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Alfred J. Gallodoro Dies at Age 95

Alfred Gallodoro Alfred Gallodoro
Legendary saxophonist and clarinetist Alfred J. Gallodoro, featured soloist with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra from 1936 to 1940, passed away October 4th at the age of 95. During a professional career spanning more than eight decades, Gallodoro worked in virtually every musical environment, from vaudeville houses, speakeasies, and night clubs to symphonies, Carnegie Hall, and international jazz festivals. He claimed to be one of the world's longest continually active performing musicians. He was referred to by Jimmy Dorsey as ". . . the greatest saxophone player that ever lived," and received similar plaudits from the likes of Paquito D'Rivera, Benny Golson, Buddy DeFranco and Eddie Daniels.

Greatly admired for his musicianship and versatility, Gallodoro performed classical music as well as jazz under many famed conductors, including Isham Jones, Arturo Toscanini, Leopold Stokowski, Alfredo Antonini, Leonard Bernstein, Andre Kostelanetz., Johnny Green, Tutti Camarata, Arthur Fiedler, Percy Faith, Skitch Henderson and Dr. Frank Black. Among the greats with whom he worked were George Gershwin, Victor Borge, Dina Shore, Sid Caesar, Raphael Mendez, Les Paul, Bob Hope, Edgar Bergen, Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, Mario Lanza, Frank Sinatra and Milton Berle. He appeared on countless movie and cartoon soundtracks. He also had music composed for him, most notably the Gallodoro Serenade written in 1958 by composer Ferde Grofè.

Gallodoro was featured in 2002 on CBS' Sunday Morning, and was the topic of a PBS documentary, the Al Gallodoro Story. He received an Honorary Doctoral Degree from Hartwick College in recognition of a lifetime of extraordinary achievements in music. Among these, he held the the world record for the most performances of the clarinet slide in Gershwins Rhapsody in Blue which he claimed to have played over 10,000 times.

Born June 20, 1913, Gallodoro was raised in Birmingham, AL. His first job was in 1926, a one week booking doing three vaudeville shows a day at Birmingham's Lyric Theatre, with the Romeo and his Juliet's band of the Romeo brothers, whose father would pick Al up from school. He was somehow able to join the union even though he was at least two years below the required minimum age. He continued to work in Alabama, and later in New Orleans where his parents relocated in 1927. At age 15 he became the first chair alto sax/clarinet in the Orpheum Theater house orchestra in New Orleans, accompanying well known vaudeville acts such as Bob Hope, Edgar Bergen, and Milton Berle. After the last show he would play from 11:30pm to 5 am at a night club called the Frolics, a routine he maintained until July 1933.

Moving to New York, Al freelanced for some time, including work with Isham Jones' orchestra as a sax soloist. Then, in the spring of 1936, he joined the Paul Whiteman Orchestra as first chair saxophone and clarinet and featured soloist. Playing clarinet, bass clarinet and alto sax earned him the nickname "Triple Threat." The orchestra disbanded in 1940, but in 1947 Whiteman became the Musical Director for WJZ Radio, later ABC Radio. Whiteman arranged for Al to join the staff as a soloist. Gallodoro stayed with WJZ until 1967, performing up to four live solos per week; over twenty arrangements were written specially for him. It was his belief that he played more live solos on the air than any other musician.

Gallodoro also joined the NBC Symphony in June 1942 where he played bass clarinet under Toscanini and Stokowski, as well as Dr. Frank Black.

From 1967 Al freelanced in New York, making countless records on various labels and playing for dozens of radio and TV programs. In 1981 he moved to Oneonta, NY. Until very recently he was still teaching and playing with local groups.

Praise for Galladoro came from all sides. Benny Golson wrote: "Amazing! The world should know Al Gallodoro, he is a hero in my eyes and in the eyes of the many others who know him. This guy was unreal, he must have been from Mars!"

Paquito D'Rivera, who was inspired as a boy by Al's Saxophone Contrasts album, sent this message: "With deep, very deep admiration, your NUMBER ONE FAN!"

Buddy DeFranco wrote, in The Clarinet of 12/99 ""Art Tatum, Charlie Parker, Heifetz, Perlman and Gallodoro are unequaled and may be for years to come."

The following tribute is from Saxophone Journal, March 2001: "Everywhere he performs or works, the living legend continues. And although legends tend to grow in size, once you hear this artist the stories of his greatness are, indeed understated . . . In all aspects of saxophone performance whether it be tonguing, articulation, interpretation or musicality, Al Gallodoro is the consummate master . . . His thoughts for musical improvisations are as prolific as his technical wizardry is prodigious."

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Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Alfred Gallodoro
  • Subtitle: Legendary Saxophonist's Career Spanned Eight Decades
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