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  • Mike Vax (2010)

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    Bay Area native Mike Vax is a jazz trumpeter and educator who has been working tirelessly playing and teaching for over 40 years.

    After a period with the song flute in grade school, Mike rapidly graduated to the cornet, and finished the year's exercises in no time. After high school, he studied classical trumpet at the College of the Pacific, but his sights had already strayed from that genre to jazz, even though he jokes that, had he stayed with classical music, then he'd have spent the past four decades at home with the symphony rather than on the bus. But he wouldn't have had it any other way: the visiting bands of his youth—Basie, Ellington, Herman and Kenton—had made a big band fan out of him. Indeed, at a young age he told Stan Kenton that one day he'd be lead trumpet in Stan's band: Kenton agreed that that was indeed possible if Mike wanted it enough, which Mike obviously did, because it came to pass.

    Mike played lead and solo trumpet not only with Kenton's orchestra, but also Clark Terry's Big Bad Band, and, immediately after college, the US Navy Show Band. A little-known fact is that he spent a number of years in New Orleans, and there played quite a different type of jazz, leading the Dukes of Dixieland for a time.

    Mike has traveled the world teaching and playing, and has played or recorded or both with the likes of Art Pepper, Al Gray, Freddie Hubbard, Don Ellis, Louie Bellson, Joe Williams, Anita O'Day, The Four Freshmen, and a long list of big bands. To date, he has been on some 75 recordings, including almost two dozen under his own name.

    Mike is the leader of the Stan Kenton Alumni Band, which tours for several weeks every year, and which next year (2011) will travel much more in recognition of the centenary of Stan's birth. Far from being a "ghost band" (something Mike reports Kenton as abhorring), the alumni orchestra features, in addition to the old favorites, new compositions arranged in the Kenton style. Further, notwithstanding the fact that most of the band's members are eligible for Medicare, the band is far from being anybody's last stand, as witness the query from one school band director who wondered "how do 18 old guys play louder than my 200-piece marching band?"
    Pick Artist Album Song Label
    # 1 Clark Terry with the Oscar Peterson Trio Trio Plus One Brotherhood of Man (Verve)
    # 2 Terry Gibbs Dream Band, Vol. 4: Main Stem Nose Cone (Contemporary)
    # 3 The Four Freshmen The Four Freshmen with Stan Kenton and June Christy (LP) I'm Always Chasing Rainbows (Capitol)
    # 4 Sammy Davis jr Greatest Hits I'm a Brass Band (Garland)
    # 5 Louis Armstrong Ambassador Satch Royal Garden Blues (Columbia)
    # 6 Clark Terry with the London Symphony Orchestra   Nature Boy Not commercially available
    # 7 Ray Charles Ray Sings, Basie Swings Oh, What a Beautiful Morning (Concord)
    # 8 Woody Herman Woody's Winners Greasy Sack Blues (Mosaic)
    # 9 Stan Kenton Cuban Fire La Suerte de las Tontos (Capitol)
    Book Arban's Complete Conservatory Method
    Luxury Item A sand wedge and a thousand golf balls
    Castaways by dateNo castaways found for 2023.