Al Natale: Penthouse Tenant
Although trumpeter and bandleader Al Natale never called himself a jazz musician, I would be remiss if I did not remember him in this jazzy blog. Al was a generous man who liked to help people, and he helped me when I was writing The Boston Jazz Chronicles. But Natale, who died on April 28, 2020 at age 96, did play a noteworthy role at one of Boston’s famous bygone clubs, Paul’s Mall. He led that club’s first house band. Al Natale was the original Penthouse Tenant in 1964.
It took him a while to work his way to the penthouse. Natale started with music as a kid, playing bugle, then trumpet, in the band at St Anthony’s School in the North End. His dad was a weekend musician, and he helped Al with reading and ear training. In the mid 1930s, Al advanced to dance bands, then a theater pit band, while in high school. His teacher was Ralph Fuccillo, the lead trumpet in the RKO Boston Theatre orchestra. Al told me, “Ralph got me on the band. I was a good reader, and that’s what you needed to be to work all the different shows. Larry Flint was the conductor, and he’d recommend me as a substitute when visiting bands needed a trumpet player. I worked with Bobby Sherwood, Freddie Slack, Charlie Spivak…That’s how I came to join Bob Chester’s band.”
On the Road with Bob Chester
Chester was in Philadelphia when he called Natale with a job offer. Natale hung up the phone and raced to Philadelphia, joining the band at the Earle Theatre. Thus began his life as a big band road warrior. “I’m all of 17 or 18, a kid from the North End never much farther from home than Scollay Square, and here I am, working at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City opposite Harry James. Fabulous.” Chester’s was a talented band, and Al worked alongside drummer Irv Kluger, saxophonist John LaPorta, and the extraordinary trombonist Bill Harris.
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