The tinkle of toasting wineglasses, rattle of plates and utensils and the pleasant hum of a dozen different conversations make Alan Isley smile. In moments, he’ll be adding his musical sounds to the inviting mix inside Devolli’s Italian Restaurant on Denison’s Main Street just like he’s done four nights a week for the last 11 years.

The tinkle of toasting wineglasses, rattle of plates and utensils and the pleasant hum of a dozen different conversations make Alan Isley smile. In moments, he’ll be adding his musical sounds to the inviting mix inside Devolli’s Italian Restaurant on Denison’s Main Street just like he’s done four nights a week for the last 11 years.


Isley was inspired to begin his musical journey in the mid-1940s.


"I was a preteen, listening to my father’s dance band when the inspiration came. ‘I want to do that when I grow up!’" Isley said.


In eighth grade, he was handed a 1930s-era trumpet his older brother had lost interest in. His love affair with music soared, but not without guidance.


"My dad made sure I studied with a classical artist as well as learning the popular music of the day from his professional musicians," Isley said. "My high school had an award-winning marching band, as well as a concert band, so I did it all. Trumpet was my only passion until I discovered the fluegelhorn. For most of my life, I’ve played both — trumpet for the big bands and Dixieland-style jazz and fluegelhorn for small groups and solos. They each have their place in the world of brass musicians, depending on what you are trying to communicate to the listener."


Isley went on to pursue a business career but continued playing music as a hobby. Since he and his wife, Tammy, moved here 14 years ago from southern California, his musical endeavors have included performing with the Sherman Community Players volunteer orchestra, the Greater Texoma Jazz Orchestra at Austin College and the Gainesville Swing Orchestra. He’s also played in high school musicals and even conducted several jazz workshops at Denison High School.


Unlike some musicians from his era, Isley has fully embraced today’s digital and electronic offerings to aid him in his solo performances. He’s a fan of not just big band and swing from the ’40s, but music all the way up to present day and in all genres. He carries an iPod loaded with 500 instrumental songs he plays along with. They range from favorites by the legendary Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Nat "King" Cole, Dean Martin and Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass to Norah Jones, Joe Cocker, Patsy Cline, John Denver, Neil Diamond, Elvis and even The Beatles. He has a partial list of his offerings printed up on a flyer which his weekly audiences use to make song requests that he happily obliges.


"I don’t perform for an audience in the traditional sense, but I accompany their conversations and dinner," Isley said. "Many young players come in with their parents and are fascinated with the unique way I approach the brass instruments … I like to think meeting me has broadened their appreciation for jazz and especially older jazz artists."


Isley does do a few private performances for special events, but he said his weekly gig allows him to enjoy playing in a relaxed atmosphere. The good food and friends, both old and new, are added bonuses.


"I’m retired now to just four evenings each week at Devolli’s, leaving the high, loud and fast playing to younger workhorses," Isley said. "The pasture is looking better every day!"