The Troy Street Observer

Nov 28: Chaloff, Mariano, and the Boptet

Two of Boston’s finest modern-era saxophonists were born in November, 1923: Charlie Mariano on the 12th, and Serge Chaloff on the 24th. (Well, OK, other local-impact saxophonists born in November include Sam Margolis on the 1st, Andy McGhee on the 3rd, Jay Migliori on the 14th, Boots Mussulli on the 18th, Bob Freedman on the 23rd, and Gigi Gryce on the 28th. We’re talking all-stars here.).

Photo of the Charlie Mariano Boptet
Sonny Truitt, Charlie Mariano, and Serge Chaloff: the Boptet, well chilled

Mariano and Chaloff rubbed shoulders often between 1949 and 1954, and two encounters stand out as significant. One was recorded on April 16, 1949, and thus saved, while the second, a live set played by the Charlie Mariano Boptet on May 21, 1950, is forgotten.

Charlie and Serge were the best known modern jazz players in Boston, but the cast of characters included Nat Pierce ( here and here) in whose orchestra Mariano was the star soloist, and a number of others in that 1948-50 band. There was drummer Joe MacDonald, who with Pierce and Mariano had formed the first trio to play jazz at the Hi-Hat in 1948. Trumpeters Gait Preddy and Don Stratton, trombonist Mert Goodspeed and Sonny Truitt, and bassist Frank Vaccaro were also with Pierce.
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Feb 6, 1978: Singer Frances Wayne Dies

Frances Wayne, singer with the Charlie Barnet and Woody Herman big bands, died in Boston on Feb 6, 1978, a fact missed by the local media because it was busy covering the Blizzard of ’78.

Although Chiarina Francesca Bertocci was born in Boston, she was raised in Somerville and graduated from high school there. She took the name Frances Wayne sometime before 1940, when she started singing with Sam Donahue’s band. In 1941 she went to New York to work with her brother, clarinetist and bandleader Nick Jerret. Also making the trip was their housemate, Ralph Burns. Frances soon had a new job singing with Charlie Barnet, and a hit with “That Old Black Magic.” Both Wayne and Burns joined Woody Herman’s band in late 1943.

Wayne’s best-known effort is her torchy Happiness Is Just a Thing Called Joe,” arranged by Burns and recorded with Herman’s Herd in 1945. Later that year she married Neal Hefti, the Herman band’s trumpeter and arranger, and spent the remainder of her career working as a single or singing with various Hefti-led ensembles. She won the New Star Award in 1946 in Esquire magazine’s All American Jazz Band poll.

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