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Charlie Kennedy Alto Saxophonist Played in Gene Krupa's Big Band Dies

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Charlie Kennedy
Charlie Kennedy was in many bands and, as a studio musician, played on the scores for West Side Story and My Fair Lady.

Charlie Kennedy, a talented alto saxophonist who was best known for his association with Gene Krupa's big band in the 1940s, has died. He was 81. Kennedy died April 3 of pulmonary disease at his home in Ventura, according to his daughter Lorraine Sutton.

The best years of Kennedy's career were the 1940s, when he played with Louis Prima's big band. His fine tenor solo can be heard on Prima's 1943 version of “The White Cliffs of Dover."

He moved on to lead his own quartet before joining Krupa's big band from 1945 to 1948 and was the featured soloist on a number of recordings, including “How High the Moon," “Disc Jockey Jump" and “I Should Have Kept on Dreaming."

While living in the East, Kennedy also played with a number of other leading bands, including groups led by Charlie Ventura, Flip Phillips and Chico O'Farrill. After moving to the West Coast in 1950, he played with Med Flory, Bill Holman's orchestra and, most notably, Terry Gibbs' Dream Band from 1959 to 1962.

He was also an active studio musician, playing on popular movies, including My Fair Lady and West Side Story.

But by the early 1970s, Kennedy basically gave up his alto career for a more traditional full-time job to support his family, which by then included six children. By day he ran the shipping department at Federal Stamping in Van Nuys, but in the evenings he sometimes sat in on jazz gigs around town.

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