musician from Danbury, Connecticut, who is most famous for
being one of the twin saxes on Glenn Miller’s version of “In
the Mood”. The other one
was Tex Beneke. Al was with the Miller orchestra
during its salad days, between 1939 and 1942, appearing on numerous
recordings and the soundtracks of a couple of films, Orchestra Wives and Sun
Valley Serenade. When
Miller entered the armed services, Al went on to perform with two more of
the greats, Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman.
In 1944, he
appeared on another one of his most famous recordings, “Opus No.
1” by Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra. He also recorded with Billie Holiday
and with Ruby Braff on her Billie Holiday tribute
album, Holiday in Braff. In the late ‘40s, he enjoyed
steady work at NBC and WNEW, and continued to be tapped for studio work, on
fare such as Lucky Millinder’s “Let
it Be” backed with “Sweet Slumber”, released on 45 and
78, and material that would eventually appear on The Complete Decca Recordings of Billie Holiday.
October 1951, he was in the studio with Neal Hefti
and His Orchestra, recording “Charmaine”,
“Regular Man” and “Uncle Jim”. He then joined the Sauter-Finnegan Orchestra, and appeared on several
recordings with them in 1952, including “April in Paris”, “Midnight Sleighride”, “Rain”, and “When
Hearts Are Young”. In
1953, they had fun recording “Child’s Play”, “Dream
Play”, “Holiday”, and
He spent a
couple of years recording with Ella Fitzgerald, specifically 1954-1955. His only credit as a bandleader led
to a Grammy Award and a Grand Award, a half-dozen tracks recorded with Bob
Alexander for an album entitled Progressive
Jazz. In 1956, he appeared
on Lee Wiley’s LP, West of the
Moon. Then he chipped in on
a compilation called Jazz for Lovers,
released in 1957. In 1959, he
appeared in the “Salute to Jazz” episode of The Steve Allen Show.
It would not
be his last TV work, to be sure.
He eventually became a fixture on The Tonight Show.
In 1963, he and fellow Tonight
Show musician Doc Severinsen collaborated
with Enoch Light and His Orchestra on Let’s
Dance Bossa Nova. Apparently, The Tonight Show kept him pretty busy, as his recordings waned
in the 1960s, just as the big-band era had waned a decade before.
In 1972, he
resurfaced on vinyl with the new Glenn Miller Orchestra and a number of
Miller alumni for new recordings of old material, The Best of Glenn Miller.
He then went on a quick tour of Antigua
with Bob Alexander and Bill Crow.
In 1974, he performed with Benny Goodman at Carnegie Hall and joined
the World’s Greatest Jazz Band, with whom he would stay until 1982. In the interim, he found time to
appear on Frank Sinatra’s 1979 boxed set, Trilogy. He
continued playing live gigs at Eddie Condon’s jazz club in New York until
retiring in the mid-80s.
March 1991, Al passed away in Bradenton,
Florida. There was a moment of levity at his
funeral when Al’s daughter played his favourite
rendition of “In the Mood”. Although reports differ as to which
version this was, it is believed to be the Ray Stevens version, with
Al lives on in
CD form, on re-issues and re-packagings such as The Definitive Collection of Louis
Armstrong, The Remains of Tom Lehrer,
and Glenn Miller on the Radio: The Chesterfield Shows.
Frank Sinatra recordings
That's What God Looks Like To Me (Stan Irvin/Lan
49233 (XNY2101S) (US 45)
Theme from "New York, New York" (Fred Ebb/John Kander)
RPS49233 (XNY 2103 S) (US 45)