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sgcim

RIP Leo Ursini

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Alto sax player, Leo Ursini passed a few days ago at the age of 82, after a long battle with cancer. He played and recorded with the Louis Armstrong Society Jazz Band, the Birdland Big Band, and The Lew Anderson Big Band. He taught Jazz saxophone at Columbia University. He was well known for performing with Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, and appeared in the motion picture "When Harry Met Sally', plus any Woody Allen movies featuring a jazz big band or small group,and countless Broadway shows. In short, he was the prototypical, successful NY sax player.

I played many gigs with him in various bands, and he completely floored me once by an astoundingly perfect, 'night in tunisia'-like ' break on my big band arr. of "Motherless Child", the first time he ever saw it! Many other alto players underwhelmed me with their attempts at playing this break at a blistering tempo....

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On 1/27/2020 at 1:46 AM, sgcim said:

Alto sax player, Leo Ursini passed a few days ago at the age of 82, after a long battle with cancer. He played and recorded with the Louis Armstrong Society Jazz Band, the Birdland Big Band, and The Lew Anderson Big Band. He taught Jazz saxophone at Columbia University. He was well known for performing with Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, and appeared in the motion picture "When Harry Met Sally', plus any Woody Allen movies featuring a jazz big band or small group,and countless Broadway shows. In short, he was the prototypical, successful NY sax player.

I played many gigs with him in various bands, and he completely floored me once by an astoundingly perfect, 'night in tunisia'-like ' break on my big band arr. of "Motherless Child", the first time he ever saw it! Many other alto players underwhelmed me with their attempts at playing this break at a blistering tempo....

just spotted this. Mr. Ursini was my first and last saxophone teacher, during a few of my high school years. Great man, incredible saxophonist (and clarinetist, too) -

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4 hours ago, AllenLowe said:

just spotted this. Mr. Ursini was my first and last saxophone teacher, during a few of my high school years. Great man, incredible saxophonist (and clarinetist, too) -

Wow! Did you grow up on Lawnguyland? Leo taught HS there somewhere. I was thinking about him the other day. We had a session once, and Leo said he was glad I didn't comp 4/4 rhythm like Freddie Green. I told him I only comp like that on a big band when we're doing Basie-type charts. We were playing small group bop stuff.

So then he told me about a small group gig he led in a big hotel in NYC, and the guitarist would comp 4/4 rhythm on every tune. Leo started yelling at the guy for playing that way, but the guy wouldn't stop. Leo let him have it again, and the guy packed up and walked off the gig!

I asked Leo who it was, but he said he was a very heavy, well known guitarist, and he couldn't tell me, because the guy was still around. Now I'll never know.

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19 hours ago, sgcim said:

Wow! Did you grow up on Lawnguyland? Leo taught HS there somewhere. I was thinking about him the other day. We had a session once, and Leo said he was glad I didn't comp 4/4 rhythm like Freddie Green. I told him I only comp like that on a big band when we're doing Basie-type charts. We were playing small group bop stuff.

So then he told me about a small group gig he led in a big hotel in NYC, and the guitarist would comp 4/4 rhythm on every tune. Leo started yelling at the guy for playing that way, but the guy wouldn't stop. Leo let him have it again, and the guy packed up and walked off the gig!

I asked Leo who it was, but he said he was a very heavy, well known guitarist, and he couldn't tell me, because the guy was still around. Now I'll never know.

I had him as a band teacher in 8th grade out in Massapequa, and used him for lessons for a year or two when I was in high school. I was always proud because he told my mother I was the best student he ever had (probably the only one who could play chord changes). Last year, maybe in June, I found out he was playing at a restaurant on the North Shore so my wife and I went out, and it was an odd experience. He didn't remember me, which was fine and understandable, but he was also oddly stand-offish. But he was still playing very well.

Edited by AllenLowe

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That must be that place on Main St. in Cold Spring Harbor/Huntington. It's like the Smalls of Lawnguyland; only a certain circle of players get to play there. I think you've got to show them some secret tattoo or something.:g

Leo was one of those super talented guys who could be kind of moody. Send me a transcript of your conversation with him, and I'll have my team of analysts tell you what you said that rubbed him the wrong way.:lol:

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it was basically: "Hi, I was your student 50 years ago." He was perfectly cordial, but just kind of indifferent.

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20 hours ago, AllenLowe said:

it was basically: "Hi, I was your student 50 years ago." He was perfectly cordial, but just kind of indifferent.

I'll have my analysts working on it 24/7. Will get back to you after a peer-reviewed study.:g

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20 hours ago, AllenLowe said:

it was basically: "Hi, I was your student 50 years ago." He was perfectly cordial, but just kind of indifferent.

Did you mention you've made more than a few records?  

Of course he could have known exactly who you are, and has regretted ever teaching you anything.  :P:P:g

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On 9/18/2020 at 3:00 PM, Dan Gould said:

Did you mention you've made more than a few records?  

Of course he could have known exactly who you are, and has regretted ever teaching you anything.  :P:P:g

that was the weird thing; I told him I had been very active in the music, and he clearly was uninterested. It was....odd. But that's life, as I've learned.

I actually had something coming up at the time at Lincoln Center, a teaching thing I would have used him on, but forget it. I felt too deflated.

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