Next in our new series of interviews with some of Central Ohio’s finest jazz musicians is drummer and bandleader Rick Brunetto. Brunetto has led the Rick Brunetto Big Band since 1984, including a standing Thursday night show at the 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant on the East Side since 1989. Besides playing with and leading many local greats, he has conducted and directed concerts with many international artists including Louis Bellson, Frank Foster, Marvin Stamm, and Bill Watrous. Brunetto has taught music at a handful of Ohio colleges, including twenty years of service at Denison University. Brunetto was kind enough to take the time to answer our questions and provide a deeper look into his musical background and interests:
When and why did you start playing music and jazz?
Rick Brunetto (RB): My father owned a night club in Piqua, Ohio. They had live bands there playing jazz and standards. So I was exposed to that music as a young child. In school I was in the band and and started a rock band in High School. Even though I grew up in the classic rock era I had a love of the old standards and jazz. I went to school at the University of Cincinnati as a music major and music has been my life since.
Who are some of your main influences in your playing/performing?
RB: As a drummer I had all of the Buddy Rich records so I listened to them to learn big band drumming. Also listened to Count Basie. When I first moved to Columbus in 1974 I joined the Bob Allen Trio at the Christopher Inn where we played six nights a week. I was with Bob for 13 years. That was a great experience for me as well and probably helped shape my entire musical future. I had a chance to meet the great drummer Louis Bellson in 1986 and formed a friendship that was also very influential to me.
What is your fondest musical memory?
RB: I have had so many it is difficult to say. In the past few years I have formed a working relationship with Deana Martin, daughter of Dean Martin. I have done arranging and performing with her. In May of 2013 she took my entire band to Caesars Palace in Atlantic City to play with her. Playing on that stage was the thrill of a lifetime.
What are you listening to today? What’s on your playlist?
RB: I listen to Sinatra, love the big band arrangements done for him. Still love Basie, Dorsey and the old big bands. Also still love classic rock. Some of my favorite bands are Chicago and Earth, Wind & Fire. I am also a Barry Manilow fan. I think he has done some great work and just saw his concert in Columbus recently.
What inspires you about the Columbus Jazz scene?
RB: Columbus is so blessed to have some of the best musicians anywhere here. So there are always opportunities to hear some great live music. Even though the live club scene has diminished there are still some places that keep it going and I am grateful for that.
What are you working on for 2015? Any new projects, exciting shows or releases?
RB: The Rick Brunetto Big Band continues to play every Thursday night at the 94th Aero Squadron. This June will mark 26 years for us. We have been producing our own theme shows the past couple years. This year we are planning a Sinatra 100th Birthday tribute show. Also working on a Motown show that will be fun with the big big band. So stay posted.
For more info, visit www.rickbrunetto.com.