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August 16, 2013     Post-Gazette
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August 16, 2013

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Page 8 POST-GAZETTE, AUGUST 16, 2013 Albert "AI" Natale Keeps the Music Going at 90 by Sue Auclair and Fred Bouchard North End native, trumpet- player, bandleader and phi- lanthropist Albert Natale will celebrate his 90 th birth- day on Sunday, August 18th! Born in the North End in 1923, A1 is the son of immi- grants and youngest of 12 children. A musician all his life, he was first intro- duced to music by a kind teacher when he was at- tending St. Anthony's School. "What happened was when I was 12, I was attending St. Anthony's School and we got called to the assembly hall. So we marched down to the hall and the school's music teacher, Mr. Trangone, decided what instrument to give to each of us. They were organizing a drum corps and the year I think was 1936, Mr. Trangone handed me a bugle. I picked it up and tried it and a hell of a good note came out! He liked it a lot and I guess I did pretty good with it since the following year I was pro- moted to the senior band and was then pre- sented with a trumpet. I found out that I could do so much more with the trumpet than with the bugle. It was fasci- nating to me to see how much I. could do. In the 1930s every high school had a band and the band would play every morning just to start the school ses- sion. It was great and it's a shame it's not happening today like it was then," says A1. "Then my dad decided I should take private iessons so he sent me to Ralph Fucillo, the principal trumpet player for all the vaudeville shows at the old RKO Theatre located at 616 Washington Street in downtown Boston. Under Fucillo's leadership, I began to work with the RKO The- atre Orchestra for many of the acts appearing at the RKO. Then the theater man- agement decided to bring in the 'big name' bands of the '40s -- like Benny Goodman, The Dorsey Brothers and Glenn Miller -- and I was very grateful that I had learned ear-training from my father who was primarily a barber but who also played clarinet and guitar. That way I was able to sight-read the music and fill in for the. traveling bands when they needed a substitute from time to time." "I'd just go up and play the shows sight-reading! I liked the idea of going on the road with bands, so I auditioned for the Bob Chester Orches- tra and joined that band in Philadelphia. This was a whole new experience! One time we played at the Atlantic City Steel Pier Ballroom alternative dance sets with the world-famous Harry James Orchestra! I was thrilled to watch this great band three times a night for three whole weeks with over 800 people in at- tendance nightly." "A few years later when I was 21, I joined the Jerry Wald Orchestra at the Paramount Theatre in New York City where things were really happening and together we traveled to AI (on right) at the age of eight made his own set of drums with an olive oil can 2 sticks and rope. Photo taken on Sheafe Street A1 Natale with Frank Sinatra. various theaters around the U.S. playing The Liberace Show, The Three Stooges, Dick Haymes, Margaret Whiting and others. I used to play poker with the Stooges backstage; they were a riot but not as funny as in their movies since their backstage jokes were not accompanied by sound effects!" "When I decided I'd had enough of the road -- a grueling experience on not very comfortable buses and trains, I came back to Boston and worked with society orchestras like Ruby Newman and Harry Marchand. To do all this, I had to know thousands of tunes, what keys they were in and how to improvise. We had to keep playing long segues and modulate easily from one tune to another. Then I started my own band. I auditioned some young musicians for my six-piece group and discovered a great 16- year-old key-boardist whose name was Chick Corea. We snagged a super gig at the Mayfair, a big show club with a dance floor and a roof that would roll open on warm sum- mer nights! It was locateda on Arlington Street not far from the Statler Hotel [today the Park Plaza] and the Latin Quarter. Both clubs were owned by the infamous Boston bookmaker and night- club owner Harry "Doc" Sagansky. There, we worked alongside big acts like Cab Calloway, Julius LaRosa and many others." "Blinstrub's Village A1 Natale (far left in top row) with the Jerry Wald Orchestra. Paramount Theatre, N.Y.C. for one or two years pro- viding music for the come- dians. Guys like Henny Youngman, Flip Wilson and George Carlin launched their careers there!" "In 1962 trumpeter Herb Alpert scored huge radio hits utilizing Mexico's mariachi sounds when he created his Tijuana Brass Band. I picked up that musical thread and was able to match this sexy new sound with my own Boston 'Tijuana' band and we were hot, hot, hot! We were honored to play the inaugural ball for Mayor Kevin White." A1 Natale and the Tijuana Brass Sounds, circa 1975. in South Boston was another huge club that featured all the biggest stars. I filled in with the band there and got to accompany singers like Johnny Mathis, Sammy Davis, Jr., Paul Anka, Pat Boone, and Vic Damone." "Boston in the 1950s was also loaded with night- clubs and restaurants that hired groups to perform for the dinner crowds. We had The Ken Club, Wally's, The Savoy, The Businessmen's Lounge. The Stables was created by three well-known jazz guys -- trumpet player Herb Pomeroy, tenor saxo- phonist Varty Hart and pianist Ray Santisi." "I was booked to play at Paul's Mall downstairs across from The Stables with my group. The theme of Paul's Mall was that this downstairs two-roomed club was like an 'underground penthouse.' It was unique. I worked there every night "In the early '70s I was elected as Vice President of the Boston Musicians Union -- something I wanted to do so that I would be able to help the young musicians get proper remuneration for their work. One of the greatest moments of my entire career was meeting Frank Sinatra in 1981 and presenting him with an honorary life membership to the Local 9-535 American Federation of Musicians Union." "While working at the Frolics Club in Revere, Massachusetts I played for the Jerry Vale Show and a week later I played for Connie Frances during her first New England appear- ance when she was just 16 years old." "So when I sold a building I owned on Beacon Hill about ten years ago, I started The Albert A. Natale Schol- arship Fund at Berklee for its young brass players. I contribute to it every year. I also donated a life-sized bronze relief sculpture to Saint Leonard's Church and also a ramp leading into to the church in the North End for the encouragement and inspiration given to me to pursue a career as a musician." "And now in 2013, I'm turning 90T A sample of my new Al Natale Orchestra is on YouTube; just Google A1 Natale Playing at the Beech Street Center in Belmont, Massachusetts." "TANTI AUGURI"