February 7, 2018 Edition

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The Star Trek Rat Pack plays at the 2017 Official Las Vegas Star Trek Convention. Hoxie High School graduate Brent Bristow (second, from right) accompanied the band made up of Star Trek stars including Ethan Phillips, Jeffrey Combs and Casey Biggs.

Bristow boldly goes on
stage with Star Trek stars

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

When Hoxie High School graduate Brent Bristow was offered a chance to play with Star Trek alumni band Enterprise Blues Band 10 years ago, he thought he had been offered a once in a lifetime opportunity. Little did he know that it was the beginning of multiple performances leading him to meet many of the Star Trek stars he grew up watching.

Shortly after earning his doctorate of musical arts from the University of Memphis, Bristow attended an Enterprise Blues Band show in Tulsa, Okla. While there, he had the opportunity to meet band members and Star Trek stars Vaughn Armstrong, Casey Biggs and Steve Rankin.

Bristow had been listening to the band for some time before traveling for the show. "In addition to being actors, they are great musicians," he said.

However there was one thing Bristow couldn't help but inquire about when he met the group. Being a sax man himself, Bristow asked if they had approached another Star Trek alum, Ethan Phillips, about him playing saxophone with the band. "I said I think saxophone would fit in perfectly."

The band said Phillips had played with them but was more of a hobbyist. "In the course of talking with them," Bristow said, "I mentioned I played saxophone, and they asked me 'Are you any good?'"

Before he knew it, Bristow was backstage practicing to play with the band during their show. He was flattered by the invite and expected to join the band for a song or two. After running through seven or eight songs backstage, Bristow asked which song they wanted him to play. To which the Star Trek stars replied that they thought he was playing the whole show.

"That really is rare," Bristow said. "There was no ego. They just wanted to have a good time and let the fans have a good time."

Since that first very improvised show, Bristow has had many opportunities to meet and play music with various actors who held roles on Star Trek. During the years following, Bristow became friends with Armstrong, Biggs and Rankin. He also got to know Star Trek actors Jeffrey Combs, Max Grodenchik, Armin Shimerman and fellow sax man Phillips.

In 2016, Star Trek celebrated its 50-year anniversary, and Bristow was invited to play in Dallas with the Star Trek Rat Pack, which features several of the actors he'd met over the years.

After the promoter heard Bristow with the band, he was invited to play with them for more of their tour. Bristow traveled with the group to play at Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco. Along the way he got to play with Chase Masterson of Deep Space Nine.

One performance that stood out to Bristow was in Chicago when the band accompanied a spoken word version of a song rewritten to be about Captain Kirk as part of a contest.

William Shatner performed the song and Supernatural star and friend of Shatner's Misha Collins hopped onto the stage and played along with the band.

Bristow was later invited to play at the 2017 Official Las Vegas Star Trek Convention. There he met Sir Patrick Stewart, George Takei and Gary Graham, who leads the band Sons of Kirk.

"It's a surreal thing when all these actors I grew up watching come backstage and say they liked what I played," Bristow said. "I was a huge Star Trek fan for years. As a kid I watched whenever it came on."

Bristow is the son of Revell Bristow of Hoxie and the late Marie Bristow. He and his wife, Heather, live in Beebe. They have a daughter, Katlynne Houston of Augusta.

He is the director of bands and associate professor of saxophone at Arkansas State University-Beebe, where he also serves as the head of the Department of Music.

For more information about Bristow, visit brentbristow.com.

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