In August of 1970 (just after graduation from high school) I was in Denver, Colorado with my family visiting grandparents. We learned that the Stan Kenton band was in town playing a dance at an amusement park. My parents took me, and, to our dismay, we were refused admission because we weren’t wearing ties. This seemed particularly strange because the dance was held in a building that was just a roof and a floor — it had no sides! We watched and listened from outside and at one of the breaks we caught two of the trumpeters sitting at a table behind the dance building. These were Joe Ellis and Mike Vax. I remember the kindness they showed me and the encouragement I received from them. I still have their autographs from that memorable occasion.
Almost 33 years later I crossed paths again with Mike Vax again when we brought him to Henderson as soloist and clinician. Mike recalled that night in Denver was the first time he played lead trumpet with the Kenton band. While at Henderson we spent a great deal of time talking about trumpet playing, jazz education, and young people, and we also played duets. What a thrill to play with one of my idols and then play in a big band backing him up!
Dr. Jim Buckner and Mike Vax
Mike Vax with NuFusion jazz ensemble trumpet section:
Josh Jackson, Dr. Buckner, Mike Vax, Jason Webb, and Aaron Caldwell