Count Basie’s Sammy has died, at 96

Count Basie’s Sammy has died, at 96


norman lebrecht

January 18, 2021

The composer Sammy Nestico, indispensable arranger for Count Basie’s band from 1967 to 1984, has died just short of his 97th birthday.

Pittsburgh born, Sammy worked with the US airforce and marine bands, taught at the University of Chicago and conducted for Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand, not to mention Germany’s SWR band. He wrote more than 600 songs.


  • V.Lind says:

    I see two deaths reported on the site this morning of people not that widely known. But no mention of Phil Spector, whom I imagine most people here have heard of.

    Just curious. I heard about this a good 14 hours before I first opened SD today, so it’s not like the news has not crossed the Atlantic.

    • Fred says:

      1: In addition to being a murderer, Spector was also a manipulative psychopath who stole music composing credits from others and often threatened/intimidated the artists he was hired to produce. Sammy Nestico was a beloved figure who led a long, exemplary and productive life. Having known him personally, I can attest to his outstanding character and joyful presence he brought to any interaction I or anyone else had with him.
      I’d say Spector can wait; plenty of other sources have reported his death, he doesn’t deserve the priority over the likes of Nestico.

      2: Norman is 10 hours ahead of California time. I’ll bet he likes to sleep at night.

      • Greg Bottini says:

        Thanks, Fred, I couldn’t have written it better myself!
        Spector was a mentally ill creep and a murderer.
        He should have been put away much sooner for his other bizarre and criminal behaviors. The murder was just the icing on his weird little cake.

  • drummerman says:

    A great talent. Thanks for posting this.

  • K says:

    Mancini, Sebesky, Nestico… household names in the commercial music business. If you’re not aware of it, I recommend Nestico’s The Complete Arranger. Comprehensive and conversational. RIP.

  • Rob says:

    Oh, one of the greats!!! He made some great arrangements for the Boston Pops along with another unsung arranger/orchestrator genius, Glenn Osser.

  • Rob says:

    Here he is talking with the great Billy May (arranger of Sinatra’s ‘Come Fly With Me’)