Michael "Dodo" Marmarosa (December 12, 1925 –
September 17, 2002) was an American bebop pianist.
Born in Pittsburgh,
, and a child prodigy,
Marmarosa was a trained classical pianist, but familiarised himself with jazz
in parallel and practised with schoolmate Erroll Garner, another pianist from Pittsburgh
He received the uncomplimentary nickname "Dodo" as a child because of
his large head and short body.
He began his professional career in 1941, joining the Johnny
"Scat" Davis Orchestra at the age of 15, which led him to joining
Gene Krupa's band shortly after. The early 1940s brought a stint in Charlie
Barnet's big band, where he first met Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, the
luminaries of bebop. In 1944, he joined Tommy Dorsey, playing alongside Buddy
Rich. In November 1944, Marmarosa joined Artie Shaw's combo, known as the
Gramercy Five, that also featured guitarist Barney Kessel and fellow
Pittsburgher, trumpet player Roy Eldridge.
He recorded as a sideman in the late 1940s, notably with
Lester Young, Charlie Parker and Howard McGhee. He also featured in Gene
Norman's Just Jazz concerts, and in 1947 won Esquire magazine's New Star
(piano) award. His recordings with Charlie Parker in 1946 in Hollywood
are regarded as some the finest Jazz records ever made.
Marmarosa recorded a 78-rpm single for Savoy Records on July 21, 1950. The recording featured
Marmarosa's trio, with Thomas Mandrus on bass and Joe "Jazz" Wallace
on drums. The four tunes recorded for the session were reissued by Savoy
on the double album, The Modern Jazz Piano Album (1980).
After 1950, his only recordings were a 1961 session for Argo
Records under the supervision of Chicago
producer Jack Tracy (Dodo's Back!) and a 1962 Chicago
studio date featuring him in trio and, with Gene Ammons, quartet settings
(available as Prestige CD Jug & Dodo). He continued to perform in Pittsburgh
albeit irregularly, and a CD containing amateur recordings of his performances
has been issued by Uptown Records. His low profile has been attributed to
mental illness: Marmarosa was drafted in 1954, given electric shock treatment,
and discharged in poor psychological condition.
Marmarosa last performed in public at the Colony Restaurant
in Pittsburgh in 1968. Despite his
intermittent career, he is generally considered to have been in the top rank of
jazz pianists. At the time of his death, Marmarosa resided at the VA Medical
Center in Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar, Pittsburgh,
occasionally playing piano and organ for residents and guests of the center.
Recorded in Los Angeles on September 23, 1946.