The Fabulous Esquires Big Band

In 1958, four teenagers approached Paul Colaluca and asked for his help in forming a dance band in the likeness of Glenn Miller. Thinking the idea was a crazy one, he sent the teens off with the mission of recruiting five saxes, four trumpets, four trombones, a bass, drums, guitar and a piano. He didn’t plan on seeing them again. But they returned a month later, ready to rehearse. The teens were persistent and persuasive. The rest, they say, is history!

It was Stan Kenton who suggested to Paul Colaluca that the training program become a non-profit foundation, giving many generations of students access to and training in big band swing music. The Esquire Music Foundation was formally established in 1967.
Eric Brundin

Eric Brundin

Director and Band Conductor

Instrument: Trombone. I also double on baton and finger snapping, … which can be quite challenging for a trombonist.

Year Joined the Band: 1982

Favorite Esquires Tune: I love the sweet, romantic story and melody of “Polka Dots and Moonbeams”. Another favorite, “Kalamazoo”, is a tune that Betsy and I had a lot of fun with when we were engaged. It also reminds us of special times we had the privilege of meeting Tex Beneke when he used to perform at Carnation Garden in Disneyland.

Musical Influences: I have always listened to vocalists to learn how to express the meaning and emotion of music instrumentally. Early influences for me included Al Jarreau, the Yellow Jackets, and Manhattan Transfer. Later, as I heard more big band era music I learned to appreciate the unparalleled breath control and phrasing of Tommy Dorsey and his student, Frank Sinatra. Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Torme, and Nat King Cole were all brilliant at weaving both notes and rhythms in complex ways that flow naturally, not leaving you with a furrowed brow. Bottom line, though, is that music should be fun. Fats Waller, Jack Sheldon, Jack Feierman, Paul Smith, Louis Prima, and Tommy Pederson, along with all the folks listed above, have really typified that for me. If there are names on this list that you don’t know, I think it would be well worth your time to look them up.

Studying / Profession: I am the K-12 Science Curriculum Leader for Long Beach Unified School District, the district from which I graduated and where I taught chemistry, physics, and physical science for a little over a decade. I am very proud to be part of teacher support for a nationally recognized top urban school district (2002, 2003, and 2007 Broad Prize recipient). Long Beach is the most diverse city in the U.S. according to the last census and our students and teachers are a lot of fun and fantastic to work with.

Hobbies: I love playing tennis, learning humility on the golf course, wrestling with my kids, and watching great swing dancers.

A Little Something About You: Although I basically speak for a living as a teacher and professional developer, I am an idiot with a microphone. I have discovered that although I have mastered walking and chewing gum at the same time, directing the band and talking on a microphone at the same time are beyond me, so you will rarely see me do that. (Once a trombonist, … )

Best Part of Being an Esquire: Without a doubt, the BEST part was meeting my beautiful wife, Betsy (another trombonist). Besides that there are two really rewarding things: seeing young musical instrument operators grow into musicians, and watching young and old dancers lose themselves in music and dance – sometimes even in romance.

Kathleen Jequinto

Kathleen Jequinto

Vocalist

Year Joined the Band: 2010

Favorite Esquires Tune: The Coffee Song – For obvious reasons. There are also favorites songs that I will forever strive to sing at a level of the greats: All the Things You Are, Murder, He Says!, Mack the Knife, I Left My Heart in San Francisco…

Musical Influences: The King of Clarinet, Artie Shaw! With a little variety, here goes: Helen O’Connell, Anita O’Day, Leslie Feist, Mark Ronson, Amy Winehouse, Rosemary Clooney, Norah Jones, Sam Cooke, Joni Mitchell, Peggy Lee, Barbara Morrison, Miss Ella Fitzgerald (circa 1935).

Studying / Profession: I earned my B.A. in Communication and minor in Ethnomusicology from U.C. Santa Barbara in 2010 and went straight to music everything. I am the Marketing & Development Director for Kings and Clowns, Inc. – an educational nonprofit focused on providing access to high quality arts education for elementary level students in Southern California.

Hobbies: Outside of singing, I enjoy teaching young pianists. I love drinking coffee on off-gig weeks, tinkling the ivories, attending concerts, and living the beautiful California life.

A Little Something About You: As a South Bay native, I’ve known the Esquires since I was 12. Growing up, I performed and competed both locally and internationally so I was introduced to many musicians. At times that included a few of the well-rounded Esquires! I’ve always enjoyed songwriting and performing in many genres (soul, funk, jazz, alternative rock), but my eyes were only recently opened to the classic swing era once I graduated from college.

Best Part of Being an Esquire: Having the opportunity to share this era of music with those who might know little about it to those who know it inside and out. Though what I love the most about the Esquires is that I am surrounded by an incredibly talented group of people who, no matter what age or level of experience, strive to improve as musicians. They constantly challenge me to become a stronger performer and vocalist.

Henry Mitchell

Henry Mitchell

Trumpet
Darren Atkins

Darren Atkins

Tenor Sax

Instrument: Tenor Sax

Year Joined the Band: 2001

Favorite Esquires Tune: You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To

Musical Influences: Ben Webster, King Curtis, Coleman Hawkins, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Michael Brecker, Vince Trombetta, Lew Tabackin, David Sanborn and more….

Studying / Profession: Senior Account Executive for SCS, Inc., a Gold Certified Microsoft Dynamics partner, specializing in providing state-of-the-art business solutions personalized to improve efficiency and productivity: www.scsdynamics.com

Hobbies: Cycling, Reading, Hiking, Doubles (flute, clarinet, other saxes) and I have been known to swing dance on occasion.

A Little Something About You: In my younger days, I was a nationally ranked junior sabre fencer; I have had careers as a house painter and market researcher.

Best Part of Being an Esquire: At age 13, my first music teacher was from the big band era and it was always my dream to play in the screaming horn section of a big band. In the early 80’s, I thought that swing and big band had disappeared from the face of the earth and that the only opportunities in L.A. were smoke-filled and very loud rock clubs where I had occasion to play. When the swing scene revived in the mid-90’s, seeing people swing dancing at The Derby to live music was just too good to be true. Having the opportunity to play and bring to life the awesome music of the Swing Era and to introduce it to the next generations is something that I never thought I would be able to experience this lifetime.

Mel Flores

Mel Flores

Drums

Instrument: Drum set, hand percussion, and Hydraulophone (only when having lucid, fantastical daydreams)

Year Joined the Band: 2013

Favorite Esquires Tune: What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve or Sing Sing Sing : )

Musical Influences: Good Music of whatever genre! But I’ve been very much influenced by Phil Collins, Genesis, and Sting

Studying / Profession: Studied psychology in order to judge others and myself simultaneously more stringently and mercifully.

Hobbies: Pretending I want to do anything other than play music for a living

A Little Something About You: Based in Los Angeles, Mel has been playing drums and percussion live and in the studio for over 25 years and has performed internationally and across the United States with a variety of artists across multiple genres. Believing his musical talents are a gift from Jesus, Mel is blessed be part of the Fabulous Esquires Big Band. Also, I’m full-blooded Puerto Rican!

Best Part of Being an Esquire: Getting to interact with the other musicians and pass on Big Band Swing music.

Eric Bierke

Eric Bierke

Bassist

Year Joined the Band:
1981 (yes, over 30 years ago! YIKES!)

Favorite Esquires Tune:
“Just The Way You Look Tonight” and “L-O-V-E”

Musical Influences:
There have been (and still are) so many musical influences that it is hard to pinpoint one or two, but they hall all molded me and given me the “big picture”. Let’s just say, jazz, big band, musical theatre and contemporary music: Paul Colaluca (the founder of The Esquires), Stan Kenton Orchestra, anything musical theater (“The Music Man”, “Damn Yankees”…), The Tubes, Frank Zappa….

Studying / Profession:
Studied Music with a Business background in college, then went on tour professionally with The Ink Spots, Shirley Jones, Anna Maria Alberghetti, Ben Vereen, Marni Nixon, Maxine Andrews, Patty Andrews, and Harry Babbitt with the Kaye Kyser Orchestra. I also led my own big band for seventeen years. Currently employed as an independent owner and operator in the expedited freight industry, member of NICA and am a freelance musician in the LA and Orange County areas.

Hobbies:
Putzing around on my computer, visiting far off exotic places, home repair, auto repair, hanging out and socializing

A Little Something About You:
I started out playing the violin back in Wisconsin, then picked up the trombone when we moved to California, and the bass came pretty soon after that. I have two wonderful boys that are entering young adulthood, and a van that has over 573,000 miles on it (!)

Best Part of Being an Esquire:
“Once an Esquire, always an Esquire.” One of the best parts of being an Esquire is to be part of a family that has brothers and sister, several of us have been together for many years. I’ve seen marriages happen, hair turning gray, and still the Esquires go on. We work with very talented musicians, and meet people from all walks of life. Also, watching the younger members grow and develop into fine musicians. It all comes full circle.

Crystal Raymond

Crystal Raymond

Saxophone | Clarinet

Allow us to introduce you to….

Crystal Raymond

Instrument: Tenor/Alto/Soprano Sax with a little Clarinet on the side

Year Joined the Band: 1991 with a break from late 1998-2003 (the 435 mile 1 way commute was a little hard to make)

Favorite Esquires Tune: Sing Sing Sing, In the Mood, Moonlight Cocktails

Musical Influences: too many to count…!

Studying / Profession: Coordinator-Online Products/New Business for EBSCO Information Services-Los Angeles office

Hobbies: Gardening, Bowling, Baking, Arts and Crafts, and raising my daughter

A Little Something About You: I started my musical experience by learning piano, then moved to Accordian when Accordian playing was the thing to do. I started playing the sax in 4th grade and the rest is history. In college I loved a challenge so I learned to play Clarinet in 1 month’s time to help out my old High School as they toured Ontario Canada, then I learned to play Tuba on a dare.

Best Part of Being an Esquire: I enjoy teaching and sharing the music of this Great Era (Swing, that is) I love watching the dancers on the floor as they dance to the the music. The energy is incredible, with the band feeding off the dancers and the dancers off the band. It is such a rush. I also love to see the faces of those that are hearing the music for the first or maybe even the last time. You can see how the music sweeps them away.

Alex Hille

Alex Hille

Trumpet
Danny Freyer

Danny Freyer

Vocalist

Instrument: Singer, rehearsal pianist, and on rare occasions sub guitarist.
Year Joined the Band: 2006 (holy cow!)
Favorite Esquires Tune: Every Nelson Riddle and Billy May arrangement for Frank Sinatra!
Musical Influences: Singin’: Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Louis Prima, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Big Joe Williams, Writing: Beethoven, Cole Porter, The Beatles, Duke Ellington, Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry, Lyle Lovett, Tom Waits, Gershwin, Cahn & VanHuesen, Lerner & Leowe, etc.Who’d I miss?
Studying / Profession: studied singing with Dini Clarke, Annette (Warren) Smith
Hobbies: songwriting
A Little Something About You: Here is what music can do! I once sang “Love is Lovelier / The Second Time Around,” and dedicated it to a couple in the audience. This helped rekindle the spark of love between them, they told me. They became engaged and I sang for their engagement party. Today they are happily married! Music can inspire love!
Best Part of Being an Esquire: Swinging to the beautiful big band sounds of yesteryear for an appreciative audience of dancers and Big Band lovers!
Being told by happily married couples how much my singing and the Esquires were the life of their very special day and memories, long after their wedding!

Dane Thompson

Dane Thompson

Vocalist

Year Joined the Band: 2017

Favorite Esquires Tune: “I’ve got you under my skin”

Musical Influences: Frank Sinatra, Andrea Bocelli, Ray Charles, Nat King Cole, Otis Redding, Robert Plant, The Eagles, Duke Ellington, Bach, Yanni, Josh Groban, Marc Anthony, Bill Withers, Muse, Michael Jackson, Jonny Lang, John Mayer, Jason Mraz, Wolf And The Wondershow, Kanye West, Barry White, Rodrigo y Gabriella, Gene Harris, Donny Hathaway, Bob Marley, J Boog, Michael Bublè, Freddie Mercury, Amy Winehouse, Carlos Santana.. I feel Like I could go on for days.

Studying / Profession: Singer/Actor/Entrepreneur. I’ve been singing since age three, performing professionally since age 16. Student of Dr. Lynn Berg, and Dr. Jim Graves.

Hobbies: Singing, pretending to play guitar. I love surfing, snorkeling, camping, working out, yoga, avid animal lover.. I feel like I’m filling out a profile for a dating website. Oh and I enjoy long walks on the beach, really I do.

A Little Something About You: Born in Boise, Idaho. Singing in Choirs throughout my entire educational career. Relocated to California trading the mountains for the ocean, and loving it.

Best Part of Being an Esquire: Working with such talented people is a constant inspiration and daily motivation.

Harmony Forsythe

Harmony Forsythe

Upright Bass
Mike Munson

Mike Munson

Baritone Sax | Alto Sax | Clarinet

Year Joined the Band: 2004

Favorite Esquires Tunes: Jeep Jockey Jump; One O’Clock Jump; Sing, Sing, Sing

Musical Influences: This is where I’m supposed to say something like “Coltrane and Bird”, but I’m not knowledgeable enough … how about Sir Arthur Sullivan, Frederick Loewe, Glenn Miller, and Benny Goodman.

Studying / Profession: I do computer stuff for Northrop Grumman (the former TRW).

Hobbies: Besides music? Linguistics, games, science fiction, and history.

A Little Something About You: I also double on flute, oboe, and bass clarinet, and play in shows whenever possible. I’m performing or rehearsing four different shows this month, which I admit is kind of excessive. I directed a singing group around the turn of the century; have been a member of Los Cancioneros and South Bay Master Chorale; and currently sing with LA Vocal Core along with my wife. The group gives concerts twice a year at West High School (Torrance).

Best Part of Being an Esquire: Being part of this great sax section. The opportunity to learn a whole new genre of music from incredible musicians. The
opportunity to play various different sax books.