Suite Justice

My Friend John - AKA Nauge

As I said someplace around here, jazz great Charlie Mingus - who was called crazy a few times, himself - told John Licata he was crazy. Wow, what an honor. And in the time I knew John, he lived up to it numerous times. I am sure he still does. You can find out what he is doing lately by going to the John Licata web page.


A great story about Nauge was when we started playing JoJo's Lounge. We were consistently playing to a full house, and this night was no different. We were playing a Chuck Mangione piece arranged by Bobby Donzella which was arranged to feature each horn player on a solo.


Last on the solo list was the trombone. When it was John's turn to solo, he started playing his typically great solo - good smooth chops that told of years of wood-shedding (practicing). Being a dance oriented club, the people were drinking and talking. Nobody was listening. John stopped playing and just looked around.


I remember hearing the dead air (no solo going on) thinking - "Common, man, play!" I always hated it when players would freeze - it happens occasionally. I really didn't know what was going on in John's mind.


Finally Mr. Licata put the trombone up to play again, at let out the biggest sounding elephant-like




that you ever heard. It probably scared a lot of people since it was totally unexpected. I looked around the room and there were dancing queens and their dudes with their jaws dropped down, mouths wide open. John let a louder and longer one go,




I was stunned and panicking, but was laughing hard as well. Looking at the other guys in the band, they were on the same page. Nobody could believe this was happening.










He was going totally nuts with his moves matching the insane sounds that he was producing. As he continued his "solo", he looked like he was having some sort of seizure.


By now, the audience was no longer in shock. The whole room thought this was wildly entertaining and they were cheering him on, as crazy and loud as he was. John fed off their energy and got even crazier. The crowd roared! John loved it.


When he finally decided to end the ultra improvisation, he put his trombone down by his side. The applause that followed was incredibly loud and long.


John looked a bit sheepish and looked at the rest of us like he was waiting for the axe to fall. But instead of anybody being the slightest bit upset, we knew we'd found something that would help us keep the crowds coming.


John had achieved rock star status.

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