For the Grand Prize: April Is . . . ?
A Trio of Fond Farewells
Drummer Jake Hanna, who made more than a few big bands sound even better than they were, died February 12 of complications from a blood disorder. Hanna, who was born April 4, 1931, in Roxbury, Massachusetts, started playing drums at age five. In the 1940s and early 1950s he worked with pianists Marian McPartland and Toshiko Akiyoshi and in bands led by Tommy Reed and Ted Weems before moving onward and upward to perform with the likes of Maynard Ferguson, Woody Herman, Duke Ellington, Harry James, Herb Pomeroy and others. In 1964, Hanna became a member of the studio band for the Merv Griffin television show, and moved to Los Angeles in 1970 when Griffin relocated from New York City. On the West Coast, Hanna remained busy in mainstream and swing sessions, played with Supersax and co-led a small group with trombonist Carl Fontana. He recorded many times (mostly as a sideman) for Concord Records. I fondly recall Hanna as guest drummer on a splendid album from Canada, Kansas City Nights, with saxophonist Jim Galloway's Wee Big Band and pianist Jay McShann (Sackville 3057). Hanna, who could swing in any context, was a fixture at jazz parties and festivals across the country, and will be greatly missed by his many fans.
Saxophonist Tony Campise, who played lead alto with the Stan Kenton Orchestra in the mid-1970s and was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1992 for his album Once in a Blue Moon, died from a brain hemorrhage March 7, five months after he fell and struck his head outside a hotel in Corpus Christi, Texas. Campise had been hospitalized since then and had undergone three operations to relieve pressure on his brain. A native of Houston, Campise settled in Austin in 1984. Besides holding a five-nights-a-week gig on Sixth Street, he backed such legendary singers as Frank Sinatra and Sarah Vaughan. A versatile musician, Campise could play any woodwind instrument and was known as well for his skill on flute.
Art Van Damme, an accordionist whose nimble jazz improvisations were more than a novelty act, died February 15 at age 89. Van Damme was a pioneer of Jazz accordion, starting from 1941 when he was hired by bandleader Ben Bernie. Returning to studio work in Chicago, Van Damme formed a quintet with several colleagues and recorded his first album for the Musicraft label in 1944. For the next 15 years he was a studio musician for NBC Radio in Chicago, meanwhile recording a number of albums for the Capitol and Columbia labels aimed at a cocktail-piano audience and named accordingly (Cocktail Capers, Martini Time, Manhattan Time and so on). In 1947, Van Damme made the cover of DownBeat magazine, and was voted Top Accordionist in the magazine's annual poll of jazz musicians for ten years in a row. Later, he was similarly honored for five years in a row by Contemporary Keyboard magazine. Van Damme later moved into more adventurous territory with albums such as Accordion a la Mode and A Perfect Match, the latter with guitarist Johnny Smith.