Pete Candoli (and Other Losses...)
Through the years there have been a number of "family acts" in jazz, but not many in which the parent/offspring or siblings played the same instrument. An exception is the Candoli brothers, Pete and Conte, who not only played trumpet but did so with such creativity and talent that they are widely considered to be among the best who ever picked up a horn. There were some small differences. Conte, younger than Pete by four years, was best known as a jazz trumpeter who could play lead, Pete as a lead trumpeter who could play jazz.
The Candoli brothers were born and spent their childhood in Mishawaka, Indiana, near South Bend. Conte received his earliest trumpet lessons from Pete, who was largely self-taught, and the brothers first played side-by-side as professionals on Woody Herman's First Herd in the summer of 1945, shortly before Conte's eighteenth birthday. It was there that Pete earned the nickname "Superman" for his stamina and high-note prowess (even wearing a cape as part of the act). Pete, of course, had a different take: "They called me Superman," he said, "because I could open windows that nobody else could lift up..."
While he may not have been the Man of Steel, any trumpet section with Pete Candoli as its anchor would be solid as granite, as no less than twenty-seven big bands (and innumerable studio ensembles) were to learn. Tommy Dorsey recognized Pete's talent, as did Glenn Miller, Stan Kenton, Les Brown, Count Basie, Freddie Slack, Tex Beneke, Jerry Gray, Charlie Barnet and a host of others. In the studios he worked on more than 5,000 recording dates, performing with ensembles led by Gordon Jenkins, Axel Stordahl, Nelson Riddle, Frank Comstock, Don Costa, Michel Legrand, Henry Mancini and others while composing, arranging and conducting for such stars as Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald and Peggy Lee. In their "spare time," the brothers Candoli co-led small groups that recorded and played on the West Coast, in Chicago and at other venues.
Pete earned many awards from Down Beat, Metronome, Esquire and Look magazines, the last naming him one of the seven all-time greatest trumpet players, the others being Louis Armstrong, Bix Biederbecke, Harry James, Bunny Berigan, Dizzy Gillespie and Bobby Hackett. Fast company indeed. Speaking of Armstrong, Pete did an impression of Louis that became near-legendary, and in the 1970s performed a nightclub act with his then-wife, Broadway star Edie Adams. He had previously been married to film actress Betty Hutton. The Candoli brothers were especially close (Pete once said they'd never exchanged a harsh word in their lives), and Pete suffered a devastating blow when Conte succumbed to cancer in December 2001. Pete didn't play much after that but still showed up at various jazz events. But he too had cancer, and it claimed his life on January 11 at age eighty-five. The last of the "seven best" trumpeters had gone to join the other six, and the celestial trumpet section became even more "super" than before.
The Other Losses...
Pete Candoli wasn't the only musician or jazz aficionado who left us in 2007. Here are the names of some others, listed in alphabetical order.
Ken Albers (vocal, trumpet, flugelhorn, mellophone); Donald Ayler (trumpet); Al Baculis (clarinet, alto saxophone, leader); Whitney Balliett (writer); Bill Barber (tuba); Danny Barcelona (drums); Alvin Batiste (clarinet); Michael Brecker (tenor, soprano saxophone); Jimmy Cheatham (trombone, arranger); Buddy Childers (trumpet); Mahlon Clark (clarinet, alto, soprano saxophone); Burt Collins (trumpet); Alice Coltrane (piano, organ, harp); Sonny Dallas (bass); Al Davis (arranger); Art Davis (bass, educator); Joel Dorn (disc jockey, producer); Esmond Edwards (producer, photographer); Ray Evans (lyricist); Johnny Frigo (bass, violin, composer); Peggy Gilbert (saxophone, leader); Ruby Glover (vocals); Howard Hedges (trombone); Al Hendrickson (guitar); Andrew Hill (piano); Tyrone Hill (trombone); Marchel Ivery (tenor saxophone); Ron Jefferson (drums); Leroy Jenkins (violin); Mary Kaye (vocal, guitar); Frankie Laine (vocal); Ralph Leslie (guitar); Floyd Levin (writer); Rod Levitt (trombone, arranger); Nellie Lutcher (piano, vocal).