[Dixielandjazz] Milt Bernhart was Frank Rosolino

Steve Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Sun Nov 18 14:13:09 PST 2007

> Don Robertson jdrobertson at att.net asked:
> On Frank  Sinatra's "I've Got You Under My Skin", which is IMO, one of
> the best  arrangements of anything Sinatra has done, Nelson Riddle I
> guess, there's  a wild trombone solo.  I heard somewhere this was Frank
> Rossolino.  Does anybody know?

> Tom Loeb answered:
> According to another player at that session: it was Milt Berhart. Nelson
> Riddle did the arrangements and also conducted. Riddle usually did not use
> Bernhart, but Sinatra had requested him for the session. There were a  limited
> number of mics in those days. The band was so powerful, Milt's solo  couldn't
> be heard well enough until they found an apple crate for him to  stand on.
> Milt said the hardest part of the recording was balancing himself on  the
> crate. Sinatra said it was the finest arrangement in his book.

Yes, it was Milt Bernhart. He was, like Rosolino, a Kenton alumnus and an
incredible player, to which those who heard him at the Lighthouse in Hermosa
Beach will attest. See his obit below which highlights the Sinatra episode.

Steve Barbone

Milton Bernhart, trombonist, born May 25 1926; died January 22 2004

Trombonist who got under Frank Sinatra's skin
by Richard Williams - Wednesday February 4, 2004 - The Guardian UK

Nowadays the idea of a trombone solo igniting a great pop record might seem
quaint. But there was nothing quaint about the solo halfway through Frank
Sinatra's classic version of I've Got You Under My Skin, with which Milt
Bernhart, who has died of heart failure aged 77, created something as
electrifying in its time as anything devised by Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton
in a later generation.

Recorded on January 12 1956, during one of five sessions that produced the
album Songs For Swingin' Lovers, I Got You Under My Skin is one of Sinatra's
finest performances. Nelson Riddle's arrangement propels Cole Porter's song
at an easy, finger-snapping medium tempo, introduced by the unorthodox
combination of a bass clarinet riff with celeste punctuation.

Sinatra, a month past his 40th birthday and at the height of his powers,
delivers the first verse with a devil-may-care sexiness. For the
instrumental interlude, Riddle creates a 12-bar ramp by juxtaposing
syncopated trombone figures with sustained high notes in the violins,
building a crescendo whose tension is thrillingly released by the sudden
blaze of trumpets which launches Bernhart's solo. In a mere eight bars, his
rampaging brassiness lifts the song to a new level of intensity, providing a
counterpoint of Dionysian ecstasy to the singer's Apollonian self-control.

The arrangement had been written at the last minute. When the recording
engineer asked Bernhart, a short man, to get closer to a microphone
positioned above the trombone section, Sinatra went and found him a box to
stand on. The singer liked to invite his friends to the studio, and after
their applause had died away he invited Bernhart to join them in the control
room to listen to a playback.

Sinatra had listened with particular attention to trombonists, notably his
erstwhile employer Tommy Dorsey, during his early days, when he was
developing his characteristically smooth phrasing. Riddle was a trombonist
himself, and knew how to use the instrument to best advantage. And in
Bernhart they had one of the finest trombonists of his time.

Born in Valparaiso, Indiana, Bernhart was orphaned at 10, and moved to live
with relatives in Chicago. After beginning his musical experience with the
tuba, he switched to the trombone in high school. At 16, he joined the
experimental big band of Boyd Raeburn, during an engagement at Chicago's
Bandbox club. A brief period of army service was followed, in 1946, by the
job that made his name, with the Stan Kenton orchestra. "Nobody could play
louder than him," according to saxophonist Art Pepper, and he was featured
on The Peanut Vendor, the band's biggest hit.

Bernhart stayed with Kenton for 10 years, on and off, returning occasionally
to the less successful Raeburn outfit, and once briefly joining Benny
Goodman, whom he quickly learnt to loathe. That became clear one night in
segregated Las Vegas, where it emerged that the black tenor saxophonist
Wardell Gray would be barred from staying in the same accommodation as his
white colleagues, and would also have to enter the venue, the swanky
Flamingo hotel, through the back entrance. When the band protested,
according to Bernhart, "Goodman did nothing." The appalled Bernhart handed
in his notice. 

Having settled in Hollywood, he divided his time between lucrative studio
work and appearances in small clubs with like-minded musicians. He was a
regular member, along with Shorty Rogers, Jimmy Giuffre, Shelly Manne and
others, of the Lighthouse All Stars, which played weekend sessions at the
Lighthouse club on Hermosa Beach. Their albums for the Contemporary label
were among the most influential recordings of the west coast jazz scene. His
album, Modern Brass, was released in 1955.

After ending his performing career in 1973, Bernhart bought a travel agency.
But, in 1986, he founded the Big Band Academy of America, to preserve the
big band legacy. 

Twice married, he is survived by his three children.

· Milton Bernhart, trombonist, born May 25 1926; died January 22 2004 

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