Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Jazz lessons

Veteran players plan their
concert to be a musical history
of this American art form

By Gary C.W. Chun

Phil Scellato and his younger brother Bob have a standing jazz gig as leaders of the PBS Big Band the fourth Thursday every month at Studio 6 at the Musicians' Association building on Kapiolani Boulevard, but the 17-piece band heads to Unity Church tomorrow for a special concert.

With special appearances by Jimmy Borges, Gabe Baltazar and Keahi Conjugacion, the concert will honor everything "big bandish," from the composers and arrangers, to the soloists and singers that fronted those large groups over the history of jazz.

"We'll be doing a mixed bag of charts," Scellato said, "from people like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Stan Kenton, Dizzy Gillespie, Frank Strozier, plus some Nelson Riddle that he did with Frank Sinatra that Jimmy will sing, and some swing tunes with Keahi."

Baltazar was with Kenton's group briefly and was a featured soloist on his "Stairway to the Stars" so Scellato said they probably will play that arrangement as well.

Phil Scellato, left, and brother Bob are hosting a jazz concert tomorrow at Unity Church. The background image is of Gabe Baltazar, who will perform with the brothers.

"The band will be 2 years old in January," said the Southern California transplant. "I've worked with Nephi Hannemann when he was doing his Waikiki showroom gig at the Imperial Palace, as well as Dick Jensen and John Rowles."

Brother Bob has also played with Don Ho and Jim Nabors, and Phil also performed in Las Vegas' lounges and main showrooms, "playing everything from Minsky's Burlesque to Liberace."

Not bad for a jewelry salesman.

Scellato's start in the jewelry business began when he was selling it on the side during those early years, "getting things like gold chains from my then-brother-in-law in L.A." From 1977 on, he's been the sole proprietor of Phil's Gold & Diamonds, in the Kapiolani Commercial Center on Makaloa.

But he and his brother have enjoyed doing the monthly Studio 6 gigs, as well as the few extra side jobs that come their way, "working as a seven-piece band, playing mostly dance music or jazz."

While Bob Scellato has become quite the lead player in the band's trumpet section (he took up the instrument to follow in older brother's footsteps), it's Phil that takes the solos, influenced by the playing of Harry James and Al Hirt back when he was a kid.

"My current heroes are Arturo Sandoval and Wynton Marsalis, although I know I'll never sound like them! I sound a little more 'ballady.'"

Other players in the band include tenor saxophonist Scott Villager, trombonist Ricardo Vega, trumpeter Mike Morita and the rhythm section of Winston Ravall (piano), Gilbert Batangan (guitar), Steve Carruthers (bass) and Chuck James on drums.

"It's a fun band," Scellato said. "It's like a rehearsal band, only a notch up, since we play in front of an audience. Besides Studio 6, we've done Kapono's a couple of times. There's nothing like this elsewhere locally, although it's usually tough to get this many guys together for gigs like this. But we try to get whatever players that are available, and the guys seem to enjoy it."

'Here's to the Bands!'

With the PBS Big Band and guests Jimmy Borges, Gabe Baltazar and Keahi Conjugacion:

Show time: 7:30 p.m. tomorrow
Place: Unity Church of Hawaii, 3608 Diamond Head Road
Admission: $15 general, $10 seniors and military, $5 students
Call: 734-0397

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