Volume C, No. 6June, 2000
Robert E. Bates – Organ
Danny Deane – Saxophone
Sidney Elrod – Saxophone
Manny Fiddler – Violin
Sidney Goldsmith – Violin/Piano/Woodwinds
Irving Gross – Piano
Jonah Jones – Trumpet
Ed McCurdy – Guitar
Paul H. McDonough – Piano
Carl H. (Slim) Overn – Tenor Sax
Stephen Porpora – Bass
Nick Rizzo – Guitar
Peter Ponti – Accordion
James Smith – Trumpet
Buddy White – Trumpet
Manny Fiddler, 87, a violinist and a 70-year member of Local 802, died on April 23.
Mr. Fiddler left high school to join the Vincent Lopez Orchestra, then played on club dates on which his colleagues included Harry James and the Dorsey brothers. In 1944 he joined the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and made several recordings with the band. The following year he returned to New York, where he played at night clubs including the Martinique, the Versailles, the Copacabana and the Cotillion Room of the Pierre Hotel. For two decades, beginning in 1950, he was the bandleader at the Copake Country Club in the Berkshires.
Mr. Fiddler conducted the Tony Awards on live TV in the late 1950s and early ’60s and performed on many television shows, including more than 30 years on the Muscular Dystrophy telethons. His work is heard on many recordings, including the legendary ones made by Charlie Parker with strings and the Antonio Carlos Jobim recordings featuring Claus Ogermann’s arrangements. He performed on club dates for virtually all the major society leaders, particularly the Lester Lanin and Meyer Davis offices. In the 1980s and ’90s he was a mainstay with the Jerry Kravat and Peter Duchin orchestras. As a club date violinist, Mr. Fiddler was “first call” on his instrument for years.
He is survived by sons Eric and George (a Local 802 member) and three grandchildren.
Sidney Goldsmith, 83, a violinist, woodwind doubler, pianist and arranger, and a member of Local 802 for over 60 years, died on April 17.
Born in 1917 and raised in Brooklyn, Mr. Goldsmith had a multi-faceted career as a performer, arranger and educator. He began violin studies with his father at age 5 and concertized into his early 20s. As a teenager he learned saxophone, clarinet and flute, as well as piano, and he began playing professionally at age 15 in Catskill resorts with his cousin, the pianist Sy Mann.
During World War II he performed for troops in Guadalcanal, New Caledonia, the Philippines and Fort Bliss, Texas, where he worked in Ralph Young’s big band. After the war he resumed his career, working at Tamiment Playhouse as a musical arranger for composers and performers such as Jerry Bock, Artie Johnson, Pat Carroll, Dick Shawn, Barbara Cook and Sol Berkowitz. He also continued working in big bands and in the society club date field for Steven Scott and Lester Lanin among others, in addition to working at the summer resorts Totem Lodge, Commodore, Nemerson’s and the Grand Hotel.
For 25 years he was an orchestral music teacher in the New York City school system, working extensively with high school students in the South Bronx. He continued performing until the age of 81, and wrote arrangements for the Carnegie Chamber Players until February of this year.
Mr. Goldsmith is survived by his wife Mildred, children Joan and Richard (an 802 member), sisters Alice and Vivian, and grandchildren Benji and Peter.
Irving Gross, 82, a pianist and accompanist who joined Local 802 in 1937, died Feb. 1 in Pembroke Pines, Fla.
Mr. Gross started his professional career at age 15, playing accordion at weddings and bar mitzvahs, and the next year started working summers at Catskill hotels, playing accordion and trombone with the Shalfi Brothers Klezmer Band. In high school he took up cello and flute. He then earned B.S. and M.A. degrees in music education at New York University.
Mr. Gross worked as a pianist in Broadway shows for more than 25 years, performing in Damn Yankees, The Pajama Game, She Loves Me and The Most Happy Fella, among others. He was a consummate accompanist both on the stage – where he played for renowned classical violinists and singers including Robert Rounseville and Robert Merrill – and in Manhattan supper clubs, where he specialized in Continental and Gypsy repertoires. In the mid ’60s he played flute and piccolo in the Queens Symphony Orchestra while his sons, Arnie and Ken, were members of that orchestra on oboe and trumpet, respectively.
Mr. Gross taught instrumental music in Bronxville, N.Y., and the New York City school system for 21 years, and taught intermediate and advanced piano privately for more than 40 years. After he and his wife, Alice (also a retired musician and vocal teacher) moved to Florida for the winters, he was rehearsal pianist for the Gold Coast Opera in Fort Lauderdale and performed as a piano soloist with several community orchestras. They spent the summers in Connecticut, organizing and performing in many community musical projects.
He is survived by his wife Alice, sons Arnie (a pianist, arranger and conductor) and Ken (a trumpeter and Local 802 signatory bandleader), eight grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.
Jonah Jones, 90, a jazz trumpeter and a longtime member of Local 802, died on April 30.
Born in Louisville, Ky., Mr. Jones began playing on Mississippi riverboats in 1927 and subsequently performed around the Midwest with artists and bands including Jimmy Lunceford, Stuff Smith and McKinney’s Cotton Pickers. During the 1930s he recorded with such artists as Teddy Wilson, Billie Holiday, Lionel Hampton and Lil Armstrong, the wife of Louis Armstrong. Between 1936 and 1940 he was a member of Stuff Smith’s sextet at the Onyx Club in New York, and from 1941 until 1952 he played with Cab Calloway. Mr. Jones played Dixieland with Earl Hines in the early ’50s, was in the Broadway production of Porgy and Bess, and made a European tour in 1954.
He formed his own quartet in 1955. The group performed regularly on television, recorded many best-selling LPs (including “On The Street Where You Live,” which sold a million copies, and “Baubles, Bangles and Beads”) and toured the world. In 1959 he won a Grammy Award for the album “I Dig Chicks.” Mr. Jones was the first jazz musician to lead a group at the Rainbow Grill in New York City. He continued to perform through the 1980s and into the ’90s, retiring in 1993.
He is survived by sons William and Lawrence and daughter Shirley.
James Smith, 88, a trumpet player who retired in 1977 after 35 years with the New York Philharmonic, died on April 24. He had joined Local 802 in 1934.
As a student at De Witt Clinton High School, he entered the citywide Music Week Contest and won first prize, the Gold Medal Award. He then entered the Juilliard School on a scholarship, studying with two Philharmonic violinists, Max Schlossberg and Harry Glantz. Mr. Smith joined the National Orchestra Association under Leon Barzin while at Juilliard and, after receiving diplomas from both institutions, launched a professional career in musical theatre, on radio, at the World’s Fair and with ballet and opera companies.
In the late 1930s he played with the CBS Symphony and Andre Kostelanetz’s orchestra, and in the early 1940s with the New Friends of Music under Stiedry, the New Opera Company under Busch, Adler and Dorati, and the NBC Symphony under Toscanini. In 1942 he joined the New York Philharmonic. He retired as third trumpet in 1977. Mr. Smith’s concurrent teaching career included faculty assignments at Juilliard, Hofstra University, Teachers College at Columbia, New York University, the New York College of Music, Mannes College and the 92nd Street “Y” Music School.
He is survived by his wife Sophie, children Sky, Brook, Bonnie and Adrienne, stepsons Steve and Ken Atkatz, and many grandchildren and great grandchildren.