Sammy Nestico, prolific composer and arranger for Count Basie, dies at 96

Sammy Nestico, the composer and arranger best known for his work with the Count Basie Orchestra, has died. He was 96.

Along with being one of the most prolific big band composers and arrangers of his time, Nestico was also a beloved and highly in-demand educator, clinician and guest conductor who mentored and influenced multiple generations of jazz musicians.

Nestico arranged music for the Count Basie Orchestra from 1967 to 1984, and wrote arrangements for the U.S. Air Force Band for 15 years and the U.S. Marine Band for five years.

He is also known for arranging and conducting projects for a long list of artists including Frank Sinatra, Phil Collins, Barbra Streisand, Bing Crosby, Sarah Vaughan and Toni Tennille. He also played trombone for the likes of Tommy Dorsey, Woody Herman, Gene Krupa and Charlie Barnet.

The family of Nestico announced his death on Facebook on Jan. 17, with hundreds of tributes pouring in from fans and former colleagues.

“Please honour him through his music by keeping his music alive,” Nestico’s wife Shirley said.

Overseas, Nestico conducted and recorded his arrangements with several leading European radio jazz orchestras, including the BBC Big Band in England, the DR Big Band in Denmark and the SWR Big Band and NDR Bigband in Germany.

Nestico taught, directed, and developed music programs at a number of schools and colleges, publishing hundreds of arrangements for school bands and further cementing his legacy.

“Sammy Nestico left a wonderful library for young musicians, community musicians and professionals to enjoy for generations,” said Jules Estrin, musical director of the JAZZ.FM91 Youth Big Band.

He also worked on nearly 70 films and TV programs and composed a number of commercial jingles for various companies.

Recommended Links