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.