Glenn Kostur Interview
Former MF sax player Glenn Kostur recently took the time to answer some questions about his time with Big Bop Nouveau in a Maynard Ferguson Tribute Page Interview!
I grew up in Salem, Oregon and started playing the saxophone when I was six. My dad and older brother also played the saxophone and were into jazz, so I got exposed to jazz at an early age. After I graduated from high school, I went to the University of North Texas. I finished my bachelor's degree there in jazz studies and played in the One O'Clock Lab Band for two years (recorded on Lab'87 and Lab'88). After I got off Maynard's band I moved to Chicago and did a master's degree in Jazz Studies at DePaul University.
I play all of the saxophones. When I was in the One O'Clock I was doing a lot of bari playing, so when I heard that Maynard was looking for players, I sent a tape of my bari playing. I'm sort of a trumpet hobbyist. I never studied or developed much technique on trumpet, but I fooled around with it enough to learn to pound out some high notes. So when I was on the band Maynard would have me do some trumpet schtick. I'd play a few notes on Glenn's Den and play on Hey Jude in the Hit Medley. I meet lots of people who remember me more for those few measures of trumpet playing than for all of my saxophone work!!
I listen to a lot of different people. I never get tired of listening to John Coltrane. I love Cannonball Adderly's playing, and of course, Charlie Parker. But of current players, I like Bob Mintzer's playing a lot. At the IAJE Conference in New York this January I heard George Garzone, a tenor player from Boston, and he was phenomenal! I also like Walt Weiskopf, another tenor player from New York. As for big band writers, I've been checking out a CD of Jim McNeeley's compositions recorded by the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, and I also love Maria Schneider's writing.
I joined in the fall of 1988. Maynard had his 60th birthday that year, and he was doing the High Voltage band. I was at North Texas and heard through the grapevine that Maynard was going to be hiring a big band horn section to add to High Voltage for the 60th Birthday Big Band Tour. Steve Wiest had gotten off of Maynard's band a couple years before and was going to school at North Texas, and he offered to recommend me. So I gave him a tape of some of my playing and a short resume of my playing experience and Steve sent it in along with a note from him. That helped a lot, because even if someone is a great player, they won't get the gig if they are impossible to live with. So having a recommendation from someone that Maynard knew was very important.
Anyway, I got a call that summer from Jim Exon (Maynard's son-in-law and former Manager) and went out at the end of September for a 6-week tour around the U.S. We ended the tour with a recording session (on Halloween) that resulted in the Big Bop Nouveau CD. The next day we all went back to our homes and Maynard left for a High Voltage tour of Japan. I went back to Texas and was planning to go back to school. Several months later, I got another call from Jim Exon. Maynard was going to put together a 5-horn band and wanted to know if I played any saxes besides bari. I told them that I was basically making my living in Dallas as a tenor player and that I also played alto. So that fall ('89) it was back to Ojai for rehearsals with the new Big Bop Nouveau Band. The band was Matt Wallace and myself on saxophones, Craig Johnson and Walter White on trumpets, Mike Fahn on valve trombone and the rhythm section was Chris Ishee on keyboard, Les King on bass and Anthony Cerabino on drums. I stayed on the band full-time into May of 1991.
Playing with Maynard's band was definitely a unique experience! It is a very entertainment oriented band. When we played, we worked hard to sound great, but between tunes things were fun and very relaxed. Certainly a different vibe than the stories I heard about Buddy Rich's band!! It was fun getting to play a lot of different styles of music. From Latin charts to straight ahead swingers to Chameleon and Hey Jude, we covered a lot of ground, but Maynard always wanted to make sure the audience was satisfied. Maynard talks about having a vaudeville type of background and as a result, it wasn't just a music concert, it was an entertainment event that used great music as the medium.
I wrote "Get It To Go" one night in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. We had been playing the same tunes for a while and I was looking forward to getting something new in the book. I figured we could use a good, fast, short opener, so I sat down to write a minor blues. I even included some of Maynard's favorite licks in the melody. I was hoping that would help him feel comfortable with the tune, and it worked!
Playing with the Boss was great. As I mentioned, he wanted the audience to have a great time and he also wanted his musicians to have a great time. He was very generous about letting everybody on the band have room to play on the bandstand. We all got to be featured, and we all felt like we were making a contribution to the music.
There were a couple of concerts that stick out. We played at the Jacksonville Jazz Festival in Florida in October of '88 for a huge crowd. That was fun, even though we were beat from a very long overnight bus ride. There were a couple of concerts that my family came to. There was one at a high school in Oregon where my older brother was the high school principal. As I mentioned, he also is a saxophone player, so Maynard let him sit in on the Hit Medley at the end of the concert. That was a blast!
I think one of the best things I learned from Maynard was about his amazing energy. It didn't matter whether we were playing for 10,000 people or for 200 people in a high school gym in the middle of nowhere. We might be tired and burned out from a long tour, but Maynard would hit the stage with such a burst of energy that I felt like I should probably step up my performance to support that.
I'm just finishing up my third year as the director of Jazz Studies at the University of New Mexico. I teach the two big bands, improv classes, and coach combos. Albuquerque is a beautiful place to live, and I get a fair amount of playing. There are some very good jazz players in town. I'm hoping to get a CD project recorded this summer and have it out in the fall.
Thanks, Matt, for inviting me to talk to you. I've checked out your web page many times and I think it's great that Maynard has such terrific fans. Keep up the good work.