer, but a fine
conductor. In reality, hed rather be playing poker
than rehearsing. But he was a great technician.
FP: Youve obviously had fun over
UR: I remember Billy May would turn to
all of us and say "Cheer down everyone! Cheer down!"
I was always surrounded by guys whod like to laugh
and would have a great sense of humor. People like Bob Bain,
Shelly Manne, Frank Comstock, Jack Marshall, and Joe Howard.
RK: Ive always been a big fan of
Billy May. Ive heard that he would come into a session
with an armload of music. The band would go through one
score and move onto the next one almost immediately.
UR: Billy really didnt like to rehearse
much. Many times, hed have an arranger working on
a chart almost up to the last minute. Hed say lets
go through it once and, if the music was OK, then lets
record it. The only difference was when Billy was working
on Bing Crosbys show. Billy really enjoyed classical
music. Back in 1948, I brought back over 40 scores from
Boosey & Hawkes in London. He liked seeing what the
great classical composers had written. On Wednesday wed
rehearse all of Bings numbers for the show and have
the actual dress rehearsal on Thursday morning. Following
that, the orchestra would play from charts that Billy had
written. I remember he once did a chart of the third movement
from Mahlers Sixth Symphony. He wrote it backwards
and it took him two-to-three hours to write it all out (longer
than it took him to write out anything for Bing). He did
it just to see what the piece would sound like in reverse!
We played it through with a 40-piece orchestra. Hed
write things out just like that and for fun. It would take
him three or four hours to write these things, but it would
only take an hour or less to write Bings numbers.
Bill Finnegan composed the beautiful "Serenade In Blue"
for Glenn Miller. However, the night before they were going
to rehearse it, he hadnt written an intro for it.
Glenn decided to hold a contest among his arrangers to see
who could come up with the best intro. Besides Bill Finnegan,
there was Jerry Gray and Billy May. Billys intro won
and the rest, as they say, is history.
FP: Uan, on behalf of all of us associated
with the Robert Farnon Society, thanks for a great interview.
UR: My pleasure. Its been fun.