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The Al Fenton Big Band

"Come Swing With Us!"       [email protected]   

Al Fenton Big Band Press Kit- Here is a demo of our work.

Meet The Band

Kathy Neri - Band Leader/Alto Saxophonist

Kathy was born in Chicago, IL and then moved to Connecticut at age 14.  She studied piano since she was six, cello since she was 9, clarinet since she was 9 and tenor saxophone since she was 11.  She is a Graduate from South Windsor High School.  She received a B.S. in Music Education and a B. F.A. , as well as a Masters of Music from the University of Connecticut.  Go Huskies!  Performances have included marching with the Statue of Liberty Marching Band in 1986 and for President Reagan's inauguration in 1985.  She has studied saxophone with Lee Jones, Phil DeLibero, and Lou Soloway.  She has been employed for over 28 years with the East Hartford School District - Sunset Ridge School. She has been a member of the Solid Oak Jazz Band, and the Dick Santi Orchestra.  Currently, Kathy  is performing with the Maggey Blues Jazz Combo from West Hartford, a member of the Sax Summit in Manchester, The Flamingos, and has performed with the Glenn Hansen Orchestra.  She is a 2016 Fellows Teacher.  She has been with the Al Fenton Big Band since its inception as lead alto.  Kathy resides with her husband Mark, and four children.  She also loves boating and swimming, and yes, she can still water skii!

Gary Neff - Alto Saxophonist

A graduate of Central Connecticut State University, Gary has played in concert, marching, swing, and polka bands as well as small groups and combos. Currently he is performing with the Eastern Connecticut University/Community Band, The Little Big Band, The East Woodstock Cornet Band, and during the summer months plays with the Windham Concert Band. Performing on both alto and tenor sax, Gary has been making music for over fifty years. Some role model sax players are Stan Getz, Phil Woods, and Jeff Taylor.
  Being new to the Al Fenton Big Band, he is looking forward to MANY new and stimulating musical experiences! 

Bruce Giannini - Tenor Saxophone

Started playing Clarinet when 11 yrs old,  switching to Tenor Sax in 8th grade.  His first music teacher was  George Ventrelli of Plainville. Teachers include Mr. Ventrelli,  and Dominic Talotta. He also studied Jazz Improvozation at the Hartford Conservator of Music for 5 yrs with Walter Gwardyak and Dave Santoro, and  a brief summer with Joel Frahm.  After a 20 year absence he retuned by playing with the Plainville Y Band, Solid Oak, Sebby Papa, Dick Santi, City Lights, Bristol Reunion Jazz, Bristol Brass and 

Al Fenton Big Band.

Raymond McKay - Tenor Saxophonist

Gene Hickey - Bari Saxophonist
Over the years I have studied with a number of excellent  teachers, most of whom soon moved to Fla. or made a career change. My greatest pleasure in the band happens during performances when I explore tonal areas and rhythms not heard in western music.  It leaves my bandmates speechless. My idols are Sun Ra and Rahassan Roland Kirk.

Wind Ensemble, Alan Fenton, and Strictly Swing.

Biggest influences : Stan Getz, Charlie Parker, Zoot Sims, and Paul Desmond.

Joel Schlank - Lead Trumpet

Joel attended the Hartt School of Music at a young age and has expanded his classical background over the years.   He continues to stay busy and has explored  other genres including: Jazz, Klezmer, Swing, and most recently Salsa. Joel is the founder and manager of  THE KLEZMEN, a popular Klezmer Band, playing through out CT for  the last 15 years. He also manages The MAGGEY BLUES JAZZ COMBO , for the past five years, playing at various venues in the Hartford area. Joel enjoys working with children and was the founder and director of KLEZ KIDS, a junnior Klezmer Band that played for  fund raising functions in the area.

Dave Kennedy -Second/Fourth Trumpet

Played Trumpet, Flugelhorn & Piccolo Trumpet in Big Bands, Polka Bands, Jazz Combos and Concert Bands for 50+ years. Former Lead Trumpet for City Lights, John Taylor Super Big Band, Screamin’ Eagles, Soloist for Andy Nichols Big Band, Dick Santi Orchestra, Al Fenton Big Band. Also Play in Bristol Brass & Wind Ensemble, and Vernon Senior Band. Volunteer with Bugles Across America to play Taps at Veteran’s Services.

Education: BSEE, PMP,  Certificate in Computer Design.

Tigger Kluessendorf - 2nd Trumpet

Tigger Kluessendorf is a trumpet player who specializes in jazz, and is currently a sophomore in Canton High School. He plays first trumpet in the school jazz ensemble, where he has performed at UMASS Amherst, and the University of New Hampshire. He is the sole trumpet in the self-directed jazz combo where he has played for various outside fundraisers and events. Tigger was selected at the UMASS Amherst High School Jazz Festival as one of two of the jazz ensemble’s outstanding musicians, and through his high school, he has also been selected to perform and solo with the Funky Dawgz Brass Band in concert. As a sophomore, Tigger was selected to fulfill the chosen high school senior responsibility and honor of performing Taps at the Memorial Day ceremony with the entire school. Tigger has qualified and participated in the Northern Regional Jazz Ensemble for five consecutive years, qualified for the Northern Region

Symphonic Band for four years, and has qualified and participated in the CMEA All-State Jazz Ensemble his sophomore year. He is the first student in the history of Canton, CT to make the regional jazz ensemble, grades 6-8. However, his musical abilities range out of high school as well, where he performs professionally. He is also the solo trumpet with the Al Fenton Big Band, where he has played at numerous prestigious venues such as Yale University, the Bee and Thistle Inn on New Year’s Eve, and many more. He has also solely performed the Wedding March at a wedding, and has been requested to play an upcoming wedding with his jazz combo. Tigger has qualified and participated as second trumpet in the Laurel Music Camp Jazz Ensemble for

two consecutive years. Tigger has performed in numerous musical pit orchestras such as his high school’s production of Damn Yankees, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and more outside of his high school such as The Wedding Singer and Oliver. As well as his full time ensembles, he also fills in with various community bands, jazz bands and church services around the area and gives trumpet lessons locally.

Randal Kluessendorf - 3rd Trumpet

Born in a suburb of Chicago, Randal started on violin in 4th grade, added the trumpet in 6th with encouragement from his father (also trumpet), tinkers with karoake, bass guitar and recently tenor sax.  Randal moved to CT when he was 13 (calculations determine it was the same year as Kathy),.  After auditioning for the Julliard School in 1990, then again with the Glenn Miller Orchestra in 2013, Randal will travel for the rare opportunity to play.  From Aurora, IL to Brattleboro, VT '02 even a group from Canada.  Employeed as a remodeling carpenter, Randal finds his most difficult task is keeping up with his four boys!

Lee Sohl - Fourth Trumpet

Lee Sohl fell for big band music, show tunes, and Frank Sinatra early on. Because of her love of Harry James’ playing, as a fourth grader she chose the trumpet for her instrument, although teachers attempted to talk her into a more “feminine” instrument. After playing in band, orchestra, and eventually stage band in her Chappaqua, NY elementary and middle schools, Lee moved onto other pursuits. 37 years later, she picked up her old student trumpet and joined the middle school jazz band at Kent Center School, where she is the reading intervention teacher. She loved it, and now plays as a community member in the private Kent School concert band, jazz band, Dixieland band, orchestra, and pit orchestra, as well as with the local Salisbury Band, and its offshoots the Hot Shots and Christmas Brass. Lee is thrilled to join the Al Fenton Big Band and play the songs she has delighted in for so long. Her husband and children come to as many concerts as they can, and all three of her young granddaughters have toy trumpets! 

David Paff - Lead Trombonist/Section Leader

Freelance musician in NJ and NY from 1998 to 2003.  Played in various symphony Orchestras and Big Bands in the New York and New Jersey area.  Joined navy as a navy musician August, 2003 until August 2017.  Featured euphonium and trombone soloist with navy band Northeast, Naval Forces Europe Band in Naples, Italy and Navy Band Great Lakes, IL.  John Philip Sousa conducted the Great Lakes band in 1917!

Navy Band Great Lakes from April, 2012 to April, 2015. Played trombone and euphonium in various ensembles including Ceremony and Parade Band, Wind Ensemble and Brass Quintet. Featured soloist

with Wind Ensemble.

Stationed in Naples, Italy from March, 2008 to March, 2012. Toured 28 countries between Europe and Africa in various ensembles such as Rock Band, Brass Quintet, Ceremonial and Marching Band, Wind Ensemble and Jazz Band. Featured trombone soloist at the Jazz Festival of Yekaterinburg, Russia. Featured Euphonium soloist with Wind Ensemble in Italy.

Stationed in Newport, RI from February, 2004 to February, 2008 and from April 2015 to August 2017. Performed with Wind Ensemble, Showband, Brass Quintet, Ceremony and Parade Band. Featured Trombone and euphonium soloist with Wind Ensemble.

Other Ensembles I have performed with:

Full Score Chamber Orchestra, Zion, IL, Bass Trombone

Fall River Symphony, Fall River, MA, Bass and Tenor Trombone

New Bedford Symphony, New Bedford, MA, Trombone

Bergen Philharmonic, Englewood, NJ, Principle Trombone and featured trombone soloist

Cape May Festival Orchestra, Cape May, NJ, Trombone

Sophisticated Swing Band, Bristol, RI, Trombone

Meadowlarks Swing Band, Southeastern Massachusetts, Trombone

                  In Session Swing Band, Arlington Heights, IL, Lead Trombone

                  Lake Forrest Symphony Orchestra, Chicago, IL Trombone

                  Chicago Metro Symphony Orchestra, Chicago, IL Bass Trombone and Tenor Trombone

                  Night Life Swing Band, Schaumburg, IL, Lead Trombone

                  Waukegan Symphony, Waukegan, IL, Trombone, Euphonium

                  Northern Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Chicago, IL, Bass and Tenor trombone

                  New York Swing Exchange, Lead Trombone

                  New Bedford Symphony Orchestra, Trombone

                  Ridgewood Symphony, Ridgewood, NJ, Trombone and euphonium

                  Doug Ferony Swing Band, Peekskill, NY, Trombone

Earned a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from Rutgers College of Engineering in 1992.  Earned second degree BA in Music Studies from William Paterson, NJ in May, 2001.  Earned Masters' degree in performance in May 2008 from University of Rhode Island.  Started DMA in September 2017 at HARTT School of Music, University of Hartford.

Performed in musicals such as Fiddler on the Roof, Music Man, Guys and Dolls, Into the Woods, West Side Story, Damn Yankee, Where's Charlie, Frankenstein, Oliver, Pippin, A Chorus Line, Gypsy, Anything Goes, Bye Bye Birdie.

I teach brass instruments and have about 15 years experience in teaching trombone, trumpet and euphonium.  Currently I am a freelance musician and teacher.  I gig in all of New England, NY and NJ and anywhere else!

Mike Bryenton - Second Trombone
Mike started playing trombone in 4th grade. The music teacher asked what instrument do you want to play? I replied trumpet. He said we really could use a trombone player we don't have any.  Oh ok I said.  Best decision I ever made!

Mike studied music at Central Ct. State, Western Ct. State, and Capital Community College.  He has played with the Plainville YMCA Community Band, the Dick Santi Orchestra,Solid Oak Big Band, the Jimmy Dorsey Then and Now Orchestra,the Daytona State College Band and the Daytona Beach Concert Band. He is also an original member of the Al Fenton Big Band.

"I am extremely honored to be playing with a group the caliber of the Al Fenton Big Band.  After a brief stay in Florida I am glad to be back playing the music I love with such a great group of musicians."

Greg Schmidt - Third Trombonist

John Chin - Bass Trombonist-Vocalist
I credit 2 teachers for making me the musician I am today.  In 7th grade, Mr. Saposnik said to me "We've got too many trumpets.  How about playing thetrombone instead?".  That man saved me from the trumpet.  The second teacher, Mr. Watras, said to me,"I need another trombone in the Stage Band. Why don't you come in an hour before school starts to practice."  That was
the first time I played "In The Mood" and "A String of Pearls".  Forty years later, I'm still playing the same music.  Someday, I'll get it right.Recently, I've been playing with The Simsbury Community Band, The Solid OakBig Band, The Dick Santi Orchestra and The Al Fenton Big Band.

Christine Apruzese - Keyboards

Chris started playing piano at the age of 5.  She studied classical pianist with her very talented mother.  She also plays violin, cello, organ, guitar  and is presently studying the euphonium.  She has a B.S. in Music Education and an M.S. in Management, as well as a certificate in Forensic Accounting.  She taught music for the Wolcott school system for two years and is presently working for the American Federal Credit Union for the last 20 years.  Chris is a member of the Al Fenton Big Band, Dick Santi Orchestra, Solid Oak Big Band, Center Stage Jazz/Plainville Wind Ensemble, Simsbury Community Band and was in a top 40 group called Twisted Fate.

Anthony Saccavino - Guitarist

Tony has been playing guitar since 1967.  His first guitar was a 1965 Gretsch (Sunburst) which he brought from his cousin who was his first guitar teacher.  He would practice at least 8 hours a day and in no time he was teaching guitar at a number of music stores in the New Haven area.  On Thursday nights you could often find him playing at the Exit Coffee House in downtown New Haven.  After graduating from high school he enlisted in the navy where he met other musicians and played in a number of rock groups and jazz combos.  After being discharged from the navy, he continued to play and further his knowledge of the guitar by taking lessons from various guitar teachers:  Joe Tinari, a great classical and jazz player from New Haven, Jim Hall, the guitarist from the Merv Griffin show during the late 60's and later studied with a 9 string guitar jazz great Michael Coppola where he learned the concept of his 7 string guitar.  Later he studied with Johnny Knapp from Waterbury who started his playing in the Big Bands.  He has played in a number of venues including the Wolf Den at Mohegan Sun Casino with the Glen Hansen Orchestra and the Warner Theater in Torrington with the Governor's Fooguard Dance Band.  He is a current member in the following groups:  The Governor's Footguard Dance Band (New Haven), The Glen Hansen Orchestra, the Center Stage Jazz, Solid Oak Big Band, Dick Santi Orchestra and the Al Fenton Big Band!

Les Bernstein:  Double Bass

Les was born in the Big Apple and raised in south Florida.  By day, as a Professor of Neuroscience at the UCONN MedicalSchool, he conducts research on how the ear and brain process sound. By night, he plays bass. Les began classical double bass instruction at the age of 13 and performed in several symphony orchestras, including the Florida All-State Orchestra, the Carmen Nappo Youth Symphony, and, ultimately, as a student apprentice in the Miami Beach Symphony. While in college, Les branched out into bluegrass, playing with “No Strings Attached,” the Emory University Theatre ensemble, and other big-band and small-combo jazz groups in the Atlanta area. After a somewhat extended hiatus while he worked on his PhD from the University of Illinois and pursued his career at the University of Florida and UCONN, Les returned to the double bass and helped to form the Seizure Jazz Ensemble (SJE) as one of its founding members.  Since that time, Les returned to formal instruction, with jazz bassists Nat Reeves and Jeff Fuller.

Corinne Thurston - Vocalist  

Corinne Gordon is a  jazz vocalist with an abiding love of the American Songbook. She sings with a number of large and small jazz ensembles in Connecticut and is currently studying with Pianist and musical director of the Hartford Jazz Orchestra, Donn Trenner.

Her range, extensive song portfolio, technical skills and performance energy have helped her gain recognition around the New England as a sought-after Big Band and Jazz ensemble member.

Corinne grew up in a family of musicians and music lovers and has immersed herself in the study of voice since the age of nine.  Her training ranges from opera, to broadway, to folk, but her great love is jazz standards. With vocal influences including Ella Fitzgerald, Anita O'day, Nancy Wilson and Joni Mitchell, she has built a strong repertoire and skill set around their enduring sound. She has performed with her father Richard Gordon, an accomplished jazz pianist, since her teen years, and the duo continue to perform together in the Northeast and Mexico.

“I find boundless joy in playing with other musicians, crafting a better sound and bringing the incredible lyrics and timeless melodies  from the american songbook to life”

Again and Again
alto saxophonist Kathy Neri
   keyboardist:  Christine Apruzese


Joel Schlank

Dave Kennedy

Randal Kluessendorf

Tigger Kluessendorf

Lee Sohl


Christine Apruzese


Tony Saccavino


Mike Lehouillier


Les Bernstein

Band Leader

Kathy Neri

Alto Saxophone

Kathy Neri

Gary Neff

Tenor Saxophone

Bruce Giannini

George Rowe

Baritone Saxophone

Gene Hickey


Al Fenton* founder

David Paff

Michael Bryenton

Greg Schmidt

John Chin

Ray Houghton 


Corinne Thurston

Upcoming Events

Thursday, Feb 22 at 7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Thursday, Mar 1 at 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Thursday, Mar 8 at 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Thursday, Mar 22 at 7:30 PM - 9:30 PM

Photography by Tina Parsadanov

Picture courtesy of

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