MP3 Craig Raymond And The Next Generation Big Jazz Band - Straight Ahead
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17 MP3 Songs
JAZZ: Big Band, JAZZ: Swing/Big Band
NEXT GENERATION BAND BIO
The Next Generation Band has musical roots that span back 6 decades to 1953 when Al Raymond, already a seasoned trumpeter from his days with an army concert & jazz band in General George Patton's 3rd army during WWII, a tour with the Elliot Lawrence Big Band, three years with the Philadelphia based George Summers Big Band, and leader of his own combo. Al decided it was time to put his real dream into action and form his own big band. With "Live" music still thriving in those days, it was fairly easy for Al to begin picking up gigs in the in the many ballrooms and musical bars in the Tri-State area. In 1956, the Al Raymond Big Band began to flourish as Al struck a steady "gig" on Sunday nights at Upper Darby's St. Alice's Social Center playing for the youth generation, usually over 1000 per week, ages 16-29. This was the beginning of Al's heyday. For 8 great years, the band kept the audiences' dancing feet in motion, while gaining notoriety and reaping many spin-off benefits by performing for hundreds of weddings, ballroom dances, and senior proms at many of the tri-state area high schools and colleges. All this while maintaining a full time day schedule as a school band director at Darby High School, Sun Valley High School and Beverly Hills Junior High School for 27 years. Through Al Raymond's 45 year career as a big band leader, the band enjoyed quite a string on notable successes; performing for quite a few "Stars": Mel Torme, Shirley Jones, Merv Griffin, Tony Martin, Al Martino, Cozy Morley, Frank Gorshin, June Valle, Tony Randall to name just a few, at many of the top locations like Steel Pier in Atlantic City, Convention Hall in Philadelphia and A.C., Sunnybrook Ballroom, the Academy of Music, the Valley Forge & Westbury Music Fairs, The New York Hilton Hotel, Palumbos, the Grand Opera House in Wilmington De. among the countless country clubs and hotels in the region. To cap off his long line of accomplishments, the Al Raymond Big Band played at the Inaugural Balls of Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton in Washington DC., recorded over 20 albums and played on several cruise ships and authored a book about his career and view of the music business, "Swingin Big Bands Into the Millenium". He also enjoyed over 15 years as a radio DJ playing an extensive library of big band music from around the world.
At the end of 1997, after 45 illustrious years at the helm of the band, it came time to pass the leaders baton to his son Craig. Even with that, Al Raymond continues to make a mark in the music world with appearances with his combo, booking many local bands, especially his son Craig's, with a new name for the band "The Next Generation", talks at area Rotary Clubs, adult music seminars at Elder Hostels and writing many articles in local newspapers. When asked about the "R" word (retirement), he states with a big grin, "I'm just getting started".
Craig Raymond got his start in music initially just by being the "offspring" of his dad, Al Raymond, who started Craig on the trumpet at age 9. After playing in his elementary & junior high school bands, Craig gained his first big band experience with the Marple Newtown High School Jazz Band and the West Chester University Band. From then on Craig's musical dream was to play in a professional band like his father. So, just after turning 18, Craig got his first "gig" playing with the Al Raymond Big Band at the Granite Run Mall in Media Pa. After shaking nervously like a leaf for 2 hours, but surviving the ordeal, never mind the fact that Craig's trumpet was accidentally left on the roof of Al's station wagon and subsequently flew onto the road shoulder on Route 1, where Craig and Al found it, still in playing condition several hours later. That was the "Start" of Craig's professional music career. For the next 17 Ì§ years, Craig gained a wide range of experience with the band, performing at all the many venues that the band was accustomed to performing at: dances, weddings, concerts, corporate parties, and even theater shows at places like the Academy of Music, Keswick Theater, Valley Forge & Westbury Music Fairs, the Grand Opera House, Media Theater, and many of Atlantic City's casinos. Also, three cruises with the band was a lot of fun as well. Craig also gained studio experience with the band by performing on about 18 record albums. Probably, the icing on the cake, was the thrill of performing at the Washington DC Convention Center for President Bill Clinton's Inaugural Ball in January, 1997.
Finally, after observing the "Master" (Al) at his craft for all those years, Dad Raymond posed the question, "Why don't you try leading the band"? He said "Try it & see what happens". It was a terrifying idea, but Al knew what he was doing. After all, at 77 years of age, even he couldn't go on forever! So, while being scared to death at the notion of "leading" a big band, Craig also realized it was a dream come true. The rest is history. Now, in the 21st Century, Craig Raymond & the Next Generation Band are forging ahead to new musical levels in Contemporary, New Era Swing & Jazz, while never abandoning the high big band musical standards that his father had set for so many years prior. With a foundation built on rich musical tradition, and a clear vision for the new millennium, The Next Generation Band, led by Craig Raymond, will continue to entertain audiences with top caliber music for any occasion.
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