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69 Blowing Alto in the City of the Angels Noble Lono and Local 47 Fall semester, 1956, I enrolled with my GI Bill of Rights as a music major at LACC, Los Angeles City College. I signed up to take all kind of stuff— history, psychology, biology, and so on—but I was there for the music. I went—I think my brother Norman told me about it first—because they had a stage band program, a jazz program. See, in addition to preparing you for a regular four-year degree in music, they had a commercial curriculum where you could study big-band arranging, copying, jazz theory, and play in big bands and combos for college credit, which was very rare those days. We got an apartment off Vermont Avenue, right next to the campus, and Eleise got a job. Well, she had a few jobs while we were in LA, but one of them was working for the orthopedic hospital. Oscar Moore’s wife, the guitar player with Nat King Cole, was working with Eleise, so they became good friends. And I enrolled and, man, a lot of guys who play good today, that you hear everywhere, were going to school there. There were also guys from the name bands who were off the road, who were just cooling out, like Bob Florence. You had Med Flory from Supersax, Charlie Shoemaker, fine vibes player. He’s on the sound track for Bird, Clint Eastwood’s movie.You had BillTrujillo, who was known for his work with Stan Kenton. We went to school together, me and Bill. We had a quintet that played a lot. So all those cats. And we were all the same age. And they had a good band director, Bob MacDonald. He was an arranger who worked with Glenn Miller, Red Norvo, Bunny Berrigan. Anddigthis.Theyhadaboutsix,sevenjazzclubscloseby.Imean,justaround Hollywood you had Zardi’s, the Crescendo, the Purple Onion, and a bunch of others. Shorty Rogers was here, Dexter Gordon was there, and there was always something going on. Carl Perkins. Shelly Manne. Curtis Counce. Frank Rosolino. The fine jazz players, Herb Geller. Name ’em, you know. Sonny Stitt, Sonny Criss. A lot of the Southern California jazz guys were there. It’s just endless. They were 3 70 • C h a p t e r 3 all playing in the neighborhood, and I was hearing them all play, so the music was really jumping. And one of the first things I did when I got to LA was go straight to Noble Lono’s house. Noble was from Hawai‘i and he was Hawaiian, a real, true, fullblooded Hawaiian. He was born on the Big Island in North Kohala, where Kamehameha the First was born. And Noble, he loved jazz. He played good piano, but he was mainly a saxophone player. Then again, he played clarinet, and he played trumpet too, because he loved Benny Carter, and Benny played trumpet and saxophone. Well anyway, Noble, he was like the Benny Carter of Hawai‘i. Of North Kohala. And he was a kick, because he was a Hawaiian philosopher. He loved to talk about life, so we’d always sit down and have coffee and talk. I knew Noble from the dance-hall days. Matter of fact, we grew up together since the ’40s, when he got out of the service. He was in the Hawaiian National Guard, because he was in Guadalcanal and all that, with the 298th Infantry. So he was older than me, about seven years, maybe. And we used to hang out and jam, with Danny Barcelona, all us guys, Harry Oh, Raymond Lara, René Paulo. That era, back in the ’40s. We jammed all over, parties, dance halls. Yeah, he was quite a guy. We had a lot of fun with him. And, like a lot of Hawai‘i musicians at that time, like me, Noble wanted to go to the mainland, so he went to San Francisco and stayed in Stockton for a while, then Los Angeles. So when I went to LA in ’56 I hooked up with him again, went straight to his apartment. “Hey Noble, I’m in town, man. Going to City College.” So we hung out. He was working around LA, working Chinatown, playing piano, putting together bands, things like that. I remember one guy used to play in his bands, a Chinese guitar player named Shampoo. I only know him as Shampoo. I...


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