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Pete Candoli (and Other Losses...)


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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).

Henry Mackenzie (clarinet, tenor saxophone); George Melly (piano, vocal); Leon Merian (trumpet); Frank Morgan (alto saxophone); Sal Mosca (piano); Tommy Newsom (alto, tenor saxophone, arranger, composer); Bob Olson (trombone); Mike Osbourne (alto saxophone, clarinet); Cecil Payne (baritone saxophone, flute); Oscar Peterson (piano); Herb Pomeroy (trumpet, leader, educator); Specs Powell (drums); Doug Riley (piano, composer); Herman Riley (tenor saxophone); Max Roach (drums); Bobby Rosengarden (drums); Gilbert Rovere (bass); Paul Rutherford (trombone); Floyd Standifer (trumpet, flugelhorn, tenor saxophone, vocal); Dakota Staton (vocal); Tony Scott (clarinet, tenor, baritone saxophone, percussion, composer, arranger); Earl Turbinton (alto, soprano saxophone); Carlos (Patato) Valdez (percussion); Randy Van Horn (vocal, arranger, leader); Al Viola (guitar); Earl Watkins (drums); Dick Wetmore (violin); Carla White (vocal); Jack Wilson (piano); Eldee Young (bass); Joe Zawinul (piano, keyboards, composer). RIP, ladies and gentlemen. You will be missed.

A Canadian Jazz Hall of Fame

Word is that a Canadian Jazz Hall of Fame is to be established in Niagara on the Lake, Ontario. The city is a tourism center noted for the annual George Bernard Shaw Festival that draws visitors from all over the world. The Hall, which is the brainchild of John Armstrong, vice-president of the public relations firm OEB Enterprise, is scheduled to open in January 2009, with the first inductions to be held during the area's Ice Wine Festival. Needless to say, it's a great idea and long overdue. Here are some names for consideration on the first ballot—Oscar Peterson, Rob McConnell, Maynard Ferguson, Phil Nimmons. I'm sure there are others who deserve the honor, but those should get the voters started on the right foot.

Coming Events

Big Band Jam! 2008 will be held April 18-27 at several locations in the Washington, DC, area including Blues Alley, the Voice of America Stage, the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage, the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. The Sylvan Theatre will host a number of DC-area high-school jazz ensembles. Other components of the event include the Collegiate Jazz Jam!, the International Jazz Jam! and performances by jazz ensembles from the Army, Navy and Air Force. Multiple guest master classes will accompany feature performances, and there will be a round table discussion about the legendary Voice of America broadcast personality Willis Conover during "Willis Conover Memorial Weekend" April 26-27. For more information, log on to www.bluesalley.org

The days when big bands were constantly on the road playing one-night stands in cities and towns from coast to coast may be long gone, but there are a few who continue to persevere in spite of almost insurmountable odds (and the prospect of going bankrupt in the process). Trumpeter Mike Vax, who rode the bus in the 1970s as a member of the Stan Kenton Orchestra and now lives in Oakland, CA, has assembled his band for a number of yearly tours of two weeks or more, and has arranged another, through seven Midwestern states, in April and May. Vax's band houses a number of Kenton alumni and includes such well-known players as pianist Bob Florence, trumpeters Carl Saunders and Dennis Noday, saxophonist Kim Richmond and drummer Gary Hobbs. This year's tour begins May 22 in Rogersville, MO, and ends May 10 in Detroit. In between, there'll be concerts and clinics at nearly a dozen high schools as well as at the universities of Nebraska and Minnesota. For more about the tour, go to www.bigbandjazz.net

And we mustn't overlook the next Ken Poston/L.A. Jazz Institute extravaganza, "The Stage Door Swings," May 22-25 at the Sheraton LAX Four Points Hotel, with a "bonus event" for early birds the evening of May 21—a dinner and concert featuring the Dave Pell Octet. The various groups, large and small, will perform music from half a dozen popular Broadway shows and by celebrated composers from Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin and Cole Porter to Rodgers and Hart, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Frank Loesser, Lerner and Loewe, the Gershwin brothers and Jerome Kern. And there'll be the usual panel discussions and films including the West Coast premier of "Bud Shank: Portrait of a Jazz Legend," produced and directed by Graham Carter. For information, go to www.lajazzinstitute.org

Steve Marcus

We leave you this time with a story that's simply too good not to pass on. It comes to us from trumpeter Eric Miyashiro, a celebrated bandleader in Japan who once held the lead chair in Buddy Rich's band, and concerns the late great Steve Marcus, Buddy's right-hand man for many years and a standout soloist on tenor and soprano saxophone.

"Steve Marcus didn't even change his own reed," Eric writes. "Our lead alto would check Steve's reed from time to time, and if needed, he would change it for [him]. Steve's sax was unplayable by others; pads were leaking, keys were out of whack, dents [were] everywhere. But he could play his butt off every night on it. Go figure!

"We did a Sinatra gig at Carnegie Hall, and Steve's book called for a clarinet double. He took out his clarinet, which he hadn't touched in years, from deep under the [band] bus. When he opened [the case], the clarinet was missing the bell. We [couldn't] go to a music store, as it was Sunday night and nothing was open, and the gig was in about forty-five minutes, [leaving] no time to even call someone, as we were late arriving in NYC. So Steve went and found a Styrofoam coffee cup, covered it with black duct tape, and replaced it as the bell of his clarinet. It sounded fine. Go figure again!

"But that's not the end of the story. The gig called for tuxedos, which was really rare for us. When Steve got his wrinkled tux from the bus bay, it was missing the bow tie. So Steve goes somewhere again, returns with a piece of cardboard, a black marker pen, and a pair of scissors. He then cuts out a 'bow tie,' colors it black with the pen, and duct tapes it to his shirt. No one, including Buddy, noticed the 'clarinet' or the 'bow tie'!"

And that's it for now. Until next time, keep swingin'!

New and Noteworthy

1. Bobby Burgess Big Band Explosion, Live At Rosenau (Mons)
2. Jim Widner Big Band, Out Of This World (Chase Music Group)
3. Rodger Fox Big Band, No Exit (Tbone Records)
4. Gerald Wilson Orchesta, Monterey Moods (Mack Avenue)
5. Jason Lindner Big Band, Live At The Jazz Gallery (Azica Records)
6. Westchester Jazz Orchestra, All In (No label)
7. Texas Tech University, Glimmer Of Night & Day (Sea Breeze Vista)
8. Maynard Ferguson, The Lost Tapes, Vol. 1 (Sleepy Night Records)
9. Gary Tole & Legends of Swing, One Kettle For Count (Summit)
10. Paul Keller Orchestra, A Tribute To Count Basie (PKO Records)
11. Kutztown University Jazz Ensemble, Dance You Monster (Sea Breeze Vista)
12. Knoxville Jazz Orchestra, Blues Man From Memphis (Blue Canoe Records)
13. Michael Berkowitz/Gene Krupa Orchestra, Thinking Of Gene (Sea Breeze Jazz)
14. Johnny Holloway Big Band, Just Friends (Diaspora Connections)
15. Sentimental Journey Orchestra, On The Bandstand (SJO)

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