“Does Anyone Remember Conrad Gozzo?”

In response to the Rifftides post about the death of Al Porcino, reader Dick Vartanian sent a comment:

I remember Al Porcino well and had deep regard for his playing. But does anyone remember a equally great countryman of his named Conrad Gozzo?

Jack Greenberg responded with this:

Everyone who is my age (70 years old) and plays trumpet remembers Conrad Gozzo. As the most sought after lead trumpet player in Hollywood up until his death in 1964, his recorded output is enormous, especially when one considers that he only lived to the age of 42.

Gozzo, FergusonLike Porcino, as Dick Vartanian indicates, Gozzo was of Italian descent. His big band career began with Isham Jones in 1938, when he was 16. He played lead trumpet with Red Norvo, Claude Thornhill, Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, Tex Beneke, Bob Crosby and Boyd Raeburn— part of a very long list. In a rare photograph, we see Gozzo second from the left, with Maynard Ferguson. After he moved to Los Angeles in 1947, Gozzo was sought after in recording and movie studios for the power, accuracy and brilliance of his lead work. From the 1953 Shorty Rogers album Cool and Crazy (reissued on Short Stops), here’s Gozzo sharing the double lead with Ferguson in Rogers’ “Infinity Promenade.” Solos are by Art Pepper, alto sax; Rogers, trumpet; and Jimmy Giuffre, tenor sax.

When Gozzo died of a heart attack in 1964, he was a member of the NBC Holywood staff orchestra.

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Comments

  1. says

    One of the great lead trumpet players who setteled in LA. I actually happen to have an LP under Conrad’s name. Not sure if this is the only recording under his name. He played lead on most of the Shorty Rogers LPs on RCA back in the late 50′ and early/mid 60″s. Was always in demand.

  2. Wayne Tucker says

    I’m getting close to 70, and I recall Gozzo’s name in Downbeat and maybe from an old Shorty Rogers album. Art Pepper remains one of my all-time favorites. Did Gozzo ever record with another great west coast sax man, Bud Shank?

  3. Bill Benjamin says

    At age 71, I absolutely remember Conrad Gozzo. During the 50s and early 60s, he was THE first call lead player in the entire country. Very sad that we lost him at age 42.

  4. dick vartanian says

    I also remember an LP I used to own called Goz the Great; I believe it was released on either Capitol or RCA,.
    Anyone know if it’s still available anywhere?

  5. known as 332 says

    In my youth (mid 1970s) I used as an audition piece a song written in memory of him (don’t remember composer or name). One auditioner proceeded to give me a 5 minute history lesson on Conrad (pre internet, so I knew nothing about him) and why as a lead trumpet player I should appreciate him. Unusual, but I remembered his discourse!

  6. says

    I would suggest that any lead player “worth his (or her) salt” should have heard of Goz. He was truly the “DEAN” of lead trumpet players in Hollywood – and on the road, before his Hollywood years. The tune that 332 is talking about is “A Trumpeter’s Prayer,” written for him by Tutti Camarata for the album Tutti’s Trumpets. He played it so beautifully on the recording session that the studio orchestra gave him a standing ovation. I certainly don’t know of that happening any other time. He was the most sought after lead player there was, until his passing at such a young age.

    • known as 332 says

      Mike, thank you for pointing everyone to the beautiful “A Trumpeter’s Prayer.” Not the piece I played (I checked and it was “Portrait of a Trumpet” by Sam Nestico), but I agree completely with your thoughts! And thanks for the story about the recording.

      And, hopefully, trumpet-playing kids in this day and age will have an opportunity to hear his recordings that as a high-schooler in a small town in the 1970s I couldn’t (i.e. I didn’t know what I didn’t know).

  7. Jim Brown says

    “Infinity Promenade,” which you chose to honor Goz, has long been one of my very favorite big band recordings, in large part for the sound of that trumpet section, and, of course, Shorty’s wonderful writing.

  8. mel says

    I don’t have much to offer in this discussion but I certainly remember Goz – I’m well over 70.
    Mainly a studio musician, he was, like violinist Harry Lookofsky, better known as a sideman, and he played lead trumpet on recordings by bandleaders Claude Thornhill, Les Brown, Billy May, Stan Kenton, Shorty Rogers, Henry Mancini and others. I think he made a few albums as leader but I don’t have any in my collection.

  9. suzanne Mitchell Rose says

    I knew Gozzo because my dad, Lou Mitchell was his best friend. They used to play duets in the living room when I was a teenager. He has two boys who were about my age and we have kept in contact for years. It was such a tragedy when he died so young. All his friends and musicians gave him a big benefit at the Hollywood Bowl. What a talented trumpet player he was. We all miss him.

  10. Kevin Quail says

    Conrad Gozzo played on Frank Sinatra’s Ring-A-Ding-Ding, along with Frank Rosolino, Don Fagerquist and Bud Shank. He was to me, a consummate lead player—every note fat and in tune, but not sticking out above the band. Set the standard so many years ago.