whose grandfather was determined that he would grow up to be a classical
musician, and hooked him up with Max Schlossberg, who was knocking on
death’s door and was not entertaining beginning students at the
time. Nevertheless, the
renowned music teacher accepted young Bernie into the fold, and quickly
taught him the fundamentals of embouchure. Max passed away and Bernie continued
his studies with Nat Prager and Harry Glantz, a pair of Schlossberg proteges.
however, was enraptured by the sounds of the big bands, and their big
trumpeters, like Billy Butterfield of the Benny Goodman Orchestra and Snooky Young of the Jimmy Lunceford
band. By the age of sixteen, he
was already on the road, performing with the Richard Himber
Orchestra. This was followed by
stints with Xavier Cugat, Woody Herman, Raymond
Scott, and Artie Shaw. After
honing his chops in dance halls, night clubs, radio and television studios,
and theaters, Bernie embarked on a recording career the breadth of which
has become the stuff of legend.
recordings include some sides for Tony Bennett, such as “Can You Find
it in Your Heart?”, “One for My Baby”, and “Sing You
Sinners”, an Artie Shaw EP, and The
Herd Ride Again. In 1961,
he appeared on a four-volume series by Time Records entitled Overture, American Musical Theatre,
a sweeping retrospective that spanned the years from 1924 to 1960. He also worked on several Miles
Davis-Gil Evans records, including Miles
Ahead, Porgy and Bess, Quiet Nights, and Sketches of Spain. In 1964 and 1965, he laid down
tracks that would appear on the Carmen McRae albums, Alfie and Haven’t We Met?. The late ‘60s featured
collaborations with George Benson, Astrud
Gilberto, and J.J. Johnson.
Here is a
sampling of albums on which he appeared in the 1970s: African
Symphony, Disco Baby, My Favourite
Fantasy, The Real McCoy and Rhythms of the World by Van McCoy; Caliente! by Gato
Coming Up Love by David Ruffin; Melba
by Melba Moore; Peaches & Herb;
Primal Scream by Maynard
Ferguson; Soul Box by Grover
Washington, Jr.; and, Z-licious by Zulema.
and groups with whom he worked included: Andy Kirk and His Clouds of Joy,
Billy Byers and His Orchestra, Teresa Brewer, Perry Como, Billy Eckstine, Ella Fitzgerald, The Four Seasons, Aretha
Franklin, Dizzy Gillespie, The Grand Award All Stars, Buddy Greco, Al Hibbler, B.B. King, The Lovin’
Spoonful, The McGuire Sisters, Moby Grape, Wes Montgomery, Peter Nero,
Patti Page, Wilson Pickett, Tito Puente, The Rascals, Frank Sinatra, Kay
Starr, Mel Torme, Sarah Vaughan, Dionne Warwick,
and The Will Bradley-Johnny Guerneri Band.
One of his
last gigs was in the orchestral pit for a Broadway revival of 42nd Street. He died on 8th May 1982
from a blood disorder at the North Shore Hospital in Manhasset, New York.
He has left
behind a staggering discography, and much of his output has been captured
on CDs. The Girl from Ipanema – The Bossa Nova Years, Rare & Unreleased Recordings from the Golden Reign of the Queen
of Soul, and Stoned Soul
Picnic: The Best of Laura Nyro are but a handful.
Van McCoy recordings
The Shuffle (Van McCoy)
That’s the Joint (Richard Harris/Van McCoy)