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About Al Viola

A reliable guitarist with a cool tone, a hard-swinging style, and strong technical skills, Al Viola had been an asset to every session that he appeared on, and there have been many. Viola played in a jazz band while in the Army (1942-45), where he met Page Cavanaugh. When they both decided to move to California after their discharge in 1946, they teamed with bassist Lloyd Pratt to form a trio that was very popular during the next three years, appearing in a few Hollywood films (including "A Song Is Born") and recording frequently. The trio accompanied Frank Sinatra on a few occasions during 1946-1947, and when the combo broke up, Viola started working on and off with Sinatra though 1980. In addition, Viola became a very busy studio musician in Los Angeles, performing on the soundtracks of a countless number of films (including playing the prominent mandolin part in The Godfather), television shows, and commercials. Among his more jazz-oriented associations have been engagements with Bobby Troup, Ray Anthony, Harry James, Buddy Collette, Stan Kenton, Gerald Wilson, and Terry Gibbs among many others; in addition to Collette, Viola also recorded in the 1950s and '60s with Jimmy Witherspoon, Helen Humes, and June Christy. In the 1980s, Viola had a reunion with Cavanaugh and soon they were working together on a regular basis in a Los Angeles area club as a trio with bassist Phil Mallory; this association continued into the late '90s, when Viola dropped out of the group. In his career, Viola led three albums, unaccompanied solo dates for Mode (from 1957, reissued by VSOP) and Legend, plus a Frank Sinatra tribute album for PBR (1978); highlights of the latter two sets were reissued on a CD by Starline. Shortly after being diagnosed, Viola succumbed to cancer on February 21, 2007. He was 87. ~ Scott Yanow

New York, NY
16 Jun 1919