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|Personalities -- by Phil Cartwright
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Dr. Bruce Lehtinen:
Those of you who have seen and heard Bruce Lehtinen play know him as a very precise and studied musician. He
has extremely accurate intonation and impeccable rhythm. He has a great ear and has wonderful improvisational
skills. His erect bearing is also no nonsense. Bruce is pictured here with a friend and with the Earlville Jazz Band. I
have a theory about how Bruce has become such a good technical player as well as jazzer. First, though, a bit of
Unlike many musicians, Bruce grew up in a non-musical family. Well, non-musical in the sense that neither parents
nor his two older sisters played an instrument. However, his father had a great voice and a love for lyrics. He
was the source of old songs for Bruce’s young ears.
In 4th grade, the local school in Ashtabula Harbor offered music instruction. Like many kids growing up in the 40’
s, the decision about which instrument he would play was determined by what old instrument was available. That’
s how Bruce wound up playing the trombone. He stayed with it all the way through high school band, taking
private lessons and performing at solo contests. He loved every aspect of music except marching band which he
hated. By 12th grade he was pretty serious about music and briefly considered it for a career, but in the end he
opted for engineering.
Things changed when Bruce entered the mechanical engineering program at Case Institute of Technology. He
found that his studies required most of his time. Plus, during his junior year, he re-met Arlene (they went to high
school together) and that took up a lot of time!! They married in his senior year.
In 1960, Bruce began his engineering career at AMF in Stamford, CT. and dusted off his trombone. He joined the
Stamford Symphony, the Stamford Community Band and the Norwalk Symphony.
Two and one half years later, Bruce and Arlene returned to Cleveland where Bruce attended graduate school,
again at Case. There he received an MS and PhD in engineering, specializing in control systems.
After graduation, Bruce took a position in research at NASA Lewis (now NASA Glenn) where he worked for 29
years. While there, he was involved with a wide variety of research projects in the area of controls for aircraft
propulsion systems. Projects included some secret ones like the SR-71 Blackbird.
Shortly after Bruce started at NASA, he and Arlene began playing recorders, taking group lessons at Baldwin
Wallace. The recorder group continued for 5 years, until someone in the group had the bright idea that Bruce
should play the sackbut (an ancient version of the trombone). That’s when he decided to haul out the real
trombone!!! Once again he dusted it off and joined the Berea Community Band and later the Tri-C Western
Campus Community Band.
In 1985, Al Kinney learned of Bruce through a mutual friend. Al called Bruce, inviting him to sit in with a
rehearsal dixieland band. Bruce declined, knowing that to play dixieland properly you had to play “by ear”. He
had always played with written music. Al called again and Bruce decided why not give it a try. The rehearsal
band eventually morphed into the Dixie Ramblers. They had weekly rehearsals and then a few public jobs. From
this experience and Al’s guidance, Bruce learned about fake books, what recordings to listen to, the importance of
“the beat” and most importantly, the joy of playing without being burdened by the written notes.
Bruce and Arlene joined EARLYJAS shortly after it was founded and became regulars both at EARLYJAS jam
sessions and at the Peninsula Library sessions. It was here that Bruce met string bass/trombone player, Newman
Williams, who became a friend and mentor. From Newman Bruce learned that whether listening to or playing
jazz, it is essential to know each and every note in a tune and be able to hum the tune in your head during
improvisations. Newman also explained jazz group etiquette (“Don’t lead the singer” was one of his maxims) and
emphasized the importance of listening to each player in the group.
After retirement from NASA, Bruce joined the jazz studies program at the Tri-C Metro Campus, taking private
lessons with the distinguished jazz trombonist, composer and arranger, Gary Carney. During these years, he also
learned a great deal by playing in various CCC jazz ensembles lead by jazz great Ernie Krivda.
In the meantime, Bruce became a regular with Dan Zola’s River Hawks and later with the Earlville Jazz Band, the
River City Jazz Band, and recently, the New Orleans Jazz Ensemble. He is a ‘regular’ sub with other bands such as
the Night Owls, Hymns of Dixie, and the New Orleans Stompers. In addition to dixieland, Bruce also finds time to
play with two 18 piece big bands: the Cleveland TOPS Swing Band and the Townsmen, and with the four-piece
LBJ dance band. Occasionally he still performs with concert bands and brass quartettes.
Bruce’s earliest jazz influences were through the recordings of Kid Ory and Pete Daily for dixieland and Tommy
Dorsey, J.J. Johnson, Stan Kenton and the Four Freshmen for more mainstream styles. Today, for trad music, he
regards the South Frisco JB a great band and enjoys the trombone style of Tom Bartlett. For mainstream jazz, he
listens to the Count Basie Orchestra, and trombonists Gary Carney, Andy Martin, and Conrad Herwig.
In recent years, Bruce has played on a number of recordings: Lew Kunkle’s Benitos Band, The Night Owls, George
Foley and his Rhythm, the LBJ band, and the Cleveland TOPS Swing Band. (He feels honored to be playing lead
trombone with the many topnotch professional musicians that make up the Cleveland TOPS Swing Band -
including two retirees from the Cleveland Orchestra).
Now, my theory of why Dr. Lehtinen is such a polished articulate player: 1. He has lots of formal training in
orchestral symphony work. 2. He is an engineer!! He likes precision and he likes to find the exact answers to
There is a new YOUNG traditional jazz band on the scene! Average age of the Any Measure Jazz Band is around
20+. Excellent musicians, all students at the Cleveland Institute of Music. The leader is banjoist Glenn Crytzer.
Other members of the 7 piece band are: Jesse Lewis, trumpet; Colleen Corning, clarinet; Tom Pylinski, trombone;
Jacob Adams, piano; Nathan Hollis and Matt Lefevere, drums; and Andrew Welborn, tuba.
The band made its debut on December 10, 2005 at the Barking Spider in Cleveland. There was a small but
enthusiastic crowd that greeted this newborn band. We did not have much notice of their appearance but
Charlotte Reid tried to inform us of the date. Those of us who were able to be there at their opening session were
privileged to see an exuberant talented young band. Jack Botten took the picture.
I was impressed by the fact that these young musicians, each of whom has mastery of his/her instrument and can
read anything placed in front of them, want to play the improvised style of traditional jazz. Their main sources of
music are the classic recordings of Armstrong, Morton and others of the 1920s jazz age. They don’t use stock
arrangements or any printed arrangements at all. Instead, they all use the same lead sheet or fake book and
improvise their individual parts.
Not only are they excellent musicians but they have a great selection of both well known and not so well known
tunes. For example: That’s A Plenty and High Society; Strut Miss Lizzie and Hard Hearted Hannah; Georgia on my
Mind, Sweet Georgia Brown; Ain’t Misbehavin’; Huggin' and Chalkin' and Shake That Thing; , She's Makin' Eyes at Me
and Alexander's Ragtime Band. They do verses as well as the more familiar choruses. Rarely do you hear the verse
to I Found A New Baby! They do a nice mix of instrumentals and vocals. They also throw in some great stride
piano by pianist Jacob Adams .Some of the less well known but neat vocals were Here Comes The Hot Tamale Man
and Never Hit Grandma With A Shovel. Glenn Crytzer does most of the vocals and sang one you rarely hear. It is
the story of Miss Hannah Johnson who falls on hard times and must sell her jackass to make ends meet. The title
of the song isHannah Johnson's Big Black Ass Is on the Block for Sale.
One of the major goals of EARLYJAS is to encourage traditional jazz. I am hopeful that we can encourage the Any
Measure Jazz Band to keep playing our traditional jazz music, perhaps at one of our monthly sessions.
|Earlville Association for Ragtime Lovers Yearning
for Jazz Advancement and Socialization