Marty Napoleon Centennial

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You'd think that a guy who played piano as impressively as the late Marty Napoleon would be an aloof character. After all, Marty was the guy who replaced Earl “Fatha" Hines in Louis Armstrong's All Stars in 1952. That alone would have earned him the right to be a cool, reserved cat. But that wasn't Marty. He was an outgoing keyboardist who shared Armstrong's passion for affability and musical exceptionalism. Marty came from a loving jazz family and was blessed with dashing, movie-star looks. His uncle was Phil Napoleon, a trumpeter, and Marty's brother was pianist Teddy Napoleon. When I interviewed Marty in 2011, he was pure joy, bursting at the seams to tell me about his life and career.

Marty died in 2015, and today marks the centennial anniversary of his birth. I figure we could all use a little Marty today to celebrate his music and joy. Here are 10 clips:

Here's Marty's first recording, with the Chico Marx Orchestra in 1942. Notable is the rhythm section—Marty on piano, Barney Kessel on guitar and Mel Torme on drums...



Here's Marty in 1947 with the Teddy Reig All Stars playing Saxon, featuring Kai Winding (v-tb), Allen Eager (ts), Marty Napoleon (p), Eddie Safranski (b) and Shelly Manne (d)...



Here's Marty behind Anita O'Day in 1958 on Body and Soul, with Mundy Lowe on guitar, Vinnie Burke on bass and Zutty Singleton on drums...



Here's Marty behind O'Dayn on Let's Fall in Love...



Here's Marty with Louis Armstrong and His All Stars and Jack Teagarden performing Old Rockin' Chair...



Here's Marty in the early '60s with singer Fran Warren and trumpeter Joe Cabot on Nice and Easy...



Here's Marty with a solo spotlight with Louis Armstrong and His All Stars on The Girl From Ipanema in the 1960s...



Here's Marty with Louis Armstrong and His All Stars at Fort Hood in 1967...



Here's Marty in 1992 with Walt Levinsky, leader of a top New York dance band who had played in big bands in the 1950s, was a member of the NBC Staff Orchestra and then recorded extensively for TV commercials. A little-known name, he was highly regarded as a clarinetist and leader, so much so that his reed section here consisted of Chuck Wilson, Mike Migliore, Frank Wess, Ted Nash and Sol Schlinger...



Here's Marty in 2012 with Bill Crow on bass and Ray Mosca on drums...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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