Celebrating Sharkey Bonano

Sharkey Bonano was born on this day 98 years ago. He died in 1972. During my first residency in New Orleans, I was fortunate that Sharkey was still around and working. Late in his career, when Bonano was able to resist his cornball urges, he was capable of superb trumpet playing of the kind he did in the 1920s and ’30s with Gene Goldkette, Ben Pollack and his own Sharks of Rhythm. In this photograph from 1968 or so, he is in his customary derby standing next to Pete Fountain at an impromptu jam session. It was the first time in a quarter of a century that Fountain had set down his clarinet and played tenor saxophone, something he has rarely done since. The trombonist in the picture is Eddy Edwards, a survivor of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. The clarinetist is Harry Shields, brother of Larry Shields, the original clarinetist of the ODJB. The drummer’s name escapes me, but one of you alert Rifftides readers will let me know. Sharkey, Pete, et al.jpg
Bonano is usually described as under the influence of Louis Armstrong. That is true, but he rubbed up against Bix Beiderbecke in Goldkette’s band and, ever after, ripples of Bix surfaced in his work. In the soundtrack of the shaky amateur photo montage below, you will hear traces of both Armstrong and Beiderbecke as Bonano leads a superb version of his band through “High Society.” The front line includes two young New Orleans stars, clarinetist Irving Fazola and trombonist Santo Pecora. Sharkey’s former leader, Pollack, is on drums, Thurman Teague bass and Frank Frederico, guitar. The pianist is the 19-year-old Clyde Hart, later to make the transition to bebop and play with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Listen to the ease with which Fazola nails the traditional Alphonse Picou clarinet solo. From Sharkey, Faz went on to Glenn Miller, Bob Crosby and Claude Thornhill, among others.
This is a fine memory of Sharkey Bonano.

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