The way Gary Tole sees it, his mission in life is relatively
simple: to keep the tradition of big-band music alive. And this year,
as part of the city of Burbank's Fourth of July celebration at the
Starlight Bowl, he will have a chance to do just that, with
exclamation points added by fireworks.
"Paying tribute to this great genre of music, documenting these
great jazz standards, that's what it is all about," said the
He will lead the Tonight Show All-Star Band, a 17-piece big band
made up of some of the finest musicians in Southern California, many
of whom, like Tole himself, served in the beloved orchestra that was
helmed by Doc Severinsen during the Johnny Carson years.
Normally, the Pittsburgh-born Tole tours with his own big band,
the Legends of Swing Orchestra, which salutes many of the great big
bands that he has worked with, including Glenn Miller, Harry James,
Les Brown, Tex Beneke and Jimmy Dorsey. But it seemed like
serendipity was at work when he was approached about the possibility
of bringing in the All-Star Band.
"They certainly have a history with this city," he said. "I'm just
surprised that they hadn't done this before."
Among the musicians who will be featured in the band are trumpeter
Pete Candoli and pianist Ross Tompkins, both of whom were longtime
fixtures in the NBC studio where the show was taped. Among the others
appearing will be saxophonists Tom Peterson and John Bainbridge,
trombonists Bruce Paulson and Mike Barone (who wrote many of the
charts for the Carson show), and drummer Kevin Winard, who still
tours with Severinsen.
Unfortunately, although mentioned previously, trumpeter Eugene
"Snooky" Young will not be part of the band.
"He is in his 80s now, and he doesn't really play concerts
anymore," Tole said. "In fact, a number of the band members from the
Tonight Show band of that era have gone into retirement, but we'll
still be using guys who subbed with the band, or were among the
Appearing with the band will be special guest vocalist Gloria
Loring. She has had a dual career in the entertainment business, both
as a singer and as an actress. She had a longtime role on the NBC
soap opera "Days of Our Lives," where she was able to sing quite
frequently, and in 1986 she scored a number one record with "Friends
and Lovers," a duet with Carl Anderson.
Throughout the years, she has maintained a constant schedule of
concerts, stage appearances and recording dates, and she recently
released a CD titled after her hit single, which has been recorded
anew, once again with Anderson.
Tole is looking forward to the concert, which will be the first
appearance for the All-Star Band in about a year.
"We're all busy doing studio work, so it is hard to get everyone
together," he said. "But I think this is a great idea, matching us
with a venue in Burbank, and who knows, maybe it could be a launching
pad to more appearances."
All of which will help Tole on his mission.
Whatever band he may lead, he plans on keeping those traditions
And as enthusiastic audiences around the world will attest, he
does a great job doing it.