By Chuck Reider
This year the Reno Jazz Orchestra (RJO) is presenting “Home for the Holidays” featuring trombone virtuoso Bob McChesney, his wife vocalist/violinist Calabria Foti, special guests the Reno Youth Jazz Orchestra, and a very special appearance of the “Hot Holly Dolls”! Performances are December 13th 7:30 pm and December 14th 2:00 pm at the Cargo Concert Hall at the Whitney Peak Hotel. After last year’s tour of holiday music from around the world we decided to stay home by the fire and cozy up to those great Christmas songs you know and love. Just jazzed up a bit! Both McChesney and Foti are artists in their own right with solo recordings who are also featured on other artist’s recordings, as well as movie soundtracks. Both are passionate music educators. Needless to say they are very busy folks and we are delighted they can join us.
They met in Foti’s hometown of Fredonia, New York. Her parents were musicians and ran their own jazz band where, at age twelve, she began playing electric bass and singing in the band. One day while walking through the music department at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Fredonia she heard, coming from a practice room, a beautiful trombone sound. Being that her father was a professional trombonist and Eastman graduate, she knew a great trombone sound. As she says “It was love at first sound” so she opened the door and there was McChesney. She introduced herself and they have been together ever since. Their first date was a Freddie Hubbard concert (very romantic for jazz fans!). She was in high school and he was studying business at SUNY. When the Foti family moved to Tampa Florida, McChesney stayed in touch and would come to visit. He would kiddingly complain that she was always too busy practicing and gigging to see him when he visited. She was a violin performance music major, a violinist with the Florida Orchestra, and was gigging all over Tampa. On one such visit in the mid 80’s he said he heard there was a lot of music work in Los Angeles and was going. He asked if she would join him. Foti was ready to explore new horizons so off they went. They started their LA careers backing other people and had a great time doing it. They continued to expand their music network which brought new music job opportunities. As LA musicians they raised two daughters, so they did not do much touring but kept busy with musician day gigs and local jazz gigs at night. Their life was far removed from what you may think a jazz life is.
How do you make a living as a musician during the day? Let’s start with McChesney. His mastery of the trombone and his exquisite sound quickly made him a first call in the studios. You can hear him on recordings by Barbara Streisand, Michael Buble, Rod Stewart, Chicago, and Michael Bolton to name just a few. He is also on the Grammy winning CD’s "Ray Charles: Genius Loves Company" and Diana Krall's "When I Look in Your Eyes". He is in the movies; “Rocky Balboa”, “The Pursuit of Happyness”, “Rush Hour 2, Bringing Down the House”, and “Space Jam”. How about TV as well; “The Simpsons”, “Family Guy”, “American Dad!”, and “JAG”. He has several CDs as the leader and numerous jazz big band and small group recordings as a featured artist. His most recent CD is “Chez Sez” features Larry Goldings and Bob Mintzer. Next year he is releasing two new CDs. One will be jazz standards and the second a collection of jazz praise songs for the church. He is also passionate about jazz education. He taught for many years at Cal State Northridge and Cal State Long Beach. He has written several books of trombone studies, solo transcriptions, and duets. He continues to offer private instruction and clinics at universities around the country. Not bad for a Baltimore, Maryland boy who began playing the trombone in the fourth grade (hey that is when I started!) and is primarily self-taught.
Just like her husband, Foti excelled working on films, TV, and recordings, but first I want to talk about her brand-new CD “Prelude to a Kiss”. Foti describes the project this way, "I wanted to sing about what's most important to me right now. I didn't want to sing about romance, but about love, and to celebrate family and the feelings of warmth, tenderness and belonging we all crave. I wanted to sing about home.” She went on to say “pianist-arranger-composer Roger Kellaway, who not only played superbly, he wrote a masterpiece arrangement on Leslie Bricusse's 'When I Look In Your Eyes', which I have always sung to my daughters. We recorded a sweet bossa nova that my Dad wrote for my Mom, called "I Had To Fall In Love With You", and a song I wrote about the pain of leaving home to follow my dreams, called "Goodbye". Duke Ellington's iconic "Prelude To A Kiss", was hauntingly arranged by my uber-talented husband, Bob McChesney, and the final song is a touching pop ballad by wonderful singer Michael Dees, called, appropriately, "I'm Home". She recorded at the legendary Capitol Studios and sang in the same vocal booth as Frank Sinatra did with a full orchestra playing as she sang. With legendary arrangers like Johnny Mandel and Jeremy Lubbock at the podium these recordings are lush, harkening back to the golden years of the great American songbook. This is a must have CD for lovers of classic American songs. This is her fourth CD as a featured vocalist, but she is also a first call violinist who is featured on numerous recordings from Barbara Streisand to bluesman Keb Mo. She created the jazz violin sound for Fox TV’s Lisa Simpson, performed the virtuosic violin solo for the long-running theme to PBS’ Great Performances, and most recently was a featured soloist in the films, Muppets Most Wanted and Sherlock Holmes. Foti is also passionate about music education leading an after-school program for many years and teaching singing and violin privately. To her, seeing the students’ faces light up when she shares something new with them is the greatest gift of all.
Special guests, the Reno Youth Jazz Orchestra (RYJO), will open the show as they have since 2006. Co-founders Karen and Vern Scarbrough have done a masterful job bringing together the best middle and high school musicians and giving them the opportunity to perform throughout the school year. Several former RYJO members now regularly perform with the RJO. This year Leslie Fudge has assembled “Hot Holly Dolls”, a female vocal trio who will join us on two songs. Fudge sang as a part of last year’s gospel choir and is an accomplished vocalist in her own right, leading the Champagne Singers and performing regularly with her pianist husband Bill Hecht.
Come join us December 13th and 14th for a jazzy collection of your Christmas favorites and come “Home for the Holidays”
Chuck Reider is the Executive Director of the Reno Jazz Orchestra
Calabria Foti - Prelude To A Kiss mix
Calabria Foti – The Man With The Horn
Bob McChesney – In Concert
RJO with Bob McChesney and Calabria Foti live 2014 – Just Friends