Five Firsts: Charlie Vatalaro of the Ernie Williams Band

Charlie Vatalaro
Charlie Vatalaro

NAME: Charlie Vatalaro
BAND AFFILIATION: The Ernie Williams Band
INSTRUMENT: saxophone

1. THE FIRST ALBUM I EVER BOUGHT WAS … “The Music From Peter Gunn” by Henry Mancini. The album made a huge impression on me. I was 11 and taking clarinet lessons when I heard Ted Nash play the alto sax solo in “The Peter Gunn Theme.” I knew from then on that I wanted to play saxophone and specialize in playing in the altissimo register like he did. Later, at UMass, I studied arranging and fell in love with the Mancini arrangements all over again.

2. THE FIRST CONCERT THAT I EVER SAW WAS … In 1963, as a high school sophomore, I bribed my way into the old Jazz Workshop, a nightclub that used to be in Copley Square in Boston, and saw Miles Davis. I had never been that close to a world class player before, and it made a hell of an impression.

3. THE FIRST MUSICAL INSTRUMENT I EVER OWNED OR PLAYED WAS … A clarinet. My dad was a blue collar guy who skipped lunches for a year to save up enough to buy me a beat-to-hell used clarinet.

4. THE FIRST SONG THAT I EVER PERFORMED IN PUBLIC WAS … “Lady of Spain” on clarinet in the fifth grade.

5. THE FIRST BAND I WAS EVER IN WAS … I was 14 years old, knew a handful of standards, and got a gig playing saxophone with a piano trio with a girl singer. They worked four nights a week, and I came in only on Saturdays. The band worked all the clubs up and down the old Revere Beach just outside Boston.

Saxman Charlie Vatalaro will team up with the rest of the Ernie Williams Band – guitarists Joe Mele and Mark Emanatian, drummer Rocky Petrocelli, keyboardist Mike Kelley and bassist Steve Aldi – at 7pm on Friday (June 1) at Brown’s Revolution Hall in Troy to pay tribute to their former bandleader Ernie Williams, who died in March. Joining in at the “Ernie Williams Remembered … A Night of Music and Memories” concert will be the Bluz House Rockers and Captain Squeeze & the Zydeco Moshers. Proceeds from the concert will go to Ernie’s family, and a $10 minimum donation is requested for admission. Doors open at 6pm.

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