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Tutto Quello Jazz

June 2024
1min read

Thank you for “Jazz and America,” your delightful interview with Geoffrey C. Ward (December/January 2001). We were especially thrilled to see the contributions of Italian-American musicians in New Orleans given their due.

In researching our book on the history of Italian-Americans in jazz, we’ve discovered that far from being marginal figures in this great American art form, Italian musicians were always active participants, even major innovators. Joe Venuti from Philadelphia made the violin an essential part of the jazz ensemble, as legendary Scott ("Rocco") LaFaro did for the bass. Venuti’s boyhood friend Eddie Lang (born Salvatore Massero) paved the way for future guitarists like Al Di Meola (fusion). Chicago pianist Lennie Tristano and his “experimental” jazz of the 1940s continue to inspire disciples. Tristano’s contemporary Dodo Marmarosa was a key member of the bebop movement, as was George Washington (born Giacinto Figlia). Buddy DeFranco, who played in the Goodman era, is now the distinguished master of the clarinet. And where would jazz get much of its beat if it weren’t for the drums of Louis Bellson (born Balassoni) or the exuberance of Louis Prima’s great instrumental piece “Sing, Sing, Sing”?

Our point is not chauvinistic but humanistic—namely, that this indigenous American art form, born out of the African-American experience, embraced the talents of many cultures. Jazz serves as a sublime example of what we as Americans can achieve when we “melt together” as one. Bravi, tutii!

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