calendar  |  musicians  |  venues  |  concert reviews  |  CD reviews  |  photos  |  features

Al Gallodoro & Justin's Victoria Cipollari

A Page in Jazz’s History Book Still Plays

by Jeff Waggoner
Imagine a sax player who was present at the creation of jazz, who lived and played in 1927 New Orleans when the sounds of Buddy Bolden, Freddie Keppard, King Oliver and Louis Armstrong still echoed loudly.
Imagine hearing someone who played vaudeville, New Orleans speakeasies, and who played in the best of the swing bands and under the batons of the giant classical conductors Arturo Toscannini and Leopold Stokowski.
And imagine hearing it live, and not on a scratchy 78 rpm.
At 92 and a half, Al Gallodoro is a walking and – more importantly – playing encyclopedia of the tone, rhythm and harmonies of the sweetest jazz ever played, as well being a master of much of the popular and classical music enjoyed in America in the 20th Century.
Maestro Gallodoro served up an ample portion of sweet, swinging jazz to an appreciative audience January 7 – 2006 -- at Justin’s in Albany.
It was a rare treat for anyone with a deep love of for “America’s classical music.”
While his hands are arthritic and his wind can be caught short, Maestro Gallodoro can still take an audience’s breath away with lines of pristine tone in a lyrical style that is almost extinct among today’s musicians.
Gallodoro played 1st alto saxophone for nearly four decades with Paul Whiteman, once the leader of the most popular big band in the country, as well as being the man who commissioned George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.   Much of Gallodoro’s playing was done on air with the ABC radio band, where he was a “front stage” soloist for 30 years.
By his own accounting, Gallodoro has played more on-air solos than any performer in history.
He is a sax player’s sax player, and a legend among the small cadre of experts in saxophone tone production and instruction.  Go to the famous Roberto’s Woodwind saxophone shop in Manhattan, with an eye to find a sax teacher, and you are likely to be referred to Gallodoro’s residence in Oneonta.  His admirers include Benny Golson, Paquito D’Rivera, Buddy DeFranco and Eddie Daniels.
Even with his gnarled hands and short wind, Gallodoro still has stamina and he played – with only two brief breaks from 9:30 through midnight at Justin’s, while tiring some in the audience less than half his age.
He and the rest of his quartet – piano, drums, double bass – ran through many of the great standards, including Paper Moon, Street of Dreams, Running Wild, Embraceable You, Caravan, Sweet Lorraine and the Girl from Ipanema, all in his inimitable style.
As he played with early saxophone greats such as Frankie Trumbauer, and listened intently to Jimmy Dorsey, Gallodoro was part of the generation that influenced Lester Young and his army of followers who imitated the light, floating sound pioneered by the veterans of the Whiteman band.
It is a tribute to Justin's, a commercial enterprise, which took a gamble to bring a national treasure like Al Gallodoro to Albany.
A tip of our hat to Justin’s Victoria Cipollari for booking this master.

Jeff Waggoner has written book, CD and concert reviews for publications such as Metroland, Jazz Times, Blues Access and The New York Times. He lives in Nassau, is a student of jazz saxophone and guitar and can be frequently found at jazz, blues and folk concerts.