Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Reunion helps connect old friends, new friends

As usual, the reunion party for my old (and I mean really old) high school, Willoughby Union, was a resounding success.

And, as usual, the mention of the upcoming affair in this space a few weeks prior to the event was greatly appreciated by Ed Glavac, organizer and chief purveyor of the party. He says the notoriety helps build attendance to well over 200 souls.

This year, however, he asked me to publish a second column after the reunion in the belief that every little bit helps when it comes to promoting next year’s party.

I told him, “Sorry, Ed. I would have no reason to write about the event after it’s over. Let’s wait until next year before we write about it again.”

So I will follow my own advice and wait until next year. Except for today.

I am making an exception to my own rule today because there are a couple of things I want to say.

First, about the bandleader. The Joey Tomsick Orchestra has been playing at the reunions for as long as I can remember. He plays very dance-able music for the people of the generation that attends. And let’s face it, it’s my generation.

He plays slow dance music, a few jitterbug numbers, and, as you might expect from an accordion player from Euclid, an occasional polka.

But I never really knew Joey. Then I read that he is the new executive director of the Lake County Council on Aging. And then Bob Cahen and I just knew we had to get to know him better. Bob is executive director of the Lakeland Foundation. I work very closely with him at the college.

The college foundation and the Council on Aging are two of the partners in our Leave a Legacy program, along with the Lake County History Center, the Lake-Geauga Fund of the Cleveland Foundation, Holden Arboretum, Lake Health, The News-Herald and radio station WELW.

So Bob and I invited Joey to breakfast one day at Yours Truly in Mentor, we got to know Joey much better, and by the evening of the dance, the bandleader and I were acting like old buddies.

But second, and just as important, the lady of the house and I got to meet Don and Michele Miller of Eastlake (WUHS ‘52) and spend some time talking about something very important — at least to me and Don. The subject was jazz.

We have swapped CDs for at least five years, but knew each other only through the mail. We had exchanged many hours of indispensable music, and at the dance talked about other CDs we felt were mandatory for the other’s musical edification and enlightenment.

Within a few days, I sent him two discs of the Frank Capp Juggernaut, including one that is an all-time favorite of mine. It is called “Play it Again Sam,” and consists of compositions and arrangements by Sammy Nestico. If you know jazz, you know Sammy Nestico.

I also sent him a CD by the Terry Gibbs Dream Band, which is a powerhouse of a group.

In return, Don sent me two CDs which are treasures. One he called “a real treat for you.” It is the same Sammy Nestico and the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, recorded in 1998 at the Fairmount Temple Auditorium in Beachwood. I must confess I had never heard it. (I have heard it many times now).

Don called it, “the best big band record I have ever heard.” He quoted Nestico as saying, “this sax section is the best I have ever worked with,” which is high praise indeed, as Don pointed out, “coming from someone who arranged for Count Basie.”

But the second CD he sent was one I had to hear to believe. It was an aggregate Don had put together with a great deal of imagination and devotion to the cause. He called it “something a little extra,” and he asked for my opinion of it. My opinion is very high.

He termed it “a CD I call ‘Melody, Harmony, Rhythm and Form.’ Music the old-fashioned way. Some of my favorites.”

There are 21 tunes, featuring the likes of Tom Jones, Judy Garland, Cleo Laine, Kate Smith (If He Walked into My Life), Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney (50 Ways to Leave Your Lover), Kate Smith, Steve and Eydie, Vera Lynn and even (get this) Orson Wells.

“So if you have an extra 73 minutes and 45 seconds,” Don wrote, “listen and tell me what you think.”

What I think is that it is first-rate. I will keep it in my car, which is the highest compliment I can pay a CD.


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