Omaha native and jazz virtuoso Michael Gurciullo has worked with legendary singers like Wayne Newton, landing him gigs in Las Vegas and beyond.
Gurciullo attended North Texas State University where he performed in one of the university’s legendary “Lab Bands” in the 1980s. He’s totally devoted to this style of music, said his wife Elaine Flaxbeard.
Mike and Elaine knew each other from their time spent together at Omaha Central High School. He was a “band kid,” and she was a cheerleader.
They later reconnected via Elaine’s father, Don Flaxbeard, who enjoyed listening to Mike’s band. He returned back to Omaha from Las Vegas in January of 2008. The high school sweethearts wed in 2010, with Mike bringing two daughters and Elaine bringing a son to the marriage.
From on stage to his family life, Gurciullo is about as down-to-earth as they come. Mike is a huge mentor to those around him.
His 17-piece band, known as Gooch & His Las Vegas Big Band is “top notch.” Members of his band are musicians that he’s met over the years from playing with different ensembles.
Dennis Strawn, a band member in Monday night’s show, met Mike in Manhattan when he joined the Glenn Miller Orchestra. Strawn was already playing lead alto at the time. The pair went on to perform with Wayne Newton in Las Vegas.
Joey Gulizia, a well-known drummer and band member, works with Mannheim Steamroller on an annual basis.
Mike’s gig at the Ozone Lounge become a reality due to Tony Fucinaro. In 2008, Mike’s band started performing at the Ozone Lounge inside of Anthony’s Steakhouse located on 72nd and F streets in Omaha. Their show is from 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Monday nights, open to the public and free of any cover charge.
A 17-piece band that is free of charge is almost unheard of in a big city like Omaha. Tips are encouraged throughout the show to add an extra little boost.
Gurciullo pays attention to, gets to know and keeps track of all of the regulars who attend his shows every week.
He keeps track of birthdays and knows his demographic pretty well. He caters toward an older, yet sophisticated crowd. A few of the older individuals who attend his shows are nearly 90 years young.
Mike’s gig became a big part of his wife Elaine’s social life. She cares about the people who enjoy his music and some individuals become like family over time. Elaine worries about his older demographic, especially when they are unable to attend a show.
His biggest fans are known as “The Wine Ladies,” the late Gert Schroeder and her 91-year-old best friend and my grandmother, Dorothy Knight. They both adored Mike and started coming to his shows each week.
Gert passed away on Feb. 3, 2013, a very somber day for those who knew her. He dedicates the song “The Curtain Falls” to keep Gert’s memory alive when he performs.
Gurciullo returned to Omaha from Phoenix around Halloween. He played shows at Gorat’s Steakhouse, the Jewell and at Anthony’s Steakhouse.
His Halloween special show marked his arrival back with the big band after a one-year hiatus. He dressed up in various costumes and dedicated special songs that went along with the holiday.
Fans can listen to Mike and his jazz music at their convenience. He released two albums, “The Other Half of Me” and “Start of Something Big,” available for purchase in-person and on iTunes.
The recording process was a big deal and took a long time with tons of refining along the way. His first CD was released on iTunes in 2010, and anyone can purchase the album for $9.99. His second CD, “Start of Something Big,” was released in 2015.
Anyone can follow along to find Gooch’s calendar of events on his website. He loves any new recruits.
Watch this video to hear Gurciullo perform a Halloween show.