Anita Brown


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The Leading Edge: Earl Gardner, Unedited (Sept. 2010 Issue)

Who were your top three earliest influences as a lead player before you turned thirty?


Earl Gardner

I was playing in the house band at a night club in Cherry Hill, NJ called “The Latin Casino.”  Bill Pusey was the lead player. Every week there was a different act from Sinatra to Gladys Knight, Vic Damone, Cyd Charisse.   I really learned about what lead playing was about from him on that gig. 

            Conrad Gozzo who played with Sinatra was an influence sound-wise, and Snooky [Young] for phrasing.  They’re kind of similar; real big, bright but fat, not edgy.  They had real brilliant sounds like a sizzle but a fat sound.  It had some body and weight to it. Of course, Maynard [Ferguson] had everything.   He had a great sound and he could do it all.

            Al Porcino taught me how to play lead with Thad and Mel.  Originally I was playing third and he was playing lead when I joined the [Thad Jones/Mel Lewis] band.    They told me I was going to be playing lead and I didn’t know why.  Thad called me into the dressing room and said, “When we get back to New York you’ll move over and play lead.”  Turns out it was because Porcino suggested it because he decided to stay in Munich.  Normally the second player would move over to play the first chair but Lynn Nicholson was moving to Vegas so the trumpet section was going to shift.  That turned out to be my first lead trumpet gig.

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