[Dixielandjazz] Dodo Marmarosa - Obit

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet@earthlink.net
Fri, 27 Sep 2002 12:40:19 -0400

Before he made the be-bop scene, Mr, Marmarosa was a Big Band pianist
hence this post: He worked with the big bands of Krupa, Dorsey, Barnett
and Shaw.

Steve Barbone

September 27, 2002  New York Times

Dodo Marmarosa, 76, an Early Bebop Pianist, Is Dead


      Dodo Marmarosa, a jazz pianist who became known as an early master
of bebop's harmonic complexity and then vanished from the scene, died on
Sept. 17 at a hospital in Pittsburgh. He was 76 and lived in Pittsburgh.

The cause appeared to be a heart attack, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Mr. Marmarosa's career began early and ended abruptly. He was a featured
soloist with some of the leading big bands while still a teenager. A few
years later he was working with some of the most celebrated musicians in
jazz, notably the saxophonists Charlie Parker and Lester Young. But by
the mid-1950's he had dropped out of the big time. After a comeback that
began in 1960 and ended two years later, he never again performed
the Pittsburgh area.

Mr. Marmarosa did not publicly explain his retreat. But by many accounts
he was a sensitive soul who had trouble handling the pressures of the
jazz life.

"He was gentle and fragile," Artie Shaw, one of his former employers,
told The Post-Gazette in 1998. "He never learned to deal with the world
of a musician."

Another employer, Charlie Barnet, said that Mr. Marmarosa once pushed a
small piano off a third-floor balcony "to hear what chord it would make
when it hit the ground."

Some jazz historians attributed Mr. Marmarosa's fragility to an incident
in 1943, when as a member of Gene Krupa's big band he went into a coma
after being beaten by a group of sailors in Philadelphia. He was also
hospitalized for emotional problems while serving in the Army a decade

Mr. Marmarosa's recorded legacy was enough to secure him, as the critic
Leonard Feather put it, "a small but significant place" in jazz history.

Michael Marmarosa was born in Pittsburgh on Dec. 12, 1925. He is said to
have received the nickname Dodo because he was short and had an
unusually large head.

A dedicated piano student beginning at age 9, he began playing
professionally at 15. From 1942 to 1945 he worked with Gene Krupa,
Charlie Barnet, Tommy Dorsey and with Artie Shaw, who called him "the
greatest pianist I ever had in my band." In 1945 he moved to Los
Angeles, where he became the house pianist for the Atomic Records label.

Among the Atomic sessions on which he played was "Slim's Jam," a
legendary novelty recording led by the singer, guitarist and comedian
Slim Gaillard, which also featured the alto saxophonist Charlie Parker
and the trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.

With his knowledge of harmony and his skill at improvising long, complex
lines, Mr. Marmarosa had an immediate affinity for the emerging bebop
style. He was soon working with Parker and became known as a talented
bebop pianist.

Not long after his name had become familiar to jazz fans, Mr. Marmarosa
was back in Pittsburgh and no longer recording or touring. He made an
album for the Argo label in 1961, and he and the tenor saxophonist Gene
Ammons led a 1962 recording session that went unreleased for a decade.

Mr. Marmarosa is survived by two sisters, Doris Shepherd and Audrey
Radinovic, both of Glenshaw, Pa.

He played piano at a restaurant in Mount Lebanon, Pa., from 1968 until
he developed diabetes a few years later. Even the resurgence of interest
in bebop in the 1970's and 80's did not bring him back to national