Trumpeter Lou Colombo dies in Florida crash: Well-known on Cape for swinging jazz style
By John Basile
Posted Mar 04, 2012 @ 08:09 PM
Last update Mar 06, 2012 @ 08:06 AM
Lou Colombo, known for his swinging jazz trumpet technique and as a consummate showman, died Saturday night, March 3 in a car crash in Fort Myers, Fla. while returning home from a performance.
Colombo, 84, worked continuously on Cape Cod from the 1950s on. In recent years he divided his time between his South Yarmouth and Florida homes.
I played many gigs with Lou, said drummer Michael Gross. Given the huge talent pool he had to call on when he needed a drummer, I was always honored when it was my phone that rang. It was a real pleasure to play with such a legend.
Saxophonist Greg Abate remembered Colombo as a mentor and friend.
Lou was a great guy with great personality. I had the pleasure to know him on and off the bandstand. He was always supportive of my career and taught me a lot about jazz. Play the melody he would say and chuckle. People want to hear the melody."
Abate performed with Colombo as a guest artist at many of Colombos appearances starting in the late 1970s. Abate and Colombo also played together in the Artie Shaw Orchestra led by Colombos close friend, the late saxophonist and clarinetist Dick Johnson, who grew up with Colombo in Brockton.
Colombo often carried a slew of brass instruments in addition to his trumpet. He would perform on a baritone horn from time to time and also carried a tiny pocket trumpet to may gigs.
I truly will miss his larger than life personality and that little pocket trumpet he loved to carry around and play, Gross said.
Jazz fans will miss Colombos exuberant style.
I think anyone who loved jazz will feel the loss, Said Karyn Hewitt of Centerville. Lou was such a part of all of our lives. He is irreplaceable and I personally will have a gap where Lou worked his magic.
Harris Contos of West Yarmouth, a former president of the now-defunct Cape Cod Jazz Society, first heard Colombo on the radio.
I was first introduced to his musicianship by listening to Dick Golden's "PM Cape Cod" program, way back in the late '70s, in particular one album he would frequently play, "An Evening at Johnny Yee's," just a terrific compilation of music and big name performers who would play the Cape.
Contos also cited Columbos tribute album to Bobby Hackett, another trumpet player with Cape Cod ties, as being a landmark recording.
Now, sadly, we also will remember Lou, Contos said.
Glenn Maggio, also a former president of the jazz society, recalled Colombo as someone who was generous with his time and talent, often performing for little or no pay at nursing homes, fundraisers and other local events in addition to his paying jobs.
Lou was the most well known jazz musician on the Cape. Anybody who had any interest in the music encountered him at some point, Maggio said.
Colombo grew up in Brockton and early in his career commuted to gigs in Boston and around New England. He had a long tenure the Mill Hill Club in West Yarmouth, working seven nights a week. In the 1970s, he moved his family to the Cape and had regular gigs at the Velvet Hammer in Hyannis, often with the pianist Dave McKenna and Johnson. In recent years, he performed regularly at the Roadhouse Café, owned by his son, in Hyannis.
Colombo was known for his one-handed trumpet style. The great trumpet player Dizzy Gillespie noted that unusual style in a 1988 interview. He plays the valves with his right hand but he doesnt hold the horn with his left hand. This guy is amazing. Ive been preaching his name ever since that night I first heard him down on Cape Cod, Gillespie said.
Colombo was also a popular figure on the Florida jazz scene, working there mainly in the winter months. He had performed at a restaurant owned by his daughter in West Fort Myers, Fla. just prior to the fatal crash Saturday night, which occurred as he drove out of the restaurants parking lot. .
As a young man, Colombo was signed to a contract by the Brooklyn Dodgers and played in their minor league system until a broken ankle ended his baseball career. He then turned his attention full-time to music.
Colombo leaves his wife Noel and six children.
A memorial service will be held at a date to be announced.