a jazz history by Joe Mosbrook
a special WMV Web News Cleveland series
Story filed March 21, 1997
Jack Schantz, the music director and featured trumpet soloist of the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra who has recorded with legendary pianist Oscar Peterson, grew up in Orrville, Ohio, on the edge of Amish country.
"My parents were in the pipe organ business," recalls Schantz. "Itís been in the family since 1870. My father and mother werenít necessarily musical; my father was the businessman and mechanic. My uncle was the musician. He went to Oberlin and one of his classmates was Al Haig."
It was his uncleís record collection that first got Jack interested in jazz. "One of the first recordings I remember," says Schantz, "was a Stan Kenton album with a trumpet solo by Conte Condoli on `Thereís a Small Hotel.í I played that record so much that I couldnít give the worn-out disc back to him."
Schantz began playing trumpet in junior high school. His band director at Orrville High School was a former big band saxophonist who formed an excellent student jazz band which went to the Montreux Jazz Festival in France and toured Europe for two weeks. "I remember I was in a hotel room in Belgium," remembers Schantz, "and I said to myself, `Now this is for me! This is what I want to do!í"
After a year at Otterbein College, Schantz (in 1974) joined a big band called the Akron Jazz Workshop. It was led by Roland Paolucci. Other young members of that band included Mark Gonder, Gary Aprile and Paul Ferguson -- later all key members of the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra. When Paolucci became the director of the University of Akron jazz band, Schantz enrolled at Akron and played in the band. He also played his trumpet everywhere he could.
"Every place I could sit in," says Schantz, "I would go. There was a place where I really learned how to play, a place in Stow called The Village Pump. There was a band there every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night and I would go and sit in. I just totally made a fool of myself every night but then, went home and practiced."
His persistence and practice paid off. In 1980, as he was about to tour Europe with the Akron Jazz Ensemble, Schantz was offered a job playing with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, then led by trombonist Buddy Morrow. "About three days after I got back from Europe, I hopped on a plane and went to Minneapolis and joined the Dorsey band. I absolutely loved it! I had a ball for the first three or four years! I was happy and proud to be doing that."
Schantzí roommate on the road with the Dorsey band was a young clarinetist and saxophonist who grew up in the Cleveland suburb of Garfield Heights, Ken Peplowski. Schantz remembers, "He practiced all the time and he was a very funny guy. I donít think I ever laughed so much in my whole life. I guess you had to have a sense of humor because the life style is really hard. Itís like perpetual jet lag. You never get enough sleep."
Unlike most other musicians his age, Peplowski was fascinated with the 1930s and Ď40s solos of Benny Goodman. "He had all these Goodman solos on tape," says Schantz, "and he knew them all. He could play them all, note for note. He would just sit on the bed, playing along with the Goodman solos."
Later, after Peplowski played in Goodmanís last band and became world famous, he was a featured guest soloist with the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra. "After the concert," says Schantz, "we went to the Bop Stop and had this jam session. It was one of those magical nights! We just burned the place down!"
In addition to touring with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Schantz was also a member of the Glenn Miller ghost band. "Whenever they were doing a gig and needed somebody," says Schantz, "I would go out and fill in for a couple of months. I also played with the Artie Shaw band for awhile and did a couple of hits with Woody Hermanís band."
Schantz got off the road in 1988 and joined the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, then led by his old college jazz band director. Schantz was named music director of the CJO in 1993. He also performs with smaller groups. In 1993 he recorded an album called Speechless with pianist Chip Stephens, bassist Jeff Halsey and drummer Val Kent.
In 1995, Schantz was selected to play trumpet solos on Oscar Petersonís Christmas compact disc. When Peterson chose Schantz for the album, Schantz said, "I felt like I had won the lottery! It was one of the greatest things I have ever done. It was an absolute thrill!"
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Copyright 1997 Joe Mosbrook
You can hear radio versions of Cleveland Jazz History on WCPN/90.3 Monday nights at 9:30 and Friday afternoons at 12:30. Mosbrook's 1993 Cleveland Jazz History book, based on research for earlier broadcasts, is available from some Cleveland area bookstores, libraries, and the Northeast Ohio Jazz Society (216-397-9900).