Volume CVI, No. 5May, 2006
Georges C. Andre – Bass
Barry Brenton – Piano
Roberta Como – Piano/Arranger/Copyist
Marion J. Davis – Saxophone
Donald L. Foster – Piano
Elwyn Fraser – Saxophone/Arranger/Copyist
Danny Harrison – Percussion
Milt Hisler – Saxophone
James Johnson – Saxophone
John Kalish – Bass
Jackie McLean – Saxophone
Salvatore Micciola – Saxophone
Val Olman – Violin/Arranger/Copyist
Louis A. Perez – Flute
Robert Riley – Drums
John W. Schultz – Saxophone
Henry Senick – Bass
Al Shanky – Trumpet
Sanford Sharoff – Bassoon
Alfredo Silipigni – Conductor
Charles Stephens – Trombone
Edward Stress – Trumpet/Arranger/Copyist
John Stubblefield – Tenor Saxophone
Saul Weinstein – Saxophone
Billy Why – Synthesizer
Roberta Como, 84, a pianist, accordionist, vibraphonist, arranger, composer and lyricist, died on Feb. 11. She had been an 802 member since 1953.
Ms. Como was born in Derby, Vermont, the youngest of seven children. She started playing piano at an early age, was self-taught, and had her own radio show during her high school days. After Roberta turned 18, she toured all over the U.S., playing jazz piano, accordion and vibes.
She met her husband Frank when they joined the Manhattan Serenaders. After their traveling days together performing in small groups, they settled in New York City and continued arranging and performing with many famous artists — including Lionel Hampton — for 20 years.
They worked with many singers and entertainers and arranged for the “Tonight Show” band under Skitch Henderson. They made recordings with the Philadelphia Symphony, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Boston Pops under Arthur Fiedler. They worked on Broadway shows, including “A Chorus Line,” “They’re Playing Our Song,” and Leonard Bernstein’s “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” among many others.
One of the highlights of their career together was accompanying Lionel Hampton in Toronto for a concert in 1971 that included Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Johnny Mercer, Mel Torme and Gerry Mulligan. Roberta played the piano with the band.
Ms. Como and her husband also worked with Neil Sedaka.
They recorded an album in the 1960’s with jazz pianist Jean Cheatham, featuring two pianos. Roberta arranged and performed the music with Cheatham, and Frank produced it.
Through Lionel Hampton, Roberta and Frank met Olivia Tucker Ward, a New York City school principal, with whom they collaborated in putting together the “ABC’s of Black History,” an early childhood black history recognition program. Their efforts earned them an ASCAP award.
After retiring in 1988, Frank and Roberta moved to Walnut Creek, Calif. She still continued to share her music by playing various gigs around town and with Oz Ramsey’s Bay Area Big Band.
The family asks that donations may be made to the Generations In Jazz Foundation, 3650 Mount Diablo Blvd #230, Lafayette, CA 94549.
Ms. Como is survived by her husband Frank, brother Pete Wells, daughter Susan Smiley, grandchildren Laura and Yale, and several nieces and nephews.
Sanford Sharoff, 87, a bassoonist and an 802 member since 1946, died on Feb. 23.
Mr. Sharoff was already a nationally recognized bassoonist when he attended Cleveland Heights High School, where he graduated in 1937. He earned a full scholarship to the Curtis Institute of Music, where he graduated in 1941. He was one of the last students of Walter Guetter, one of the world’s great bassoonists.
Mr. Sharoff was a classmate of Leonard Bernstein, with whom he remained friends until Bernstein’s death in 1990.
Mr. Sharoff played one season as second bassoonist with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, under Fritz Reiner. Afterwards, he served four years in the Army, where he was a member of the 266th Army Ground Forces Band.
Following his service, he joined the Dallas Symphony under Antal Dorati. After a number of seasons, he left for New York City with the intention of winning a job with the New York Philharmonic.
Although he did indeed receive an offer to work for the Philharmonic, he changed gears and became a pit musician on Broadway as well as a teacher.
He was a sought-after player for recording sessions. He was in the orchestra for the opening nights of Bernstein’s “Candide” (1956) and “West Side Story” (1957), a score that included a difficult bassoon passage that was written for him.
From 1982 to 1997 he was an adjunct professor and director of the woodwind ensemble at Hofstra University. He taught bassoon at the school and privately. For many years, he volunteered at Holy Cross High School in Flushing, Queens.
He is survived by his sister, Flora Ostrovsky.