Volume CV, No. 10October, 2005

Billy Bauer, a guitarist and a Local 802 member since 1936, died on June 17, not June 24 as printed in last month’s Allegro.

Jack R. CarmanTrombone

Michael Di VitoViolin

Oliver EdelCello

Chris GriffinTrumpet

Charlie HarmonSaxophone

Robert MoogInventor

James J. NigroGuitar

Joe PaganDrums

Nick PeritoConductor/Arranger

Louis PriviteraDrums

Murray David SchneeViolin

Tom TalbertPiano/Arranger

Bernie ThompsonOrgan

Max WeinerViolin

Chris Griffin

Chris Griffin, 89, a trumpeter who joined Local 802 in 1932, died on June 18.

Mr. Griffin was born in Binghamton. He was just 12 when he picked up the horn, but six years later, he was living in New York City and playing professionally in the saxophonist Charlie Barnet’s band.

After two years with Barnet, he played with singers Rudy Vallee, Joe Haymes and Mildred Bailey. He found studio work with CBS and joined the Benny Goodman band in May 1936.

Mr. Griffin stayed with Goodman for nearly three years and participated in one of the historic moments in jazz: the Carnegie Hall concert in 1938 when Goodman brought his orchestra into the famed venue for the first performance there by a jazz band. The concert brought a new level of recognition to jazz and a new legitimacy to the music.

Mr. Griffin also appeared with the Goodman band in the films “The Big Broadcast of 1937” and “Hollywood Hotel.”

Through the latter half of the 1930’s, Goodman’s orchestra was considered the top group in the country and had a huge following. The trumpet section, composed of Mr. Griffin, Harry James and Ziggy Elman, was the talk of the jazz world. Duke Ellington was quoted as saying that it was “the greatest trumpet section that ever was.” Glenn Miller called it “the marvel of the age.”

But by 1939, Mr. Griffin had decided that the grind of touring was not for him. Married to former singer Helen O’Brien and with his third child on the way, he left the limelight of big band work for the lucrative but relatively anonymous life of a studio musician.

He played lead trumpet in radio and television orchestras for Jackie Gleason, Milton Berle and Ed Sullivan. He is credited with playing the beautiful trumpet obbligato on Gleason’s theme song, “Melancholy Serenade.”

As a session musician, Mr. Griffin recorded with Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Tony Bennett and Mel Torme. He also worked with Charlie Parker on the “Charlie Parker With Strings” album.

Mr. Griffin ran a trumpet school in the late 1960’s and toured Europe in the 1970’s before slowly scaling back his playing. He became semi-retired, but still played a number of gigs with Tex Beneke, Warren Covington and others. Later, he gave workshops and lectures; he was a big hit at the Litchfield Jazz Camp where kids were enthralled by his stories and music.

Near the end of his life, he met Arturo Sandoval and Bill Vacchiano, with whom he became friends.

A new book about Mr. Griffin, “Sittin’ In With Chris Griffin,” by Warren W. Vache Sr., was published in May.

He is survived by his fiancee Louise Baranger who is a jazz trumpeter and also a member of Local 802. He is also survived by his sons Gerald, Paul and Thomas, daughters Patricia E. Griffin and Eileen R. Relyea, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. His wife of 60 years, Helen, and another son, George, both died in 2000.

His family recommends that contributions be made to Local 802’s Emergency Relief Fund, c/o Musicians’ Assistance Program, Local 802, 322 West 48th Street, New York, NY 10036.

This obituary was edited from the Los Angeles Times.

Back to top

Charlie Harmon

Charles W. Harmon, 85, a member of Local 802 since 1951, died of heart failure on June 17. A tenor saxophonist and a licensed commercial pilot, glider pilot and flying instructor, he worked in the recording checks department of Local 802 for the past 14 years.

Born in Arkansas on July 28, 1919, Charlie learned to fly at the age of 15. He was commissioned a first lieutenant in the Army Air Corps during World War II, and flew a B17 bomber. Later an Air Force reservist, he also flew for the Adirondack Flying Service and Braniff Airlines.

His musical career included the Army Air Corps Band, 23 years at the Lake Placid Club in Lake Placid, New York, 15 years at New York’s Roseland Ballroom, and many years of freelancing with countless bandleaders around the New York area. He received a diploma in the Schillinger system of composition from New York University, attended the Yale Music School and Penn State, and taught the Schillinger system at the Hartnett Music Studios in New York for many years.

Harmon played with many of the jazz greats of his time including Jack Teagarden, Jimmy Dorsey, Jimmy McPartland, Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, and recorded with Stan Rubin, Billy Butterfield, Henry “Red” Allen, Max Kaminsky, Tom Gwaltney, Jeff Stoughton, Sam Most, Pee Wee Russell and Slam Stewart, among others. One of his last playing jobs was with the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band, with his old friend Doc Cheatham. A fragile heart ended his playing career around 1997, but he continued his connection to the New York music world through his work at Local 802.

He is survived by his wife Jo, daughter Andrea, son Charles Jr., brother Bill, and two grandchildren, Wyatt and Joylene.

Back to top

Joe Pagan

Joe Pagan, 78, a drummer, percussionist and singer and an 802 member since 1947, died on July 20.

Many union members will remember Mr. Pagan either as a business rep or as the front doorman at Local 802’s building. He was hired by the union in the early 1980’s, left briefly to work for the AFM, and came back to work the front door in 1990 where he stayed until just recently.

Mr. Pagan was born in Puerto Rico where he was already playing the drums as a teenager. As a member of the Puerto Rican local of the AFM, Mr. Pagan played for the USO at military bases before coming to New York at the age of 20.

He studied drums with Harry Adler. As a percussionist, he knew classical music and could read music well.

Mr. Pagan played club dates, cabarets, weddings and bar mitzvahs, on drum set and timbales. He could also sing in several languages. He was well known in the Latin field.

Mr. Pagan played at Roseland under Ramon Argueso. He played with fellow Latin percussionist Candido Camero. He also played with Emilio Reyes, Bobby Capo and Freddie Alonso.

The Alameda Room and El Morocco were two of the famous New York clubs where Mr. Pagan performed. He also performed in the Catskills, in many New York hotels and on cruise ships.

He is survived by his wife Muriel, son Gary, granddaughter Casey Elizabeth, brothers Edwin and Carlos, and his nieces and nephews.

Back to top

Murray David Schnee

Murray David Schnee, 81, a violinist and an 802 member since 1945, died on July 2.

Born in Brooklyn, he began playing violin at the age of eight. He graduated from the High School of Music and Art in 1942. Following service during World War II, he joined the Pittsburgh Symphony at age 21 under conductor Fritz Reiner. He later was a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Rafael Kubelik. He also studied conducting and recorded with Leonard Bernstein, and recorded with Leopold Stokowski, the New York City Ballet and others.

Mr. Schnee played with the American Symphony, the Metropolitan Opera, the Joffrey Ballet, the New York City Opera, the Little Orchestra Society and other groups of all sizes. As a first violinist for more than 45 years with the New York City Ballet, he worked with George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Peter Martins and Igor Stravinsky.

For 35 years, he performed as first violinist in the summer Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra where he also served as a personnel manager. Mr. Schnee was instrumental in introducing leading New York City Ballet soloists like Patricia McBride and Jean Pierre Bonnefoux to Chautauqua. These introductions later became the nucleus of the renowned Chautauqua Dance Company.

He is survived by his wife Bernice (Gold), sons Steven and George, daughter Joan, daughters-in-law Monica and Clara, and grandchildren Jordan, Julian, Martha and Isabella.

Back to top

Tom Talbert

Tom Talbert, 80, a pianist and arranger and an 802 member since 1997, died on July 2.

Mr. Talbert was a self-taught pianist who arranged music for jazz greats such as Buddy Rich, Stan Kenton and Claude Thornhill.

Mr. Talbert became interested in arranging at age 15 after hearing big bands on the radio. During World War II, he joined the Army and became an arranger for a military band at Ft. Ord that performed for war-bond drives throughout California.

After the war, the native of Crystal Bay, Minn., moved to Los Angeles and led his own 14-piece orchestra from 1946-49 and toured with singer Anita O’Day. In 1950, Mr. Talbert came to New York and arranged music for many jazz greats, including Rich, Kenton and Thornhill.

Mr. Talbert released two albums in the mid-1950’s: “Bix Duke Fats,” a modern jazz treatment of compositions by Bix Beiderbecke, Duke Ellington and Fats Waller, and “Wednesday’s Child” with singer Patty McGovern.

In 1975, he returned to Los Angeles and wrote the soundtracks for such television shows as NBC’s “Serpico” and “Emergency.” He led a septet and another big band, revived his recording career and performed through the 1990’s.

He also established a scholarship for young musicians studying at California State University, Long Beach.

Mr. Talbert is survived by his wife Elizabeth, four stepchildren, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

This obituary from the Associated Press.

Back to top