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Dodo Marmarosa

A piano wunderkind who was for about a decade one of the most sought-after pianists in the history of jazz, yet has remained in relative obscurity. Dodo was born Michael Marmarosa, on 6 December 1925, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After formal studies and gigging with local bands, in 1941, the Johnny “Scat” Davis Orchestra came to Pittsburgh with an opening for a piano player. Even as a kid, Marmarosa had a reputation in local jazz circles, and some local musicians suggested that Davis snatch up the young pianist, so he hit the road. He was 15.

After a few months, the orchestra broke up. But Marmarosa and a few others hooked up with Gene Krupa's band. He then joined Charlie Barnet's big band. During that time, the Barnet band recorded “The Moose” and “Strollin,' “ the first of dozens of recordings Marmarosa would be part of over the next few years.

By early 1944, at age 18, he left Barnet's band to join Tommy Dorsey. The band featured a quartet including Marmarosa, Buddy De Franco, Sidney Block and Buddy Rich. For Marmarosa, playing with Dorsey was another in a series of dead-end jobs made tolerable by the opportunity to work regularly with Rich.

In November 1944, Marmarosa left Dorsey and joined Artie Shaw's band, which was considered one of the best big bands in the country. Shaw, like Dorsey, featured a small combo from the band, known as the Grammercy-Five. With it, Marmarosa found more opportunity to improvise, and the group made several popular recordings. The group also featured guitarist Barney Kessel and fellow Pittsburgher and trumpeter Roy Eldridge.

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