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POST-GAZETTE, MAY 23, 2014 Page 13 00Babbbhonno A Nostalgic Remembrance tttt i it i i i i i It was 1961 and I was teaching at Hyde Park High School. In an attempt to earn a master's degree, I began taking graduate courses at my alma mater, Boston State. Since my sophomore year at Boston State (now U-Mass, Boston), I was playing music with any bandleader that called. For the most part, the major portion of the playing I did was with the Ken Reeves Orchestra. The leader, a man who opposed my first job with the unit he was playing with or leading, now requested my services each week. His name was Don Ellis, a tenor sax player who had memorized thou- sands of songs and could play a dance, wedding, or any kind of a reception without a piece of music in front of him. During my second sum- mer with the Reeves office, Don Ellis, pianist Hank Gils- dorf, drummer Al Priest and I played weekends at the Chatham Bars Inn in Chat- ham. Ellis put me in as one of the drivers with the stipu- lation that I pick him up and drop him off. I lived in East Boston at the time and he in Arlington. Each Friday after- noon, I would be ready to head to the Cape after pick- ing Don up and we would wend our way through the Friday afternoon traffic head- ing south. Because Don led bands for the Reeves office and Ken Reeves catered to old Boston society, Don used Ellis as a professional name. I didn't know that his real last name was Alessi until I saw his driver's license one day. When I questioned him about it, he admitted he was Italian, "I'm not only Italian, I'm Sicilian. Reeves wants all of his leaders to have Anglo sounding names so, I use Ellis. Playing for the folks who vacationed at the Chatham Bars Inn was easy. The man- agement put us up, fed us in the main dining room from the guest menu and allowed us to drink on the house. I didn't drink, but a couple of the other musicians made up for it. Although they were never drunk, they played Gershwin or Cole Porter tunes with a glow that only 80 proof could cause. What I also enjoyed was my share of the tips. There was a large brandy snifter located on the piano and Hank the pianist would always put a couple of dollars in it before we began to play. When someone would approach us with a request, a tip was often given to us, and as we were packing up for the night, Don Ellis would count out the money and divide it four ways. For most of the guests at the resort, money was not a problem and we did rather well satisfying their musical requests. Well, that first summer season came to a close and we played our last weekend around Labor Day. When I dropped Don Ellis off, he said he would be calling. This seemed strange, as I usually received my assignments via phone calls from the booker at the Reeves office or via a weekly postcard which listed the jobs, locations and time frames. Each time I returned home, I had to have a glass of wine with Babbononno who lived the life of a musician vicari- ously through his grandson. He had long since stopped playing but wanted to remain part of the business through the stories of his sons, Uncle Paul and Uncle Nick, his son-in-law my father, and me. Later in that Labor Day week, I received a call from Don Ellis asking me if I could drop by his house during the week. When I was able to sit with him over coffee and cake, he told me that he was leaving the Reeves office after decades of leading bands for Ken Reeves. He had made contact with the owner of Carroll's Restaurant in Med- ford. They were setting up the down stairs area of the restaurant as a function room and Don was going to be their musical director for events booked in that room. Don would be taking pianist Hank Gilsdorf with him but no one else from the Reeves of- fice was interested. He hired drummer Rene Jacques, and if I wanted to join them as the bassist, this would be the nucleus of the band that would play all of the functions held downstairs at Carroll's. On many occasions, the band would include trum- pets, trombones and or other sax players. Don had music stands made up for the stage and always had music for the tunes we played but he never needed the music himself. Everything we played was memorized. I stayed with the band for about a year or so. The only nights that I couldn't work were the nights I was taking my graduate courses. I tried to take courses that were offered in the after- noons or during the eve- -- FOR YOU WHO APPRECIATE THE FINEST-- THE MUSIC FOR ALL OCCASIONS 781-648-5678 nings of the early part of the week. This allowed me to be able to play about five nights per week and both Saturday and Sunday afternoons. As a result, I was making more money as a musician than as a fledgling teacher. Once I finished my courses, I began to think about expanding my horizons musically. As a result, I began making con- nections in New York hoping to break into the jazz circles there. At the same time, I got hooked up with a come- dian I had known at Boston State, Bob Blasser. He was doing comedy shows locally and was also trying to make some headway in New York. Bob, an ex seminarian, was friendly with Cardinal Cush- ing and each time a Catho- lic serviceman was killed in Vietnam from the local area, the Cardinal would put a show together as a fund- raiser for the soldier's fam- ily. We were the show. I was asked by Bob's music direc- tor to join the band last minute and when Bob and I saw each other, it was the renewal of a friendship started back at Boston State. Within a year, the music director and Bob had a fall- ing out and he quit. I was asked to take over and be- came the music director of the Bob Blasser Show. Later, as we became involved in the New York scene, we became partners in the production end of things. On my own, I began work- ing with some of the jazz musicians in New York. It didn't hurt that I was Johnny Christy Jr., or that I was Nick Conti's nephew. Both Dad and Uncle Nick had repu- tations that were held in high esteem both here and in the Big Apple. This opened the doors in New York, but from that point on, I had to prove my'self, and hopefully, I did. With Bob Blasser, playing the shows for Cardinal Cush- ing, it led to him making inroads for us in New York. We did shows there and as writers and actors, became involved with Candid Camera. Babbononno thought I was crazy, but when I told him what the money was like he backed off. Alan Funt, the head guy for Candid Camera, set us up with writing and performing in a commercial for Alka Seltzer. This led to an interview with Otto Preminger who opened a few doors for us in Holly- wood. But, I'm out of space and that's a story for another day. GOD BLESS AMERICA Get Results For more information call 617-227-8929 Socially Scene (Continued and depicts the four's search for love, success, and iden- tify in a complex world in this controversial and fiercely funny new play. "What an outrageous honor -- the luxury of returning to a theatre I've come to call home," says Diamond. "I can think of no better place to launch my new play than within the smart, warm embrace of the Huntington. Smart People take on big, risky ideas and lives in the world of questioning and flawed humanity. It is thrill- ing to have Peter DuBois at the helm of a ship that looks at huge, explosive ideas in nuanced and often humor- ous ways." This smashbox hit is one not to be missed at the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA, 527 Tremont Street, Boston. For more on tickets and directions you can visit www.huntingtontheatre.org or call 617-266-0800. Celebrity Series of Boston ... This is Dmitri Hvorostov- sky's third appearance with the Celebrity Series of Bos- ton. Siberian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky has established an extraordinary interna- tional career, performing regularly on the prestigious concert stages and opera houses of North America, Europe, and Asia. His dis- tinctive voice, incomparable legato, and breath control place him at the forefront of leading baritones in the world today. His opera reper- toire, apart from Verdi, ranges from Mozart to Prokofiev. Roles for which he is most noted include: Conte di Luna in Verdi's /l trovatore, Posa in Verdi's Don Carlo, the title role in Verdi's Rigoletto, Prince Yeletsky in Tchaikovsky's Pique Dame, and the title role in Tchaik- ovsky's Eugene Onegin. Recent additions to his rep- ertoire include Renato in Verdi's Un ballo in Masehera and the title role of Verdi's Simon Boeeanegra. Ivari Ilja is an Estonian pianist trained at the Mos- cow Conservatory under Vera Gornostayeva and Sergei Dorensky, best known for his work as an accompanist. His collaboration with re- nowned singers Dmitri Hvoro- stovsky, Irina Arkhipova, Maria Guleghina, and Elena Zaremba has been particu- larly successful. Ilia has also held solo recitals in France, the United Kingdom, Ger- many, Estonia, Russia, Swe- den, and Finland, and per- formed as a soloist with sev- eral orchestras such as Es- tonian National Symphony Orchestra, Moscow Sym- phony Orchestra, St. Peters- burg Symphony Orchestra, and others. His repertoire focuses on works by Chopin, from Page 9) Don't miss baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky in his Celeb- rity Series performance on Thursday, May 29 th at NEC's Jordan Hall. (Photo by askonasholt.co.uk) Brahms, and R. Schumann, Mozart, Prokofiev, Britten and others. He is the Head of the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre's piano department. This breath taking stage performance takes place on Thursday, May 29 th at NEC's Jordan Hall, 30 Gainsbor- ough Street, Boston. For more on upcoming shows or tickets visit www.celebrity series.org, or call 617-482- 6661. A Tasty Treat to Compli- ment Your Time in theCity ... A new American tavern, Russell House Tavern, is a comfortable gathering spot for every occasion from casual lunch breaks on the patio to afterwork cocktails in the upstairs tavern to functions in the private din- ing room and everything in between. Executive Chef Thomas Borgia delivers a seasonally- inspired menu of modern interpretations of American classics, including signa- tures like the Crispy Soft Poached Chip-In Farm Egg with Pecorino Aioli, Toasted Brioche and House Pancetta. To accompany Chef Borgia's menu, Bar Manager Sam Gabrielli serves an in- teresting collection of all- American wines, including two regional wines on tap, and a locally-driven craft beer selection. The cock- tail menu strikes a balance between familiar classics and modern handcrafted recipes using only fresh juices, homemade syrups and infusions. Russell House Tavern is located at 14 JFK Street, Cambridge. Call 617-500- 3055 to make a reservation or visit www.russelhouse cambridge.com for-a peek at the menu. K3  Fully Insured Lic #017936 Mechanical Heating & Air Conditioning Sales, Service & Installation Ken Shallow 617.593.6211 kenskjs@aol.com