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Guitarist Tony Mottola Dies

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Classic and classy jazz and session guitarist Tony Mottola died at the age of 86:

    Longtime friend and colleague Bucky Pizzarelli described Mottola as being able to read any piece of music put in front of him.

    “He could interpret something and it was really Tony Mottola,” Pizzarelli told The Star-Ledger of Newark. “He put a stamp on it. His sound was very warm, tender and expressive. He never hit a bad note in his life.”

    Mottola’s career began in 1936 when he toured with George Hall’s orchestra. He made his recording debut in 1941 in duets with Carl Kress. Mottola recorded with Sinatra a few years later.

    In 1951, he became music director for the CBS-TV drama series “Danger.” He was a regular member of Skitch Henderson’s orchestra on “The Tonight Show” from 1958 to 1972.

    Mottola also received an Emmy for his score to “Two Childhoods,” a television documentary about the early lives of Hubert Humphrey and James Baldwin.

    From 1980 until his retirement in 1988, Mottola toured with Sinatra and was spotlighted in duets with the singer. Mottola performed for a month at Carnegie Hall with Sinatra and then went on to perform at the White House.

    Mottola played nearly every day at home after retiring, his son said. [AP]

Space Age Pop Music has more:

    “Mr Big,” a mainstay of countless Command recordings. Mottola and Al Caiola grew up together and played in a group modelled on Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli’s Hot Club Quintet. Mottola and Al Viola also played together as teens on Jersey City radio station WAAT. Mottola toured with George Hall’s orchestra, a group that included Johnnie Guarneri on piano and Nick Fatool on drums. In 1941, Mottola joined the CBS radio studio orchestra in New York and worked with Raymond Scott and backing up the young Frank Sinatra and Perry Como. Mottola continued to work closely with Como, becoming his arranger when Como got his own TV variety show in the 1950s. He also provided the one-man background score for Yul Brynner’s TV show, “Danger,” during this time.

    When Enoch Light formed Command records, he included Mottola as a featured musician and released a bundle of LPs under Mottola’s name. Mottola also recorded for Light in the late 1960s and early 1970s when Light formed his Project 3 label. In 1980, Sinatra brought Mottola out of retirement to replace Viola in his touring band, and gave Mottola a featured solo spot during each concert. He backed Sinatra solo on the beautiful song, “It’s Sunday” in 1983.

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About Eric Olsen

  • HW Saxton Jr.

    Tony Mottola was also a member of the
    loose knit aggregation of studio cats
    better known as “The Wrecking Crew” that
    provided the music for Mr Phil Spector’s
    genius recordings w/ The Ronettes,et al.

  • Kevin

    I’m 49 yrs old and have being playing guitar since I was about 10. Funny story:…I actually became fascinated with Tony Mottola’s guitar playing when I heard him over the speaker system as I was shopping in the local “Sears”. I did some hunting around for a clerk that could find out who was playing that great guitar through the sound system in the store. It turned out to be a Tony Mottola album. I believe it’s called “Two for Love”. I did some hunting around and found the *record* and bought it. He’s been one of my favorite guitar players for many years. I’ve kept my eyes open for any of his cd’s, but have never seen one. If anyone can give me advice on how to get hold of any of his albums that are on cd, it would be much appreciated.

  • Ron Doucette

    The first time I heard Tony play was the radio, I was 9 years old. On that very same day I heard Chet Atkins play. I knew I wanted to play the Guitar from that day on. From the age of nine until know age 60, I have always tried to capture the essence of his ability to put more feeling into his playing then any Guitar Player I have ever heard.. The one song that stands out in my mind as the epitamie of that was in his rendition of Roberta Flack’s hit, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.
    The two greatest Guitar Player’s in the world are gone and are truly missed. The world is a little sadder place because of their passing, but what they left behind are decades of their efforts and the greatest guitar music that has ever been played. Their music and style will live on, but the likes of them will never pass again..

  • John

    The comment above is a collection of Tony Mottola Songs that I uploaded to a flash player for my personal use. I have an extensive collection of music and Tony Mottola is one of my favorite guitar players. Along with the likes of Al Caiola, Al Vignola, Bucky Pizzarelli, Kenny Burrell, Chet Atkins & Les Paul, I’ve been listening to Tony’s music all my life…..I’m 31 and everytime I play his music, I hear something different everytime. No one that I’ve heard up until today puts more feelin into playing guitar than Tony Mottola……..He was and always will be a legend!!!!!!!!!!

  • john

    tony mottola also plaid back up for the great accordionist charles magnante

  • ART PHILLIPS

    Mottola had the most unique sense of heartfelt passion with every note and thought in his music. I grew up with Tony as my hero and guitar legend…..I wrote to him on 12 occasions and each where he replied either form his office typewriter at Project 3 (just when that label began) and a couple hand written letters from the Project 3 stationary. I spoke to him numerous times in those early years of my guitar life being 68 – 73 and finally met Tony in NYC when I was guitarist for Barry Manilow in 1983. That meeting was and still is the greatest highlight of my career and life… in fact, I could not even really speak during that meeting (VInnie Bell was there at that session and meeting along with a few other legendary names from the Light years) – I was just in awe and at a loss for words.. I only wish I would have said more – but I think he knew. He and his love of music and obviously his passion with life remains instilled in me today and I am so fortunate to have had that as he is responsible for the career I have in music today. Best ART PHILLIPS

  • Diana Markley

    I was a professional singer and met Tony Mattola in NYC in the early 1970s. Forty years later I can’t remember exactly when and where. I was about 32 at the time and had only recorded two fully orchestrated songs before. Next door to where I lived on West 57th Street a new Recording Studio was being built. I hung around there off and on for several weeks hoping to get noticed and hired as a backup singer once it was open for business.
    I had mentioned to Tony that I thought I needed more recordings that I could use as audition tapes to get some jobs or on television. He volunteered to help me if I could pay for the recording at a studio. Lucky for me, the studio wanted to test out their equipment before opening for business, so they said they would record me for just the cost of the tape they would use. Needless to say, I was thrilled.
    I told Tony and he said he would get us a piano player.
    The afternoon we recorded he brought Cy Coleman to help us out. We three recorded five songs. It was much later that I found out just how famous both of them were and still are. We lost touch when work took me out of NYC a few months later.
    A Side Note: I am in the process of having DVDs made of our recording session so that I can leave some history with my family when I’m gone.
    Tony Mattola was not only a great musician, composer and arranger, but a kind and loving man. I am ever grateful for the help he and Cy Coleman gave me that day. ~Diana [Dhyana] Markley

  • Ovid “Chic” Rey

    I have been playing guitar since pre-teen days. In the 70’s I first heard Tony Mottola playing my beloved instrument I went agape. I have been a fan to today. I had and still have several of his cassettes witch I still play.

    I played my last professional gig at age 90, always having his music in back of my mind. His passing saddens me. A great talent is sleeping. My most favorite of his recordings is, “Watch What Happens”. I still have it and listen to it.

    Wherever you are Tony, save a place for me!

  • SACRAMENTO

    i am 27 yrs now, what i can say is: the man really is a genius. but a a wolf in sheep clothing.
    hey guys, when investigating his history, try to find out what happened with musicians he recorded.
    what went wrong with mariah carey and the pop legend MICHAEL JACKSON

  • Tony Vigilante

    For: 9-Sacramento,

    The gentleman named above in this blog is Mr. Tony Mattola, one of the world’s great guitarist. I think that you have him confused with Mr. Tommy Mottola, a record producer and if I recall correctly a former husband of Ms. Mariah Carey. A case of mistaken identity.