Antonio Sparbaro, better known as Tony Sbarbaro or Tony Spargo was born on June 27, 1897 in New Orleans, Louisiana to an immigrant Sicilian family. Early in his career he played with the Frayle Brothers Band, possibly as early as 1911 and the Reliance Band of Papa Jack Laine.
After doing side work with Merritt Brunies and Carl Randall he joined the Original Dixieland Jazz Band for their initial recordings in 1917. Tony became its leader in the 1940s and remained a member of the ensemble until its dissolution in the 1960s. At the time the band broke up he was the only founding member still in the group.
Sbarbaro composed for the group, writing the tune Mourning Blues among others. He remained a fixture of Dixieland jazz performance for most of his life, performed at the New York World’s Fair in 1941 and with Connee Boswell in the 1950s. Later in life in New Orleans he played with Miff Mole, Big Chief Moore, Pee Wee Erwin, and Eddie Condon. Quitting music in the Sixties due to the popularity of rock & roll, drummer Tony Sbarbaro passed away on October 30, 1969.
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Sing Miller was born James Miller in New Orleans, Louisiana on June 17, 1914. He started out his career singing with the Harmonizing Browns Quartet and playing banjo, but in the late 1920s he switched to piano. He did solo freelance work and as an accompanist in New Orleans in the 1930s, playing with Percy Humphrey for a time.
Serving in the military during World War II, after his discharge he played with Earl Foster’s band from 1945 to 1961. During the 1960s he was a regular at Preservation Hall, working with Kid Thomas Valentine, Kid Sheik Colar, The Humphrey Brothers, Jim Robinson, and Polo Barnes. He did asolo tours of Europe in 1979 and 1981, and recorded two full-length albums under his own name, a 1972 effort for Dixie Records and one in 1978 for Smoky Mary.
Pianist Sing Miller, who was a longtime performer on the New Orleans jazz scene, passed away on May 18, 1990.
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Punch Miller was born Ernest Miller on June 10, 1894 in Raceland, Louisiana and learned to play the trumpet as a child. He was also known as Kid Punch Miller in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he was based from 1919 to 1927,
He moved to Chicago, Illinois and worked with various bands, including Jelly Roll Morton and Tiny Parham, as well as appearing on a number of recordings. His lifestyle and the decline of Dixieland or New Orleans jazz led to his return to mostly doing festivals and falling out of the limelight. This changed with the rising importance of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and he returned to national attention.
He returned to New Orleans, playing at Preservation Hall and leading a band under his own name, in addition to playing with other groups. In 1963 he toured Japan with the clarinetist George Lewis.
Trumpeter Punch Miller, who was the subject of the television documentary Til the Butcher Cuts Him Down, passed away on December 2, 1971 in New Orleans.
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Frank Signorelli was born in New York City on May 24, 1901 and was a founding member of the Original Memphis Five at age sixteen in 191. He went on to join the Original Dixieland Jazz Band briefly in 1921. By 1927 he was playing in Adrian Rollini’s New York ensemble, and subsequently worked with Eddie Lang, Bix Beiderbecke, Matty Malneck and Paul Whiteman.
1935 saw him as a part of Dick Stabile’s All-America Swing Band and from 1936 to ‘38 he played in the revived version of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. He recorded with Phil Napoleon in 1946 and with Miff Mole in 1958.
As a songwriter, Signorelli composed I’ll Never Be The Same, initially called Little Buttercup by Joe Venuti’s Blue Four, Gypsy that was recorded by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra, Caprice Futuristic, Evening, Anything, Bass Ale Blues, Great White Way Blues, Park Avenue Fantasy, Sioux City Sue, Shufflin’ Mose, Stairway to the Stars and A Blues Serenade which was recorded by Signorelli in 1926, Glenn Miller and his Orchestra in 1935 and Duke Ellington’s version in 1938.
On December 9, 1975, pianist Frank Signorelli, who never led a recording session, passed away in New York City, New York.
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Edmond Hall was born on May 15, 1901 in Reserve, Louisiana, into a musical family. His father, Edward, played the clarinet in the Onward Brass Band, joined by Edmond’s maternal uncles, Jules Duhe on trombone, Lawrence Duhe on clarinet, and Edmond Duhe on guitar. The Hall brothers, Robert, Edmond, and Herbert, all became clarinetists, but Edmond was first taught guitar by his uncle Edmond. When Hall finally picked up the clarinet, he played it within a week.
Tired of working as a farm-hand, by 1919 he left for New Orleans where he signed up with the band of Bud Rousell, then with trombonist Jack Cary and blues cornetist Chris Kelley. His first big break came in late 1920, when he went to a dance at Economy Hall, saw Buddy Petit and discovered his clarinet player had left the band and the following Saturday Hall was sitting in with Petit’s band as a replacement until 1922.
Arriving in Pensacola, Florida in 1923, there was a series of band as he joined Lee Collins, then Mack Thomas, the Pensacola Jazzers, where Hall met the young trumpeter Charles “Cootie” Williams, on to “Eagle Eye” Shields, the Alonzo Ross DeLuxe Syncopators, finally in 1928 with pianist Arthur “Happy” Ford.
1929 saw Edmond moving back to New York he joined Charlie Skeet’s band, followed by Claude Hopkins and an invitation to play the Savoy Ballroom. By 1935 he left Hopkins and took residency in Billy Hicks’ Sizzling Six. Hall’s new sound on the clarinet led him to recording with the big stars and in 1937 he had his first recording session with Billie Holiday, sitting alongside tenor saxophonist Lester Young. Leaving Hicks he stepped into Café Society, joining Joe Sullivan’s band in late 1937. In between the regular job at the Cafe Society he recorded with Bud Freeman, Teddy Wilson, Charlie Christian, Henry “Red” Allen, J.C. Higginbotham, Art Tatum, Big Joe Turner, Hot Lips Page, Zutty Singleton, Meade Lux Lewis, Big Sid Catlett, Josh White, Ida Cox, Coleman Hawkins, Helen Ward, Vic Dickenson, Sidney de Paris, Wild Bill Davison, Eddie Heywood, Roy Eldridge and Jack Teagarden among others.
In 1941 Edmond led his first recording session as a leader, joined Teddy Wilson’s outfit, and made recordings as Edmond Hall’s Blue Note Jazzmen, the Edmond Hall Sextet, the Edmond Hall Celeste Quartet, Edmond Hall’s Star Quintet, Ed Hall and the Big City Jazzmen, and Edmond Hall’s Swingtet. Very popular among the musicians and critics and was frequently invited to the New York Town Hall Concerts led by Eddie Condon.
By 1944 Hall began fronting his own band, becoming a draw for Café Society. More recording dates followed for the famous Commodore Records and Blue Note labels. While business at the Café Society was exceedingly good, Hall appeared at Town Hall Concerts in between. Hall relocated successfully with his band to the Café Society Uptown and would also play for World War II servicemen.
Throughout his career he would perform with pianist George Wein, Louis Armstrong’s All Stars, tour Europe, settle in Los Angeles, California to shoot the film High Society with Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby, and appear on the Ed Sullivan Show. In 1952, Hall, Buzzy Drootin and Ralph Sutton appeared as the Ralph Sutton Trio in Saint Louis, where they played the Encore Lounge for several weeks and were the first mixed trio there. He received the Esquire Magazine Silver Award for clarinet, a certificate for nomination as one of the outstanding jazz artists of 1961 from Playboy Magazine and was awarded as the best Clarinetist by the English Melody Maker.
Clarinetist and bandleader Edmond Hall, who also played alto and baritone saxophones and is perhaps best known for the 1941 chamber jazz song Profoundly Blue, which is regarded as a pre-World War II jazz classic, passed away on February 11, 1967 in Boston, Massachusetts.