Joe Ciavardone, Rest In Peace

Trombonist Joe Ciavardone died last week. He was a veteran of many of the finest big bands of the post WWII Era, and a friend. If you knew Joe and would like to leave a comment in the online memorial guest book for him you can do so here.

I was asked by the editor of the magazine of AFM Local 802 in New York to write a remembrance of Joe. Since most of you reading this are not members of 802, I will repeat it here, with some minor changes.

I met Joe for the first time in the late 90s through a couple of mutual friends. I was working on my biography of Tadd Dameron, Joe had something he wanted to share with me. He had some contact with Tadd back in the 60s, while working for Emil Charlap, who provided music copying services in New York. Joe and I hit it off immediately. While I am primarily a saxophonist, I started on trombone, and have continued to play it a bit, and teach beginners on the instrument. We had good conversations about teaching the trombone to youngsters, as well as all sorts of topics.

Over the years we would meet when he came to Boston, mostly at the restaurant where our friends introduced us, and we would correspond and talk on the phone. A few years ago, Joe started to express an interest in writing his memoirs. At first I thought to try to connect him with a grad student interested in he field of jazz history, but this seemed to be difficult to do from a distance, so a couple of years ago I agreed to help Joe. Sadly, we did not get very far.

Joe was a witness to so much jazz history in the post WWII era. At one time or another he played with almost all of the major big bands working in that period of time. He was with Kenton for the tour with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, and with Ralph Marterie on a tour with Nat Cole and Sarah Vaughn. He was with the Herb Pomeroy Band when they played the Apollo Theater, and when they recorded with Irene Kral for Capitol. You can read his resume here.

Joe was also active in on the recording studio and theater scene in New York. He was present on sessions with Tony Bennett, Shirley Bassey, and Arthur Prysock, among others. He played in the orchestra for the Broadway shows Sweet Charity, Nobody Knows, Here’s Love, Funny Girl, and  Stop the World. Joe was also active in Atlantic City.

We hope to be able to salvage as much as possible from what he left us to be available for researchers. If you worked with Joe and would be willing to be interviewed please contact me.

Joe was a man with a joyful and generous spirit, always ready to share his knowledge and experience with others. In his later years he taught younger musicians, kids in school and young adults interested in playing jazz. When I visited him at the end of 2010, we had a chance to jam together. His playing was as strong as ever, and his improvisations made me wish that he had recorded as a soloist as well as a section player. He was modest about his skill, perhaps because he had sat next to so many brilliant soloists in the bands, but it was a real pleasure trading solos with him. I feel honored and fortunate to have been his friend.