Dapogny, James 3/6/2019 Ann Arbor, Michigan Jazz Pianist/Bandleader/Professor James Dapogny, 1940-2019 Eminent jazz pianist, bandleader, composer, arranger, historian and educator James Dapogny died in Ann Arbor, Michigan on March 6th, 2019 at age 78. Cremation has taken place, and there will be no funeral. A get-together, "Remembering Jim, a Mini-Jazz Holiday", will be held at the Zal Gaz Grotto on W. Stadium in Ann Arbor, on Sunday March 24, 4-8 p.m. with a larger memorial gathering to be announced at a later date. During his tough fight with cancer over nine years, Dapogny remained active as a performer and composer in Michigan. He is survived by his wife Gail, and brothers David and Douglas Dapogny of Downers Grove, Illinois. A powerful, sophisticated and inventive jazz pianist, Dapogny was a warm, witty, generous man, and astonishingly productive.
His career as a musician encompassed diverse disciplines live performance, recording, composition, transcription, arranging, teaching, and scholarship producing work of the highest order. Upon notice of his death, messages are pouring in from musicians nationwide. Born in Berwyn, Illinois on September 3, 1940. He received his Bachelors, Masters, and Doctoral degrees from the University of Illinois in 1971, and joined the University of Michigan faculty in Ann Arbor in 1966. That one-year appointment turned into 40-some years of dedicated teaching at Michigan. In a 1985 interview for the Chicago Tribune, Dapogny said, 'In teaching and performing, what I do makes a difference to people, and I like that.' In his teenage years, Jim's family trusted him in his pilgrimages to Chicago to observe and learn from the early jazz greats still performing at the time. As a youngster, Dapogny performed with traditional jazz groups in Illinois including the Salty Dogs and the Chicago Stompers. During his exemplary career at Michigan, Dapogny taught and counseled numerous students. His inestimable value as a teacher and the high regard with which he was held by students and colleagues was recognized in numerous ways including when he received the Arthur F. Thurnau professorship for superb teaching. Dapogny taught a wide range of graduate and undergraduate courses and served in committee for numerous dissertations on diverse subjects, from jazz to Schenkerian music analysis. His calm, wise demeanor made him an exemplary ambassador for the School of Music. He was named a professor emeritus of music upon his retirement from active faculty status in May, 2006. He continued teaching as professor emeritus through the winter of 2018.
Jim was a prolific transcriber, producing musical performances from recording into musical notation. In 1982 he and his wife Gail transcribed and edited Charles Ives: Three Improvisations, produced from a recording of the composer from 1938. Jim's skill resulted in Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton: The Collected Piano Music, published in1982. This first-of-its-kind collected edition of a jazz musician's work and the world's first jazz critical edition was prepared in cooperation with the Smithsonian Institution. It became a model for a new sort of musicological documentary study, leading important musical scholars as a whole to view jazz (and by extension other popular music) as a valuable and rewarding topic for study. Following the completion of his doctoral dissertation, "Style and Method in Three Compositions of Luigi Dallapiccola," Jim focused mainly on jazz writing. He made significant contributions to the Society for Music Theory and, The Musical Quarterly and American Music. Ragtime: Its History, Composers, and Music (ed. John Edward Hasse), and The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. Dapogny was also an acknowledged contributor to many colleagues' work in academic journals. He was also an editorial board member of Jazz Masterworks Editions, a publication project of Oberlin College and the Smithsonian Institution. Dapogny's countless transcriptions of classic jazz music and numerous masterful arrangements are valued for their accuracy, clarity, and vibrancy, and he generously shared them with other bandleaders, including his treasured friend,Vince Giordano and Wynton Marsalis. Eventually he supervised the reissue of Jelly Roll Morton's 1938 recordings for the Library of Congress and Rounder Records, resulting in a four-CD set issued in 1994. Beginning in 2007, Dapogny edited Jelly Roll Morton's five big band compositions for the Historic New Orleans Collection, and in 2012 performed some of this music in concert, at the French Quarter's St. Louis Cathedral with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra.
THE OPERAS In late 2002 Dapogny took on the task of reconstructing the great jazz pianist James P. Johnson's lost opera, De Organizer, which included arduous hours of composing missing sections, orchestrating, and ultimately performing in both Detroit and Ann Arbor. 2005 saw his completed reconstruction of Johnson's other opera, The Dreamy Kid as well. The two operas were performed together, as Johnson had planned, over several evenings in March 2006, by University of Michigan forces conducted by Kenneth Kiesler, with Dapogny at the piano. PERFORMANCE / RECORDINGS A Smithsonian Collection release of Dapogny's solo interpretations of Morton's jazz compositions was described by jazz writer and critic Martin Williams thusly: "He plays Morton as it should be played." He supervised the reissue of Jelly Roll Morton's 1938 recordings for the Library of Congress and Rounder Records, resulting in a four-CD set issued in 1994. James Dapogny's Chicago Jazz Band, an ensemble devoted to performing the music of the first fifty years of jazz, was formed in 1976. The group toured across forty-four states and Canada for more than thirty years. There were numerous great reviews and several CDs. The Minneapolis Mississippi Rag when reviewing the band at the Los Angeles Classic Jazz Festival, stated: "[Dapogny] brought his Chicago Jazz Band to Los Angeles and treated the festival to a style rarely heard here Dapogny's arrangements were glorious, the band's musicianship solid." Among their numerous acclaimed recordings was a Grammy-nominated album from 1982 backing vocalist Sippie Wallace whom Jim had accompanied for some years. Backing Wallace on tour, the band appeared with Bonnie Raitt.
The band also opened for Benny Goodman in 1986, for one of his last performances. They toured and recorded with the popular female singing trio, the Chenille Sisters, and made numerous appearances on the nationally syndicated radio show "A Prairie Home Companion." Other performances included Manhattan's Town Hall and Central Park, the Smithsonian in Washington, Kennedy Center, and Chicago's Orchestra Hall, the Newport Jazz Festival, and Carnegie Hall. The 2010 Chicago Jazz Festival featured James Dapogny's Chicago Jazz Band in a performance at Millenium Park on Dapogny's 70th birthday. Another touring group, James Dapogny's Chicagoans (with clarinetist Kim Cusack and drummer Wayne Jones, friends since they were teenagers), made one recording for Stomp Off, The Way We Feel Today (1991). "What a great combination of instruments," Jim mentioned, "clarinet, piano, and drums. With the right players, everything you need for classic jazz is here, all of the expressive possibilities." From the mid-1990s on, Dapogny became a valuable member of the active jazz scene in Michigan, playing in numerous bands, including the Easy Street Jazz Band and the Paul Keller Orchestra, and working as a sideman for other musicians. Dapogny was voted Ann Arbor "Jazz Artist of the Year" several times during this period. In recent years he was a frequent featured artist at jazz festivals in Chatauqua, NY, Cleveland, OH, and other places. Recordings from this period include dates with Marcus Belgrave, Doc Cheatham, Marty Grosz, and Maria Muldaur. From 2001 to his death, Dapogny, music director, co-led with Chris Smith, manager, a vibrant and beloved band in Ann Arbor, Phil Ogilvie's Rhythm Kings (best known as PORK.). This is a ten-piece Jazz Age dance band which has been in existence for eighteen years playing engagements in the area, and continues weekly performances in Ann Arbor.
Published in Ann Arbor News on Mar. 10, 2019