Primary Instrument: Trumpet
Ed Nuccilli was born on the east side of Detroit and was the youngest of five children. His father, Peter Nuccilli, an Italian immigrant, played trumpet for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and also gave private lessons to aspiring musicians. At a young age, Ed knew he wanted to go into music and play the trumpet like his father. I remember watching my sister play the piano when I was only about 9 years old, and looking at the notes on the page and thinking I'd like to write those notes one day. Ed started studying music with his father at the age of 12, learning the Solfeggio system. His father insisted he master the system before even picking up an instrument, so after eight months of studying the written music, his father came home one day with a trumpet for him. It was a King horn that his father paid $35 for. This was Ed's first trumpet. Although a classical music foundation was laid for Ed, he felt he wanted to take up a different style of music; where he could actually play his trumpet for more that a few bars here and there, like in the symphony.
Ed attended Cass Technical High School. He actually started playing jobs at the age of 14 with Jack King and the Knights of Royal Rhythm band. He would play at local churches and Dompolski Hall with the band. He and some school mates at Cass put together a band outside of school and began rehearsing on a regular basis, playing tunes of Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Woody Herman, and other tunes from the 1930's and early 40's. He also played joined Eddie Marshall's band, a popular saxophonist, which would later give him the opportunity to join a big name travel band.
Ed also wrote music for Eddie Marshall's band. A young Ed Nuccilli began writing arrangements during his junior year of high school. Two of his arrangements were featured in the senior concert at Cass Technical High School in 1943. That same year, just as Ed was finishing High School at Cass, WWII was well under way, and he was drafted into the army and inducted on July 19, 1943. He would spend the next three years in the army, most of that time in the deserts of Africa.
While stationed in Africa, one day at the base's PX & Recreation Building, Ed was looking around in a back room and noticed a piano. Upon further searching, he came across an old trumpet and some other instruments. So he found some other musicians at the base and they put together a 10 or 12 piece band, and Ed wrote all the music for the band. They got so good that they were sent to the American University in Beirut to play for the officers. In 1946, his arrangements were being featured at the Don Byas (a well known jazz alto saxophone player of that time) and Eddie Marshall concert at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Ed's brother picked him up from his army base in Chicago, Illinois, where he was awaiting to be discharged; and drove him to Detroit for the concert. It was an important night for him and he was introduced to the crowd. After the concert was over, his brother drove him all the way back to the Chicago army base, and Ed made it right before the lights went on in his barracks!
After the war was over, Nuccilli spent a few years touring the Midwest and East Coast with the bands of Shorty Sherock and Bobby Sherwood. His first composition (Original #1) was the new theme song for Bobby Sherwood. Life was financially tough on the road, and soon became tedious, but the 'road' taught Ed a lot. It was 1946 and Ed Nuccilli's early exposure to Be-Bop made quite an impression on him; he had never heard anything like it! He naturally gravitated to this type of music. His inspiration came from Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Miles Davis. He wrote his first original big-band Be-Bop chart for 16 pieces in 1948. This would later be named 48 half Steps. In that same year, Ed composed and arranged for big-band, five additional original tunes.
In 1949, Ed returned to his home in Detroit. He started college on the GI bill at the Detroit Institute of Musical Art, (called DIMA) and worked part time at the Detroit Public Library. That same year, he met his future wife, Jean, at a wedding at the Belle Isle Casino. Ed and a friend basically 'crashed' the wedding; they went to hear their buddies who were in the band, and it was love at first sight!
Ed continued his schooling and music for the next three years. He married Jean in 1950, and by the end of 1952, they had two children. In 1953 he gave up music entirely to support his family, so he went to work full-time at Ford Motor Company. He worked there until 1956, then left Ford Motor Company and started work as an agent for Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. His hours were more flexible and he was able to pick up his horn and practice again. After the time without playing, his 'chops' needed lots of work, so he would go over his father's house, which was close to his office, and they would practice duets together. In no time his 'chops' were back and he got his first job in almost four years on New Year's Eve 1957 playing in a Latin band.
Later, in 1960 he started his own Latin band and wrote all the music for that group. It was a 10 piece consisting of 4 trumpets 2 tenor saxes, a baritone sax and the 3 rhythm. By this time he had a family of four, and continued to work at Metropolitan Life and played gigs with his Latin band.
They would play mainly at the Veterans Memorial Ballroom in downtown Detroit. The Latin group also played at the Grande Ballroom, the Vanity Ballroom and private parties, most notably the Cotillion Club, a select group which held their dance parties at either the Statler Hotel or the Book Cadillac Hotel. In 1963 Ed decided he wanted to play more jazz and began writing big band arrangements of compositions of jazz greats such as Horace Silver, Charlie Mingus, Herbie Hancock and others. However gigs for big bands that played jazz were not that plentiful. During the late 60's, Ed became a member of a band called Sphere. The band members were Keith Vreeland on piano, Larry Nozero on sax and flute, Jim Peluso on drums, John Dana on bass, and Ed on trumpet and flugel horn. The band played all original compositions by members of the group. Eventually the band recorded one album in 1970, titled: Sphere, which was recorded live at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Another gig he had during the 1960's was writing jingles and commercials for radio and television. In 1965 his wife Jean, opened her own ballet school in Detroit; Jean Nuccilli School of Dance, where she taught dance for 30 years.
While Ed continued to arrange charts for his big band, he joined the band at the Class A nightclub in Windsor, Canada; The Elmwood Casino, playing trumpet for top named stars like Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr. and Liza Minelli, to name a few. When not playing at the Elmwood, Ed played at the Roostertail nightclub playing for all the big name stars and many others. In August 1972, while at the Elmwood, Ed was selected to become the house band-leader and contractor for the Elmwood Casino, which came at the right time as Ed & Jean had a new addition to their family; daughter Alicia. Chuck Thurston a reporter for the Detroit Free Press wrote Ed Nuccilli is taking over the leadership of the Elmwood's house band. Business Man's Bounce is out and jazz is in! The run was great fun but in late 1974, the Elmwood could no longer afford the cost of bringing major stars to its club, and went to a format of dinner theatre. Ed was asked to stay on as leader, but declined. During this time, he was also busy writing arrangements for other groups, such as Lorio, a popular Detroit group featuring Sam Lochricchio and Sandra Mandella doing the 'hits' of that time in their own special way. When the Elmwood and Roostertail clubs closed, that marked an end to the Class 'A' nightclubs featuring big name acts. In late May of 1973, Ed was hired by 'Motown' as an arranger. He wrote charts for Smokey Robinson, The Ruffin Brothers and others, with producer Hank Cosby. Unfortunately, Motown Records decided to move its operations to California in August of 1974 and for many reasons, Ed stayed home in Detroit and did not follow the company to its new home in Los Angeles. In the late 70's, the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Dearborn, Michigan opened an exclusive, intimate room called DB's. They booked star entertainers such as Nancy Wilson, Steve Allen, Al Martino, and Jerry Vale, just to name a few. Ed played there, with the Johnny Trudell Orchestra from about 1976 until about 1980.
In the early 1980's a flock of young aspiring jazz musicians came out of Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan who were in the jazz studies program with Doc Holliday. Some of these young talents were: Steve Wood, Jim VanDyke, Chris Pitts, Brad Felt, Jeff Gedz, Walt Szymanski, Scott Peter, Dan McAllister: all of who played the Plural Circle at some point over the years, and some are still with Ed's band today! 1981 was the 2nd year of the Montreux-Detroit Jazz Festival. Ed Nuccilli & Plural Circle played the festival for the first time that year and for 13 consecutive years following, as a highly regarded closing act, with the exception of one year; they played in an earlier time slot. The band featured such notable local jazz musicians as Marcus Belgrave, Wendell Harrison, Rayse Biggs, Thomas Beans Bowles, Vincent York, Lawrence Williams, Jaribu Shahid, Ken Cox, Walt Szymanski, Chris Pitts and many others. In 1984, Ed Nuccilli & Plural Circle supported the great Thad Jones with Thad's compositions. In 1996 the band returned to back up Detroit born and raised, great jazz guitarist, Kenny Burrell! During the period from the mid 70's through the early 90's Ed Nuccilli & Plural Circle performed at many different venues, such as concerts in the parks, Hart Plaza, Coleman A. Young Center, dances, educational concerts at schools, and more. Ed also spent 2 years as an artist-in-residence at Trenton High School in the late 80's and also taught jazz improvisation classes at Henry Ford Community College under Rick Goward for 7 years.
In 1997 Ed's band was invited to perform at the Michigan Jazz Festival, which was held at the Botsford Inn site in Farmington Hills, which would later move to the Schoolcraft College Campus in Livonia. Ed Nuccilli & Plural Circle has performed for the Michigan Jazz Festival from the years 2000 - 2006 consecutively as of this writing. Ed Nuccilli & Plural Circle was selected to play at the newly named Detroit International Jazz Festival Labor Day of 2006 to a great audience of jazz lovers from near and far!
In June of 2004, Ed's Group of 18 musicians was featured at the famous jazz club: Baker's Keyboard Lounge. The band performed once a month through October of 2006, where they took a short hiatus. So presently Ed Nuccilli & Plural Circle are currently in the process of recording Ed's original jazz compositions, which are also arranged by Ed exclusively for his 18-piece Plural Circle group. One CD is available and more are in the making.
Ed continues to spend his days, writing the music I hear in my head. He stays busy writing music, and the band continues to rehearse and work around the Detroit area.