Remembers Sammy Nestico

February 6, 1924 – January 17, 2021


A tribute to the prolific big band arranger

Arranger Sammy Nestico passed away on Jan. 17, 2021 at the age of 96.

Nestico was born on Feb. 6, 1924 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

He was originally a trombonist, becoming a staff musician on WCAE when he was 17 and working with the big bands of Tommy Dorsey, Woody Herman, Gene Krupa and Charlie Barnet as a section player; however his writing skills soon changed the course of his career.

Nestico was a member of the United States Air Force Band for 15 years as staff arranger and leader of the Airmen of Note, and later was the main arranger and director of the United States Marine Band for five years, performing often at prestigious functions during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.

As a composer and arranger for the Capital label, he wrote arrangements for Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Nancy Wilson, and Barbra Streisand, also writing for various European orchestras and for 70 television series including The Mod Squad, Charlie’s Angels and Mission Impossible.

Sammy Nestico became most famous for his many arrangements for the Count Basie Orchestra during 1968-84, writing for such albums as Straight Ahead, Have A Nice Day, Basie Big Band, Prime Time, and 88 Basie Street.

Here is Sammy Nestico conducting the SWR Big Band on Mar. 9, 2010, featuring altoist Klaus Graf Graf on his beautiful ballad “Samantha.”

-Scott Yanow

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