Marty Napoleon, a man who lived a life of true passion, has died.
Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Gene Krupa, & Charlie Barnett
are just some of the jazz luminaries who Marty played piano with.
Born in Brooklyn on June 2, 1921 to Sicilian immigrants Matteo Napoli
and Giovanina (nee Giamporcaro) (a/k/a Marty and Jenny Napoleon).
Marty was destined for a life in music. Music constantly filled the
Napoleon household. His father Marty played banjo. His mother Jenny
played guitar and sang. Older brothers Teddy (piano), Andy (drums),
older sister Marge Alleluia and younger sister Jo Shine were vocal-
ists. And his Uncle Phil gained fame as "Phil Napoleon and His
Memphis Five". Marty's father and his brother Andy were also artists.
Blessed with innate talent and combined with a passionate dedication,
Marty began his illustrious career as a teenager, playing with Bob Astor's
band. At age 20, he joined Chico Marx and his Orchestra, with lead singer,
16 year old Mel Torme.
He soon became a favorite of all the top jazz musicians, who wanted the
remarkably talented and always jovial Marty to join them: George Auld,
Teddy Powell, Joe Venuti, Lee Castle, Charlie Barnett, Benny Goodman,
Gene Krupa, Charlie Shavers, Coleman Hawkins, Red Allen & Charlie Ventura.
Soon he became part of the legendary, "The Big Four", which included Marty,
Buddy Rich, Chubby Jackson and Charlie Ventura.
He went on to form several groups who gained wide-spread fame… particularly
in the early days of the Hamptons. Included in these groups were Ronnie Odrich,
Doc Severinson, and Morgana King, among others. Marty also had a two-piano
quartet with his brother Teddy on the second piano, in Las Vegas.
Marty gained his greatest fame and joined the pantheon of all-time greats playing
with Louis Armstrong and His All Stars, replacing Earl Hines in 1952. He toured
the world with the All Stars. They were featured on the Dean Martin Show, Johnny
Carson, Dick Cavett, Jackie Gleason and Danny Kaye shows. They also did an
NBC special with Herb Alpert.
He continued playing with "Satchmo" over the years until Louis' final performance
at the Waldorf Astoria. Marty's distinctive piano virtuosity can be heard on many of
Armstrong's biggest hits, including "Hello Dolly", "Mame", & "It's A Wonderful World".
Over the course of his storied career Marty played at the top jazz venues – Michael's
Pub, the Metropole, Basin Street East, and the World Trade Center. He performed
at the most prestigious jazz festivals in the world – Newport, Kool, JVC, and San
Remo (in Italy). Marty also performed a one-man concert at Carnegie Hall.
1987 was a particularly good year for Marty. He was selected to play with Lionel
Hampton at the historic Frank Sinatra Show at Carnegie Hall…and topped that by
playing at The White House for President Ronald Reagan.
Marty's movie credits include "To Beat The Band", "The Glenn Miller Story",
"All That Jazz", "The French Connection", "Raging Bull" and "Tootsie".
Marty never lost his passion for music, playing jazz concerts into his early 90's
with his friends, drummer Ray Mosca, bassist Bill Crow & clarinetist Ron Odrich.
But Marty Napoleon's passion extended way beyond the keys of his piano.
Marty was all about family. Marty was married to the love of his life, the late
"Bebe" (nee Marie Giordano) Napoleon for 67 years. He was a loving father to
Jeanine and her husband Steve Goldman, and to Marty Jr. and his wife Teresa.
He adored his grandchildren Cherie Napoleon Goldman, Todd Goldman, Marty
Warren Napoleon and Brent Napoleon, as they adored him. (Brent was instru-
mental in helping his grandfather put together all his biographical notes for a
book.) He was also the cherished great-grandfather of Alexander Napoleon Inoa.
The world will miss this amazing talent.
His friends and family will miss this amazing man.