SYRACUSE Syracuse bass player Phil Flanigan once played bass for Benny Goodman, the King of Swing.
“I never played in his orchestra, but I did about 50 gigs with him over a period of about five years in the early-1980s” Phil recalls. “We played as a trio with guitarist Chris Flory, who’s also from my home town of Geneva.”
If that isn’t amazing enough, 28 years after launching his professional career Phil reunited with a long-lost childhood sweetheart, Syracuse vocalist Hanna Richardson.
Theirs may well be one of the greatest love stories in American music.
Flanigan, 55, is still considered one of the best upright bass players in the Western Hemisphere. He’ll perform this Sunday, Nov. 6, as part of Randy Reinhart’s Gang performing a tribute to Eddie Condon from 4 to 7 p.m. at McNamara’s Pub, 5600 Newport Road, in Camillus. With any luck, Hanna will be asked to the bandstand to sing a tune or two.
Swing era roots
Launched by masterful mentors, Phil’s musical journey was driven both by his talent and his unwavering fidelity to the golden age of American music — the Swing Era. In recent years, his life and his career have been rejuvenated with the magic of rekindled romance.
At age 17, Phil left Geneva to play jazz in New York City. Two years later, he found himself alongside giants of the genre.
With saxophonist Hamilton, Flanigan toured Europe and Japan and made recordings on the Concord Jazz label. The quintet became the Sunday night band at Eddie Condon’s in New York City. Phil frequently sat in down the block with trumpeter Roy Eldridge at Jimmy Ryan’s.
At Condon’s, he played with musicians such as Jack Maheu, Vic Dickenson and guests like Jimmy McPartland and Wild Bill Davison.
Soon Phil was working with world-famous artists like Rosemary Clooney, Maxine Sullivan, Kenny Davern and, of course, Benny Goodman.