Sunday, November 16, 2008

Who's Almost Who In Knickerbocker Village History: Si Zentner

Si went to Thomas Jefferson High School. It was from there that
Si Zentner's first instrument was an Olds which he bought for twelve dollars but soon discarded in favor of his High School's bass trombone on which he won the Guggenheim Foundation's Philharmonic Scholarship. Asked to play the F major scale, he started on pedal F and continued up for four octaves.

Living at 409 Belmont Avenue it's possible he crossed paths with Sue Sider Schumer who lived about a half mile away at 99 Williams Avenue.
Comments written by Si Zentner appreciators on a trombone history site:
am just about 60, and went to see Si (sounds like Mel Blanc...) at a place in the Bronx, it was an Amusement Park, actually, called (as I remember it) Freedom Land. Yes, it was pretty big and had a band shell and did summer weekend concerts, and the one I went to (being about a Soph in High School at PCHS, Port Chester High School) was The Everly Bros. and Si Zentner's Big Band. Oh yeah, I wasn't there for Sy, but actually, having grown up with Duke, Count and King (both of them, BB, Nat Cole and King Pleasure to name a few) was ready to enjoy the sounds of a live big band. IT WAS GREAT. Si was a consummate showman, and many "older" couples (not the kids there for the Bros.) got up and cut the asphalt down front near the band. They were doing the numbers from this LP, since some of it was Bossa Nova, and of course, the folks tried to do that, but hey, nobody really KNEW how to Bossa Nova Dance, so it was fake it time. The band performed maybe 45 minutes, and did an encore, which make the teens get a little hootie and antsy, but it was a beautiful summer day, and the concert was FREE with admission, and besides, the EVERLY BROS. were next. A guy came onstage and had a big pompadour and the girls started to scream tentatively, and the guy plugged in his electric guitar, hey, he was only the guitar player!!!! The guys wouldn't fall for that, and waited with arms folded and looked cool. It was a great show, the Everlys did perfect harmony (which they continued to do for another what , 15 or 20 years...) and the girls got to scream on Wake Up Little Suzie... Nice day at the amusement park in the Bronx. circa 63 or 64, I'm thinking.
Hey, it had to be before '64, since it opened in '60 and closed in '64!
Yeah, Freedomland.
I just turned 60...doesn't seem like that many years. I played trombone in a big-band we had in high school in Dayton, Ohio and the guys and myself went to see Si whenever he was in town or nearby. I remember well seeing his band at "Coney Island" park in Cincinnati in the pavilion. We also sneaked into "The Living Room" (underage) to hear Si, Kenton and Basie when they were there. "Desafinado" was my favorite Si album. I almost wore it out playing it. Then one of my friends "borrowed" all of my Zentner LP's for a weekend... and moved with his parents to Michigan and I never saw them again. Oy! I'd love to see all the old stuff re-released on digital media, but only some small selections are currently available. Thanks for posting this.
The thing that was fantastic about the Zentner band was mostly the Bob Florence arrangements. He would take an old tune and not only make it swing, but make it fresh again like it was just written.

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