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"Getting Back Into the Swing of Those Big Band Sounds"
Column in The Journal News, Westchester County NY daily newspaper, Thursday, October 26, 2000, Page 6E
By Bill Bookman
Copyright 2000 Bill Bookman
A newspaper column about the "Don Michaels" band led by Angelo Tallarico, and a performance at Rudy's Beau Rivage in Dobbs Ferry, NY, at which about 150 seniors attended.
The resplendent golden shine of the saxes, trumpets and trombones complemented the silver in the hair of musicians in Don Michael's 12-piece band.
They swung energetically one afternoon last week through memorable old classics such as Count Basie's "one O'Clock Jump." (Forget that the time was 1 p.m. and not the 1 a.m. that the title refers to.)
On the dance floor between lunch courses and later, a crowd of seniors from Suffern, Somers and Port Chester were approximating old jitterbug steps. It was more than enough to distract you from the spectacular autumnal view over the Hudson from Rudy's Beau Rivage in Dobbs Ferry.
"We're trying to reproduce the Big Band days at the Paramount," said Angelo Tallarico, the "Don Michaels" of the band. At 74, he's mindful of other aging musicians from the swing era who aren't finding much work these days, especially during the week.
"I used to work for Les Brown," chipped in trombonist Charlie Henry, 67. "Now I work for less money."
So Tallarico has formed Senior Holiday Productions. "I tried to create a market in the afternoon for the musicians," he explained. "I got a list of all the senior centers, made up a flier, and did a mailing. And as a result, we got these people interested."
Frank Sisco of New Rochelle, who created the senior musings.com website, was instrumental in bringing the band to Westchester.
Danny Repole, who at 77 plays trombone in the band and is associate professor of music at Kingsboro College, told me, "In many of our eyes and ears, the Big Bands have never gone away. When we play, "In the Mood," the young people get up and do their thing. It gets them motivated. And the excessive loudness and the rap groups with their electronics have been bothering a lot of people."
Ron LoPinto, 68, plays trumpet and has been a musician for 60 years. "I keep plugging," he told me, but he added that to "make a living" he also operates Arista Camera Specialists with a store in Bronxville.
Fran Carol is the band's vocalist. She sang with Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, Charlie Barnet and both Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey. I asked her how old she is.
She stared at me and said, "Are you kidding? God has been good to me that I can still sing. We're trying to keep the music alive and I keep myself alive doing it."
The leader of the 66 members of the Senior Citizens of Suffern attending the luncheon and dance was Ralph Jeffrey, 74, the club's trip coordinator. "They're enjoying themselves and reminiscing the songs," he said of his group.
Fifty-five members of the Somers senior citizens group were present, led by Barbara Yannacone.
And 25 members of the Port Chester Nutrition Program were there with leader Carol Nielson.
Send comments to Bill Bookman in care of Living Section, The Journal News, I Gannett Drive, White Plains, NY 10604.