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Frank Marocco dies at 81; jazz accordionist

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Frank Marocco Frank Marocco's wide-ranging career embraced every genre of music, but his passion was jazz—and to show that the accordion was a legitimate jazz instrument, worked with Henry Mancini, John Williams, Quincy Jones, Elmer Bernstein, Michel Legrand and dozens of others.

Frank Marocco, a rare jazz accordionist, a first-call studio musician and one of the most recorded accordion players in the world, has died. He was 81.

Marocco died Saturday at his home in the San Fernando Valley, after having been hospitalized at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles for complications following hip replacement surgery, according to his daughter Cynthia.

Marocco's wide-ranging career embraced every genre of music. His accordion can be heard on hundreds of movie soundtracks, recordings, musical theater, television series and specials, commercials, video games and theme park music. The film, television and recording composers he's worked with include Henry Mancini, John Williams, Quincy Jones, Elmer Bernstein, Michel Legrand and dozens of others.

But Marocco was always quick to describe jazz as his passion.

The accordion has almost never been viewed as a principal jazz instrument and was often reviled by jazz musicians as something appropriate only for German beer gardens and Argentine nightclubs. But Marocco spent a lifetime disputing the limitations of that view, bringing jazz authenticity to the many groups he began leading while still a teenager.

“Since I grew up listening to people like Zoot Sims and Charlie Parker, I play accordion like a jazz horn player, with horn-like lines," Marocco told The Times in 2000.

He also applied his rich compositional skills to the sounds, the timbres and the harmonic textures he drew out of the accordion, banishing such dismissive labels as “squeeze box" and “organ grinder."

As many critics and musicians observed, Marocco was a gifted musical artist who simply happened to play an unusual instrument.


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