by Lola Rossi-Meza

Drummer, vocalist and rhythm guitarist, Sal Frisaura along with saxophonist Al Lopez and pianist Gil Quesada, are the band members performing with vocalist and very entertaining front man, Johnny Meza with guest appearance by vocalist Lola Rossi every Wednesday from 6 until 10 p.m. at Wally’s Desert Turtle, 71-775 Highway 111 in Rancho Mirage. On Wednesday, February 13, a romantic Valentine’s Gala with a prix fixe dinner and dancing is being presented. For reservations call (760) 568-9321.

Every Thursday, Frisaura performs with vocalist Mike Costley and guitarist John Pagels at Three-Sixty North, 360 North Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs. (760) 327-1773.

Every Friday and Saturday, he performs from 8 p.m. until midnight in Shanghai Red’s at the Fisherman’s Market in La Quinta with PS Blues. Band members include vocalist and bassist Gil Hansen, guitarist and vocalist Devon Dean, vocalist and keyboardist Tony Patler with Ronnie Felix alternating with Frisaura. (760) 777-1601.

Born and raised in the Bronx, New York with his younger sister, Sal Frisaura was exposed to various types of music at an early age. His father played accordion, banjo and mandolin but didn’t play professionally. However, his two uncles were professional musicians. “I started playing drums when I was ten years old on a snare drum my Uncle Frankie gave me,” said Frisaura. “I continued playing in the High School Marching Band and had the opportunity to play in several parades, marching down 42nd Street.”

His Uncle Jimmy Frisaura played the trumpet and valve trombone, was the section leader and the road manager for the Tito Puente Orchestra for sixty years. He recorded many albums with Puente and appeared in several movies including the “Mambo Kings”. His Uncle Frankie Ford sang, played the trumpet, saxophone and drums. He was also part of the comedy duo, Ford and Allen, who appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show four times. “During the holidays, our families would get together and we would all play music, it was great.”

His sister Lorraine sang and played guitar for the band “Heaven” in the late 70s and 80s. Her 1976 album “Be Happy For Me” featured top musicians Randy Brecker, Will Lee, Steve Kahn, James Mtume and Don Grolnick.

“One of my first gigs was at the Metropol Cafe in New York City when I was seventeen years old. We played for the go-go dancers. I met Gene Krupa during that time.” Krupa was in the Big Band performing for the cafe’s regular patrons. He would often come to sit and listen to Frisaura play drums. “I finally introduced myself to him and he told me his name. He was a really nice guy and said he liked my drumming. When I went home that night, I asked my father if he knew a guy named Gene Krupa. He said, ‘Gene Krupa! You don’t know who that is? That’s the famous drummer!’ We became close friends and he would show me how to play rolls on the drums.”

He worked at The Night Owl Cafe in Greenwich Village where he would alternate with groups “The Lovin’ Spoonful” and The “Blue Magoo’s” Later both groups would record on the Mercury and Kama Sutra Record labels and have top 40 hits on the radio. In 1967, Frisaura was drafted and served four years in the Air Force as a Loadmaster for C-141 aircraft.

In 1972, he received a call from his Uncle Frankie Ford to come to Palm Springs and play at the International Resorts Hotel. Frisaura stayed a short time and later moved to Las Vegas to perform with Freddie Bell in his show band at the Aladdin Hotel and Casino. “Those were the years of the show bands. We worked for an agency all over the United States. I played in that band for about five years and then shortly for Lee Greenwood, before he became famous.”

In 1981, his Uncle Frankie, who was now the entertainment director for the Canyon Hotel, called him and requested he return to Palm Springs to perform in his band. Frisaura has been living, working and performing in Palm Springs since then. As a matter of fact, saxophonist Pat Rizzo performed in the Tito Puente Orchestra and knew his Uncle Jimmy and when Rizzo moved to Palm Springs, he met up with Frisaura and they have been friends ever since. On a personal note, I met Sal when I first moved to Palm Springs and was working at the House of Fabrics as a sewing machine department manager. He purchased a sewing machine from me. I later found out he was a musician in town.

A most impressive moment in my memory, is when my husband and I were performing compositions from our CD on the Main Stage during the Idyllwild Jazz in the Pines. A few hours after we performed, Sal performed with Pat Rizzo’s band followed by the Sea Hawk Modern Jazz Orchestra led by Marshall Hawkins. Due to circumstances beyond control, the drummer for the orchestra was unable to perform. Without knowing any of the orchestrated music, Sal played the drums as if he had rehearsed for months. I heard later he was quite concerned because he hadn’t read drum music in a while, but the thousands of people in the audience, never knew the difference because this talented drummer has a God given talent, we are proud to call him our friend.