Lake Mary Life Publishing's talented editor and business manager, Michael Kramer, takes his talents on the road as a touring jazz pianist with Michael Andrew & The Gershwin Big Band!
“I need a pianist who can tour with The Gershwin Big Band for two weeks in February. Are you interested?”
When my old buddy, Michael Andrew, called me in November with this proposition, it was truly an offer I couldn’t refuse. An extraordinarily talented singer/actor/comedian/bandleader, Michael had been fronting the band for several months with the blessing of the Gershwin family. When he played California and surrounding areas, he hired musicians on the West Coast. Now that Michael (who resides in Maitland) had a dozen or so dates lined up in Florida and up the East Coast, he wanted to use as many of his regular players as he could. I was very happy to get the call.
And why not? Over the past 20 years, some of my most memorable musical moments have been with Michael on the bandstand. Performances with the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, gigs at both the Beverly Hilton Hotel and the Hollywood Brown Derby, and a session at Capitol Studios in L.A., where we recorded five vocal/piano selections for an album of Sinatra classics (in the same studio that Ol’ Blue Eyes recorded the originals). Besides, in my 30 years as a professional musician, I had never been on the road for such an extended period of time. So it would be a musical adventure!
February couldn’t come fast enough. The second week of the tour took us out of Florida and into Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia. I was traveling on a band bus with 18 other musicians (including a female vocalist) doing a series of one-nighters that were anywhere from three to seven hours away from each other. Spending so much time with that many musicians – many of whom I have known for 20 years or more – confirmed something I had always known. My fellow musicians are among the most dedicated professionals I have ever met in any field of endeavor. From the youngest player (28) to the oldest (the 68-year old pianist), they were thrilled to be performing a special kind of music. You don’t get rich playing big-band jazz. In fact, some of the veteran players who have known Michael for two decades took the job without ever asking about the pay or the accomodations. The important thing to them was that the music would be top-notch and challenging. And while a lot of the conversation on the bus and at meals was peppered with profanity and some awful bathroom humor, most of it was shop talk. After many consecutive nights of two-hour concerts preceded by sound checks and rehearsals, producing stellar music was always foremost on everyone’s mind.
In the March/April issues of our three magazines, Jill Duff-Hoppes has written a wonderful profile of three big bands, all of which are headquartered in Seminole County – The Glenn Miller Orchestra, The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, and Michael Andrew & The Gershwin Big Band. Jill’s piece is called The Big Band Era Lives! And that’s because of many dedicated musicians, some of whom I had the privilege of playing with for two weeks in February.
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