Sammy Nestico And The SWR Big Band

Released March 10, 2009

Grammy Nominee for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album 2010




Count Basie’s finest album of the 1960s is easily Straight Ahead. Recorded in 1968 for the Dot label, the album’s tracks were composed and arranged from top to bottom by Sammy Nestico. He even conducted the band.

What’s remarkable about this album is how naturally Sammy’s charts swing within the Basie idiom. Sammy’s up-tempo numbers build repeatedly to satisfying crescendos, leaving plenty of room for Basie’s punctual piano, while Sammy’s ballad compositions are rich showcases for Basie soloists.

Sammy arranged 10 Basie albums, four of which won Grammy Awards.

Track Listing:

1. Blue Samuel (Sammy Nestico) 6:53

Soloists: Klaus Graf: alto saxophone; Klaus-Peter Schöpfer: guitar; Klaus Wagenleiter: piano; Andreas Maile: tenor saxophone; Marc Godfroid: trombone;

2. A New Day (Sammy Nestico) 4:14

Soloists: Libor Sima: bassoon; Karl Farrent: trumpet;

3. A Pair of Aces (Sammy Nestico) 6:15

Soloists: Klaus Graf: alto saxophone; Klaus Wagenleiter: piano; Marc Godfroid: trombone;

4. Out of the Night (Sammy Nestico) 5:35

Soloists: Guido Jöris: drums; Klaus-Peter Schöpfer: guitar; Axel Kühn: flute;

5. D’Ann (Sammy Nestico) 5:52

Soloists: Don Rader: flugelhorn; Klaus Wagenleiter: piano;

6. Fun Time (Sammy Nestico) 4:54

Soloists: Klaus Graf: alto saxophone; Pierre Paquette: baritone saxophone; Klaus Wagenleiter: piano;

7. Celebracion (Sammy Nestico) 4:15

Soloists: Axel Kühn: tenor saxophone; Karl Farrent: trumpet;

8. Struttin’ with Some Barbecue (Armstrong / Raye) 4:45

Soloists: Axel Kühn: tenor saxophone; Karl Farrent: trumpet; Pierre Paquette: baritone saxophone; Ian Cummings: trombone;

9. Orchids and Butterflies (Sammy Nestico) 5:27

Soloists: Decebal Badila: bass; Axel Kühn: flute;

10. Not Really the Blues (Mandel) 3:40

Soloists: Klaus Wagenleiter: piano; Axel Kühn: tenor saxophone; Don Rader: trumpet;

11. The Four of Us (You ‘N’ Me) (Sammy Nestico) 4:48

Soloists: Ernst Hutter, Ian Cummings, Marc Godfroid, Georg Maus: trombone; Klaus Wagenleiter: piano; Decebal Badila: bass;

12. Rare Moment (Gray / Sammy Nestico) 7:44

Soloists: Steffen Weber: alto saxophone; Klaus-Peter Schöpfer: guitar; Don Rader: flugelhorn; Klaus Wagenleiter: piano; Andreas Maile: tenor saxophone;

13. Bye Bye Blues (Bennet / Gray / Hamm / Lown) 4:50

Soloists: Klaus-Peter Schöpfer: guitar; Don Rader: trumpet; Ernst Hutter: trombone; Klaus Wagenleiter: piano;

14. A Song for Sarah (Sammy Nestico) 4:08

Soloists: Klaus Wagenleiter: piano;

15. King Porter Stomp (Burke / Morton) 3:43

Soloists: Don Rader, Karl Farrent: trumpet; Klaus Graf, Steffen Weber: alto saxophone;


SWR Big Band, directed by Sammy Nestico:

Decebal Badila: acoustic bass, electric bass

Klaus Graf: alto saxophone, clarinet, flute

Steffen Weber: alto saxophone, piccolo flute, flute, Alto flute

Pierre Paquette: baritone saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet

Georg Maus: bass trombone

Libor Sima: bassoon

Guido Jöris: drums, percussion

Klaus-Peter Schöpfer: electric guitar, acoustic guitar

Klaus Wagenleiter: piano, Fender- Rhodes

Andreas Maile: tenor saxophone

Axel Kühn: tenor saxophone, flute, alto flute

Ernst Hutter: trombone

Ian Cummings: trombone

Marc Godfroid: trombone

Don Rader: trumpet, flugelhorn

Rudolf Reindl: trumpet, flugelhorn

Karl Farrent: trumpet

Felice Civitareale, Frank Wellert: vibraphone 

Matthias Haus: trumpet, flugelhorn

Recorded July 28 – 30, 2008, at SWR U-Musik-Studio, Stuttgart, Germany

Produced by Karl Farrent and Rudolf Reindl

Recorded by Volker Neumann

Edited by Manfred Deppe, Volker Neumann

Executive-Producer: Ulrich de Veer

Photography by Alexander Kluge, Karin Farrent


Famous for his arrangements for the Count Basie orchestra, Sammy Nestico — a cousin of tenor saxophonist Sal Nistico — has always had a productive, if lesser-known, solo career. Self-taught on the trombone, at age 17 Nestico was skilled enough to be a studio musician in Pittsburgh. He served in the military, gained a music degree at Duquesne University in 1950 and was staff arranger for the U.S. Air Force Band for many years. Nestico was also a busy freelance arranger: he worked with the U.S. Marine Band starting in 1963 and led the orchestra that performed at functions at the White House. Nestico started contributing arrangements to Basie in 1967 and during the next 15 years would occasionally write for an entire Basie album (including Have a Nice Day, ) Prime Time, Warm Breeze and the big band tracks on 88 Basie Street). Nestico has also written extensively for films and television, has been a significant jazz educator and recorded one album as a leader: Dark Orchid (a 1982 Palo Alto release).

Scott Yanow (Allmusic)