Biography
This trombonist's career includes performing and recording with major jazz contenders such as Stan Kenton and Maynard Ferguson, but most listeners will have unknowingly heard Bernhart's blowing on the soundtracks to vintage television shows. He is all over the place on soundtracks from the last few years of the '50s, his trombone utilized as a kind of sleaze factor in the atmospheric background to crime shows such as #Peter Gunn, #M. Squad, and #Staccato. Bernhart began playing music at ten, starting with tuba and sliding over to trombone several years later. He hailed from Indiana but continued his studies in both Chicago and Philadelphia, climbing on-stage in the former city at 16 with the invigorating Boyd Raeburn band.

In 1943, Bernhart gigged with Buddy Franklin, Jimmy James, and Teddy Powell. Things seemed promising for his music career, but then Uncle Sam opened the window and let the draft in. The trombonist joined up with Kenton after leaving the Army in 1946, basically a matter of going from one boot camp to the next. Bernhart found Kenton's music a challenge that he doesn't seem to have wanted to either deal with exclusively or put aside for good. Kenton provided the trombonist with his first solo on record, the song Peanut Vendor, to be precise. He was in and out of the Kenton band for the next half-dozen years, also fitting in repeat stints with Raeburn as well as a stress-laden, late-'40s assignment with Benny Goodman. Retrospectively, Bernhart would provide anecdotal details from that time, including a horrifying incident in which Goodman threw the great tenor saxophone soloist Wardell Grey offstage in Las Vegas, right in the middle of a solo. "Your music teacher never warned you that things like this would happen," Bernhart commented dryly about this gig, which provided him with the motivation to quit Goodman. From here he went back to Kenton, naturally.

Despite his promise as an improviser and big-band jazz section man, Bernhart gravitated toward studio playing. From 1955 through 1958 he was part of the Columbia staff orchestra, playing on a series of film soundtracks including the potboiler jazz-junkie epic #Man with a Golden Arm. He then moved over to similar work on television. He was also heard on a variety of hit records during this period, most notably providing a great trombone solo on the first take of Frank Sinatra's famous recording of I've Got You Under My Skin in 1955. In subsequent decades he was elected president of the the Big Band Academy of America and became deeply involved in the organization's ongoing tributes to classic big-band music. The music of Kenton is obviously a specialty, and Bernhart has also toured internationally with aggregations of Kenton alumni including alto saxophonist Lee Konitz. Bernhart was hospitalized in 2002, forcing him to miss out on one such Kenton tribute. ~ Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi




 
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Milt Bernhart (1958) The Sound Of Bernhart LP (Trombone) Full Album
RENDEZVOUS 2000 UK TRIBUTE Talk THE KENTON TROMBONES by MILT BERNHART
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