Knowing Don Sickler's pedigree, skilled arranger for various and sundry tasty delights from the Tadd Dameron rep unit Dameronia to T.S. Monk.
As a very small child, Sickler studied piano with his mother who was a music teacher. At the age of 10, he took up the trumpet and two years later formed a jazz band. At the age of 13, he was leading an augmented band for school and college dances. Later, he began taking an interest in arranging.
He continued with his studies, and by the late 60s had so advanced in both aspects of his career, as performer and arranger, that he moved to New York where more studies followed, alongside which he played in theatre pit bands.
Throughout the following decade, although still active in music, it was in the publishing arm of the industry rather than as a performer. Eventually, he formed his own publishing company. Around the end of the 70s, he began performing more regularly, including a spell with Philly Joe Jones.
In the 80s, this association with Jones continued in Dameronia and he was also a member of the Thelonious Monk Reunion band. At the end of the decade he played with Art Blakey, for whom he also wrote arrangements, and began leading his own small groups, including the all-star Superblue.
Through the 90s he continued with his multiple activities, performing with Harold Danko, James Williams and Jaki Byard among many, and also being deeply involved in numerous tribute bands helping foster recognition and/or remembrance of artists such as Gil Evans, Howard McGhee, Hank Mobley, Elmo Hope, Kenny Dorham and Jackie McLean. In many instances, Sickler transcribed and arranged, and occasionally published their music. It was highly appropriate, therefore, that he should become involved as player, arranger and producer with T.S. Monk's band in the early 90s. Sickler was also active as a record producer and as a teacher.
In this latter capacity, he has taught at the Brooklyn School of Music, Hunter College, and the Hartt School of Music. An accomplished hard bop trumpeter, it is as an arranger, and his manifold activities in the back rooms of music, that has helped make Sickler an important if relatively unrecognized figure in the jazz world. This last point is underlined, albeit a shade ironically, by the fact that he was voted as a Talent Deserving Wider Recognition in DownBeat in 1990 - and again in 1999. Rather more encouragingly, in 1998 readers of the same magazine voted T.S. Monk's Monk On Monk, a set to which Sickler's contribution was invaluable, as their choice for Jazz Album Of The Year.
Don's experiences in performing and arranging, and his interest in publishing, made him want to develop jazz publishing in a way no other publisher was doing, so in 1979 he left Big 3 to form his own publishing companies - Second Floor Music (BMI) and Twenty-Eighth Street Music (ASCAP). These full service music publishing firms specialize in jazz music, allowing Don and his staff to work closely with jazz artists and their heirs in protecting and developing copyrights.
Thanks to talent, hard work, dedication and some great luck, Don has been able to combine his love of the trumpet and arranging and producing with his desire to further the cause of jazz music through publishing.
For more information about Don Sickler, please visit: http://donsickler.com.
Josh D. Reed