Wednesday, December 14, 2011

HISTORY OF SYRACUSE MUSIC - CHAPTER 7 - DIXIELAND, SAL NISTICO & MANGIONE BROS

On the other side of jazz we find the sound of Dixieland. Originally formed in 1952, the Salt City 5 found immediate success via their Sunday afternoon jazz concerts at Syracuse's local hot spot, "Memory Lane." The reason was simple, they differed from the other Dixieland groups in one major aspect, they were more musical. They played standards that were popular in the past era but with their swingin interpretation. The Salt City 5 (Will Alger, Jack Maheu, Bob Cousino, Dick Oakley & Dave Remington) using Memory Lane as home base of operations, soon found themselves overwhelmed with college and club dates.

November 1952, saw the Five at Child's Paramount on Times Square in New York City. The Big Cities reaction was enough to extend a four week engagement to seventeen weeks. In 1953, bassist Frank Frawley was added to the band but they still retained the original name of the group.

The nationally known Salt City 5 have recorded many albums and were a familiar attraction at the Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas, Blue Notes in Chicago, Roundtable in New York, Princess Hotel in Bermuda, as well as many State Fairs, college fraternity parties and other fun gatherings. The group has had many personal changes over its 20+ year existence. Will Alger, its original leader would still come back to play engagements with the band even though the late 70's. Jack Maheu, the swing clarinetist would later join the world famous "Dukes of Dixieland" and then Spike McGinley's Orchestra. He was replaced by Nick Palumbo who would eventually lead the band then know as the Salt City 6.  Palumbo would hire a young 21 year-old Syracuse University student who with his brother Chuck would make a giant name for themselves in the field of jazz, Gap Mangione. Nick Palumbo remained with the Salt City 6 until he formed a new band in the mid 1970's.

Following his work with the Salt City 6, pianist Gap Mangione formed the Mangione Brothers Sextet (also know as the Jazz Brothers) along with brother Chuck Mangione, Sal Nistico, Bill Saunders, Roy McCurdy and Larry Combs. This band played many clubs in the Syracuse - Rochester area as well as recording three albums for Riverside Records between 1960-62. Gap continued his education at Syracuse University (1957-65) as well as playing in the S.U. marching band, while Chuck studied at Rochester's Eastman School of Music. Chuck  signed a national recording contract with Mercury Records and in 1978 finally reached the top in the field of jazz with his  A&M Records #1 selling single "Feel so Good".

Although the Mangione Brothers have the more familiar name the catalyst of the Sextet was Syracusan Sal Nistico.Though still in his twenties, Sal had much more playing experience than did the others. He started at a very young age and was on the road playing with rhythm & blues outfits before the Mangione Brothers got together. Sal played "Hot and Hard" with a soaring attack you could hear the fire and sparks he gave the band. Sal's playing was energetic, warm and totally unique. As Chuck stated in his Milestone album "When Sal would play the first note for a new audience, heads would turn." During his work with the Mangione's, Sal would record an album of his own called 'Heavyweights," that featured jazz great Cannonball Adderley. Sal's best known recordings were done while performing with Woody Herman's band the Thundering Herd and Count Basie.

The Salt City 5 although the best known was not Syracue's only Dixieland band. The city also produced the Orange Peels and the Soda Ash Six. The Orange Peels used Syracuse University as home base in the late 50's and made their most successful jaunt a European tour highlighted by six concerts at the Brussels World's Fair. Later followed by television appearances with Sarah Vaughan, a recording session with RCA Victor, and in 1958 they received top billing at the International Festival of Jazz at St. Amand, France. Their goal was to prove the old tunes can be swung in a bright, modern vein and still keep the happy feeling of New Orleans.

Where as the Orange Peels found success in the 50's, the Soda Ash Six flourished in the 60's and 70's. Formed in the summer of 1960 and based out of Skaneateles, NY,  the Soda Ash Six repertoire consisted of the Top 40 hits as well as old standards adapted to Dixieland Tuba-Banjo style. The original Six consisted of  leader Dick Sheridan on piano, Ed Musengo on trumpet, John DeSantis on clarinet, Bucky Harris on tuba, Howie Welsh on drums, Chuck Gettman and Dick Levitre on trombone. Through the years such names as Brett Dunlap, Bruce Fairbanks, Woody Peters, Dick Jones and Jimmy Zechman have filled sports vacated by departing original members.

The band was best known for its consecutive years of playing at Song Mountain Ski Resort as well as opening their own club  called "Jazz Band: in downtown Skaneatles in 1966. Steady booking are nothing new to this band as they frequented such Central New York nightspots as The Run of Stone, Clinton Station and the Sherwood Inn. They were also the featured band at Empire Court at the New York State Fair. Not bad for a band named after the Syracuse suburb of Solvay, 'The Soda Ash City."

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