What's Hot with Jazz Guitar: Al Viola

by Doc Dosco

This week we feature the preeminent Los Angles jazz guitarist Al Viola. Al
will be in attendance for the John Pisano workshop this next weekend in
Los Angeles.

Online Bio

Al Viola started music early. "I was the youngest child from a big
Italian family and we had all kinds of instruments at the house
including guitars, mandolins and an upright player piano. My brother,
who played mandolin, needed someone to accompany him so he taught me a
few chords on guitar to play behind him". Al teamed up with a violinist
friend of his who admired Joe Venuti. They used to play duets like
Venuti and Eddie Lang around the neighborhood in Brooklyn, performing at
Chinese restaurants. "My mother thought I was robbing the bank because I
was bringing home twenty-two dollars a week during the depression!"

During a 4 1/2 year period in the Army (1942 - 1945), Al met up with
pianist Page Cavanaugh. "Page and I were both in the Army band stationed
in Sacramento. We also worked together in a dance band along with
bassist Lloyd Pratt." After their discharge, Viola, Page and Pratt
formed the Page Cavanaugh Trio, moved to Los Angeles and soon became a
very popular attraction. We recorded for RCA Victor, appeared in Five
movies, toured the United States, Canada, and Europe doing theaters and
clubs, such as "King Cole Room" at the Trocadero and Ciro's. "There was
a special chemistry between the three of us. Page would play an intro,
I'd be right there and in less than ten minutes we'd have an
arrangement. The trio was a purely instrumental group at first until our
manager insisted that we sing. Our whispering unison vocals caught on
with songs like 'The Three Bears' and 'Walkin My Baby Back Home.'"

"The first time I met Frank Sinatra was in the late 40's when he came in
to hear the Page Cavanaugh Trio. He liked us so much that he took the
Trio to New York with him to perform at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel
followed by an appearance at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City". In 1949
Al quit the Trio and stayed in Los Angeles to pursue studio work as a
freelance musician. During that time Al worked with some of the big
bands such as Harry James, Ray Anthony, Les Brown, and Nelson Riddle.
Additionally, Al did work with some jazz groups; Buddy Collette, Red
Callendar, Bobby Troup, Terry Gibbs, Shelley Mann and Leroy Vinegar and
continued his studies at the California Academy of Music studying
classical guitar, harmony and theory. Studio work was plentiful,
recording with Frank Sinatra, June Christie, Julie London, Steve
Lawrence, Neil Diamond, Linda Ronstadt, Natalie Cole, Hadda Brooks and
Film/TV scores like Billy Jack, Blazing Saddles, Cool Hand Luke, West
Side Story, The Godfather, and Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf.

"When I was working with Bobby Troup one of Sinatra's buddies heard me
and told me that Frank needed a guitar player. I joined Sinatra right
after he did Wee Small Hours for Capitol Records around 1954-55". In
1962 as part of the Bill Miller Sextet, Al went on a ten week world tour
with Sinatra. Al continued to work with Frank Sinatra on most of his
recordings, television specials and his appearances in Las Vegas and
Concerts. In 1973, Al accompanied him to the White House when he
performed there.

"What I enjoyed most about working with Frank is that he was
unpredictable. When I accompanied him, I couldn't quite predict where he
was going, which made it challenging and exciting! He always surprised
me on stage. Although he wasn't known as a jazz singer, he ad-libbed
like one and wouldn't sing a song the same way, twice. I consider myself
very fortunate since he seemed to like the way I played behind him. I
have traveled the world on tour with Frank Sinatra and enjoyed every
minute of it."

Currently, Al lives in Los Angeles with Glenna his wife of 55 years. He
has two sons and one granddaughter, he is still doing studio sessions,
concerts, benefits and jazz clubs with his trio, the Buddy Collette
group, and others.

Al Viols's website:

Sunday Workshop Series

- with -

Al Viola
John Pisano

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Time: 2:00 PM To 4:00 PM

California Vintage Guitar and Amp
5244 Van Nuys Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA
(818) 789-8884

Tuition: $20.00

Doc Dosco is a jazz guitarist, composer and audio consultant living in
Los Angeles, CA. His website is located at http://www.docdosco.com ,
where you can find more information on the 'What's Hot with Jazz Guitar'
columns, audio clips of Doc's playing, and many additional features. Doc
endorses Heritage Guitars and is a featured artist on their website.
He also endorses the new Pignose Valve Tube Amps -- great for jazz (and anything else!

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