Weekend Extra: Conte Candoli

While the real photographer was setting up for the atmospheric shots used in Bud Shank’s 2001 sextet album On The Trail, I snagged this one of Conte Candoli as he entertained the band and bystanders with the theme from The Godfather.
In addition to Shank and Candoli, On The Trail features Jay Thomas on tenor saxophone and a favorite Shank rhythm section: Bill Mays, piano; Bob Magnusson, bass; and Joe LaBarbera, drums. I was enlisted to write liner notes. When the recording at Raw Records in Port Townsend, Washington, was done, Mays and LaBarbera invited Candoli and me to join them in a game of tennis. We explained that we weren’t tennis players. “That’s okay. We have extra rackets. It’ll be fun,” Mays said.

We found a high school tennis court; two real players in tennis whites and two guys in street clothes. I was wearing sneakers, but Count’s shoes had leather soles. Our mismatched doubles teams batted the ball back and forth to great hilarity as the rank amateurs played like rank amateurs, Candoli’s Guccis frequently slipping on the asphalt. Finally, he made a flying lunge at a ball headed out of bounds, slid out of control, fell and rolled. We all rushed over, determined that nothing was broken and helped him up. Concluding that discretion was advisable, Count and I retired to the sidelines and cheered the survivors.

Less than four months later, Count was dead of a cancer no one had suspected in August. At the center of my many fond memories of him is the day he played so well on the record date and his childlike pleasure in that ad hoc fooling around on the court. His longtime colleague Bud Shank left us in 2009.

Here’s a good way for all of us to remember Count—with LaBarbera, Pete Jolly at the piano and Chuck Berghofer on bass. The piece is Candoli’s “Secret Passion.”

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  1. David says

    Among many highlights of the concert that this clip comes from are the impassioned tenor solos of 77-year-old Teddy Edwards on the closing medley of “Oleo” and “Walkin’.” Audio and video quality on the DVD (West Coast All Stars)are excellent.

    • says

      Thanks for sending this; you made my day! What a pleasure to hear Count, Pete and Chuck and what an honor it was for me to share the stage with these giants. Also on the bill that evening was Dave Brubeck and the quartet celebrating Dave’s 80th birthday. What a night!


      • says

        Conte Candoli was always one of my heroes from hearing him way back on a recording where he was only 19 or 20 and already sounded great…I think it was on “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” or something like that…I’m having a brain blockage or I would remember the sax players name who was the leader. I got to be friends with “Count ” later on…he had some great stories and anecdotes and man he could tell them…I loved when he told me when he used to play next to Al Porcino….when the high stuff would be coming up…Porcino would grab Candoli and say ” brace yourself, Count”

        He had a lot of wisdom and he was never a bullshitter…he told me when he was searching for something nice to say about my sax playing, “You sound like..”..(he was stuck at this point)….and then he blurted out…”you!” I laughed my ass off. He also said to me in that breathy Don Corleone kind of voice…”Don’t play trumpet!” Ha!

        • Doug Ramsey says

          The sax player was Charlie Ventura. The record is from his Bop For The People concert at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in 1949. Jackie Cain and Roy Kral were the singers. “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” and many more pieces by that superb Ventura band with Candoli are included in this box set.

          • says

            That’s it! Thanks, man…Charlie Ventura had a hot band for that gig.
            that was the year I was born. My Dad had that box set.

          • says

            Have an original UK-pressing of this LP. — A mightily swingin’ concert with some of the happiest sounds in modern jazz. So very hip!

            By the way: For me, Bennie Green on trombone steals the show.

            Euphoria indeed!

  2. says

    Thanks for the touching (and also very funny) story about your tennis match with Count and the gang. The picture seems to say: “Hey, I’m the real trumpet godfather, and I should have played on that soundtrack!”

    Bossa Nova, latin rhythms in general are also my “secret passion”. This is a lovely piece of music, and I will certainly include it in my repertoire.

    This is one of meanwhile numerous other Conte Candoli features on YouTube:


    Just brilliant!

  3. says

    @ Mr. Joe La Barbera: *You* are a giant too!

    Yeah, Steve, one of my favorite soundtracks of all. And by the way: Kim Novak never looked lovelier, don’t you think so too?

  4. Charlton Price says

    Another of Conte’s first-call Southern Cal colleagues, Gary Foster, has told me he thinks never were musician and instrument more perfectly matched than Conte and the trumpet. Then, too, there’s the astounding inventiveness, power, and beauty of his improvisations. Each note and phrase seems inevitable: jazz with Mozartian perfection. How that can be is a mystery, maybe even to those, like Conte and Louis Armstrong, who could and usually did play at that level for a lifetime.

  5. says

    Just thought I would add my sixpen’orth to the comments. Conte and his brother were terrific together or apart, I thought that they were in the greatest brass section, along with Porcino and Ferguson, that Kenton ever had and I had the great privilege to hear them live in Dublin in 1953 along with Bill Holman, Stan Levey, Lee Konitz, Frank Rosalino etc. The Pasadena Concert was a formative thing for me, and by total coincidence I played it on Monday of this week, how about Ed Shaunessy on drums, and Boots Mussuli surprising us on solos. They fixed my loves for ever between them and I remain an ardent fan, if not an eloquent one. What a music we have.

  6. says

    After sending my earlier one, I realised I had done a great musician a disservice. Benny Green was not mentioned and very much should have been. In those early days when our views,likes and dislikes were being formed, there were at that time three trombonists competing to be everyone’s gods: JJ, Benny, and Frank Rosolino, others followed of course but the sheer playing facilities of these three created all sorts of commotion. Personally it was his tone as much as anything for me, and Curtis Fuller came very close. I won’t bore you (I hope) but a sort of rhyming piece can be made of the tunes on that LP, I’ll just stick with the feeling of euphoria it gives me.

    • Jon Foley says

      Only in the interest of making sure the right musician gets credit for your well-deserved praise – it’s actually BENNIE Green who was the great trombonist; Benny Green is the excellent American pianist (and there’s a British jazz writer with the same name, I believe).

  7. bill mays says

    On that day Count played tennis with us one of the hilarious things was that he came out wearing black dress shoes and socks and had a lit cigar in his hand while trying to strike tennis balls! Oh for a hand-held video device at the time…

  8. says

    RE: Euphoria :)

    Please believe me, I didn’t know that this was Sweden’s contribution to this year’s “European Song Contest” in Baku when I posted the above YouTube-link. I usually don’t follow this very commercial event.

    Anyway, Sweden won the competition tonight with a pop number, bearing this very title.

    Here is tonight’s winner Loreen with their “Euphoria” in an earlier performance: