Bill Trujillo

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A tenor saxophonist and woodwind player, starting with Stan Kenton and later active in Las Vegas.
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A top-flight player with big bands, then a performer in the show bands of many major Las Vegas casinos and hotels, and finally the leader on his own album, It's Tru, Bill Trujillo continues to pursue his great love, jazz music. Trujillo started his chase very early in life, learning to read music before he could read words. Starting clarinet lessons at the age of four, Trujillo switched to tenor saxophone after seeing Lester Young perform with Count Basie in Los Angeles. His mother, a dance teacher at the famous Palomar Ball Room in LA, regularly took Trujillo and his older brother to hear big bands when they were in residence at the Palomar, the Paramount, and other popular LA show places.

After Lincoln High School, where his friend and classmate was Lennie Niehaus, Trujillo started his long professional career at the age of 16 with the West Coast-based Glenn Henry Band, which also boasted a young trombone player named Jimmy Knepper. During the '40s, Trujillo played with Alvino Rey and other West Coast groups. In 1953, he joined Woody Herman with whom he remained until the following year when Bill Russo beckoned and Trujillo joined the Russo Quintet, then playing in Chicago. Eventually finding the Windy City too cold, he returned to L.A. where he played in the orchestras of Charlie Barnet and Jerry Gray, and gigged with small groups.

At the behest of his longtime friend Lennie Niehaus, Trujillo joined Stan Kenton band in 1958, where he soloed on such Kenton pieces as "Men from Mars" and "Walking Shoes." However, road trips often lasting a year or more put too much of a strain on his young family. Trujillo moved to Las Vegas in 1960 to play with Nat Brandywynne and he has been there ever since. He became a mainstay in show orchestras at such important Las Vegas venues as the Tropicana, Flamingo, Thunderbird, and the Dunes. He played behind Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, and many other name players who were mainstays at Las Vegas show palaces. After a labor dispute in 1989 dried up this source of work, Trujillo returned to playing in big bands and small groups throughout the country. He also teaches clarinet, flute, and all saxophones in Las Vegas.

In addition to Lester Young and Charlie Parker, he cites as influences other saxophone players he has performed with like Zoot Sims, Stan Getz, and Herbie Stewart. Fellow tenor-man Bill Perkins has named Trujillo as a major influence. Trujillo's album It's Tru is on the Sea Breeze label and was released in 1999.