Sonny LaRosa & America's Youngest Jazz Band
Gig Seeker Pro

Sonny LaRosa & America's Youngest Jazz Band

Band Jazz Jazz

Calendar

This band hasn't logged any future gigs

Mar
04
Sonny LaRosa & America's Youngest Jazz Band @ North Bay Community Church, 3170 North McMullen Booth

Clearwater, Florida, USA

Clearwater, Florida, USA

Feb
26
Sonny LaRosa & America's Youngest Jazz Band @ Pasadena Yacht & Country Club, 6300 Pasadena Point Blvd S.

Saint Petersburg, Florida, USA

Saint Petersburg, Florida, USA

Feb
24
Sonny LaRosa & America's Youngest Jazz Band @ The Fountains, Boca Ciega Bay, 1255 Pasadena Ave. South

St Petersburg, Florida, USA

St Petersburg, Florida, USA

This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos

Music

The best kept secret in music

Press




A renowned jazz critic, wandering into a concert in Clearwater, gets an earful from a youthful band and its 76-year-old trumpet playing leader.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
By Lane DeGregory, ST. PETERSBURG TIMES - published October 10, 2002
The concert started like every other: Some kid with a saxophone honked a barely recognizable version of Mary Had a Little Lamb. A girl tried to blow Old MacDonald on her trumpet. The kids booed each other. The band director shook his head. Then he sprung up, arms raised. Bugle Call Rag filled the ballroom.- Just like it always does.

For more than two decades, Sonny LaRosa has been starting every show of America's Youngest Jazz Band that way. He has conducted more than 500 child musicians, none of them older than 12. That night, at the 2002 March of Jazz at the Sheraton Sand Key Resort in Clearwater, Sonny did everything the same way.

Only everything was different.

Sonny didn't see the man stroll into the back of the ballroom, turn to leave, then change his mind. He didn't know that man would leave an answering machine message that would make him cry.

SWING TIME

Sonny LaRosa is a 76-year-old trumpet player who lives in Safety Harbor. For more than six decades, he prayed to become a famous trumpet player. He wanted his music to make him immortal.

But he never had enough talent, he says. So he took to teaching.

He shows children as young as 5 how to play an instrument, read music and count time. He teaches them about Tommy Dorsey and Duke Ellington. He shows them how to swing.

He has taken his band to the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, Preservation Hall in New Orleans, on the Today show. In June, they shared the stage with Roberta Flack and Al Jarreau at the Syracuse Jazz Festival. The band has released two videos and a CD, which came out four years ago.

Last week, Sonny released the band's second CD.

It was recorded that night, at the Sheraton in Clearwater. It includes 24 songs (Satin Doll, Stompin' at the Savoy, Stardust). Plus five bonus tracks.

But the most important part, Sonny insists, are the liner notes.

BIG TIME

Nat Hentoff was in Clearwater that night covering the 2002 March of Jazz. He's a renowned columnist for the Village Voice, the Washington Post and Jazz Times. He's a civil libertarian and an expert on First Amendment rights. That Saturday, he had gotten up early, planning to walk along the beach before the big bands started.

As he headed through the hotel lobby, he saw 22 children dressed in red tuxedo jackets and heard the first few bad bars of Sonny's band. "I figured, what do players that young have to say -- and what could they know about swinging?" Hentoff wrote later in the Wall Street Journal. "Then Bugle Call Rag jolted me out of my misconceptions. They had the impact of the 1950s Basie Band."

Hentoff stayed through all 22 songs and introduced himself to Sonny afterward.

Later, a producer who had recorded the show suggested that Sonny make a CD out of it. A live CD.

Sonny said no.

"Some kid dropped a mute right in the middle of I've Got a Crush on You. You can't edit that stuff out," Sonny says. "Fu-get about it."

But the producer kept insisting. And some of the kids' parents started clamoring for a CD. So Sonny helped produce one. When it was done, the producer told Sonny, "You should play on it yourself."

Again, Sonny said no. Again, the producer and parents kept insisting. So Sonny complained to his son. Instead of sympathizing, Sonny's son dug up some reel-to-reel recordings he had made several years ago and sent them to the producer.

So the last five tracks are all Sonny, just his silver trumpet and an adult rhythm section, blowing 60 years of longing through such standards as Imagination.

Sonny has never played on his band's tapes or CDs. This is the first time his music has been released.

"I'm getting tired," the aging band leader says. "But hearing that CD, hearing me on that CD, it gave me the feeling that I'm not just hanging around getting old and doing nothing. It made me feel anew in the world."

He spent $6,000 from the band fund to produce 2,000 CDs. He is selling them for $15, at concerts and over the phone. He sent an early version to his new fan, Nat Hentoff.

Hentoff agreed to write the liner notes. At last, Sonny says, his kids are being recognized by one of the country's greatest jazz aficionados. "I mean, Hentoff was in Ken Burns' jazz documentary," Sonny says. "And here he is, writing our liner notes!"

Even better, though, was the answering machine message. One morning, while Sonny was out, Hentoff called his house. He had heard the final version of the CD, he said, the one that included Sonny's solo tracks.

Sonny saved that message. He plays it whenever he's feeling down, whenever he's having doubts. "It makes me cry every time I hear it," Sonny says.

He stops for a minu - ST. PETERSBURG TIMES



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Written by Nat Hentoff - JazzTimes magazine (December 2002)

Ever since I started writing about jazz, I've heard the recurring-and baseless-obbligato that jazz will soon be on life support. However, there is always the need to nurture new audiences, and players. Accordingly, the most exemplary project of Jazz at Lincoln Center is the Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition, now in its seventh year and newly extended to Australia with Essentially Ellington Down Under. Wynton Marsalis should take note that among these student instrumentalists challenged by Duke's scores there are many very proficient young women. Maybe Wynton will eventually offer one of them a chair in his male ensemble.

But with regard to the future of jazz, there is one solo educator-without any of the organizational and financial resources of Jazz at Lincoln Center-who deserves much more attention, and emulation. Sonny LaRosa, formerly a trumpet player with Sam Donahue, among others, is the director, arranger and nurturer of America's Youngest Jazz Band. It's a big band and the players are from six to 12 years old. The band has existed for 23 years, but I first heard them last year at a four-day, annual March of Jazz party in Clearwater Beach, Fla., celebrating the 74th birthday of stubbornly youthful Ruby Braff.

The kids hit at nine in the morning, before some of the late-night revelers were ready for more. And as I also thought, "How much can kids say on their horns? Or swing?" But I was curious. As I later wrote in The Wall Street Journal, I was jolted by the band's impact in its opener, "Bugle Call Rag." This was jubilant, foot-tapping swinging. As the set went on, I noted, "They not only knew how to swing collectively, but the soloists could tell a story. A story limited by their brief experience in music and life but nonetheless theirs."

America's Youngest Jazz Band has joyously surprised other listeners at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, various American festivals and was probably the youngest band to perform at Preservation Hall in New Orleans during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. For reasons I cannot understand, it has yet to be invited to play, of all places, at the annual assembly of International Association for Jazz Education, nor has George Wein ever invited the band to play at any of his festivals.

Writing the liner notes for the band's newest CD, Live at March of Jazz 2002, I quoted from St. Petersburg Times reporter Lane DeGregory's explanation of how Sonny LaRosa brings along his lively jazz apprentices: "Sonny arranges all the songs himself. He writes each part out by hand, for every instrument, individualizing the approach to each musician's ability (or lack thereof). He draws the notes in black marker. The fingerings beneath, in red. And he pencils the chord names in on top. He knows which kids can hold a long low C and who can hit a high F. He knows whose arms have grown enough to extend a trombone slide and who still needs help counting."

I remember, years ago, Duke Ellington telling me why the scores in his orchestra were not headed "first trumpet," "second trombone," etc. Instead they usually had the names of each player. "I know the strengths and weaknesses of these musicians," Duke said, "and I write with that information in mind." But later, he told me, somewhat ruefully, "Now the younger ones coming into the band can play anything."

So will Sonny LaRosa's alumni. As the March 1999 Mississippi Rag reported: "It takes about two years of lessons to break in a new band member. Some who stay in the band until retirement at age 13 often beg to stay 'just one more year.' The 12-year-old limit is imposed to keep the band as young as possible."

Sonny is a vigorous 76, and I think these kids keep him that way. David Liebman, a player of first-class musicianship, says: "Sonny LaRosa should be given the Medal of Freedom. Not only has he taught them each on their own instruments, but he has molded them into a truly remarkable unit. When you see the pride that is reflected in these youngsters' faces and the way they stand tall to strut their stuff-this gives you hope for the future of culture and the arts in this country." And, of course, the future of jazz.

I write this in the hope that other veterans of big bands will devote themselves to this fruitful way to keep the music alive. I can still see and hear these kids swinging into "One O'Clock Jump"-in their red jackets, black pants, white shirts\ and bow ties, flourishing their instruments from side to side like the bands of my youth in the stage shows between movies. These youngsters are not playing at jazz, they herald the jazz to come. For information about the band's CDs and how to book the band, Sonny LaRosa is at 1129 Pelican Place, Safety Harbor, FL 34695. Phone: 727-725-1788; www.sonnylarosa.com; e-mail: s - Written by Nat Hentoff - JazzTimes magazine (December 2002)


Discography

CD: March Of Jazz
DVD: The History, Concerts and Wonderful Times with Sonny LaRosa and America's Youngest Jazz Band

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Sonny LaRosa is a 76-year-old trumpet player who lives in Safety Harbor, FL. For more than six decades, he prayed to become a famous trumpet player. He wanted his music to make him immortal.

But he never had enough talent, he says. So he took to teaching.

He shows children as young as 5 how to play an instrument, read music and count time. He teaches them about Tommy Dorsey and Duke Ellington. He shows them how to swing.

He has taken his band to the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, Preservation Hall in New Orleans, on the Today show. In June, they shared the stage with Roberta Flack and Al Jarreau at the Syracuse Jazz Festival. The band has released two videos, a DVD and a CD