Elmer Grosso

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Elmer Grosso was a clever and versatile orchestra leader from the Roaring Twenties whose musical connections included some serious New Orleans jazz heavyweights. Grosso -- a multi-instrumentalist on trumpet…
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Elmer Grosso was a clever and versatile orchestra leader from the Roaring Twenties whose musical connections included some serious New Orleans jazz heavyweights. Grosso -- a multi-instrumentalist on trumpet and violin -- cut many sides for Columbia as a member of a group known as the Happy Six, also featuring Big Easy biggies Tom Brown on trombone and Alcide "Yellow" Nuñez on clarinet. Some scholars question whether the sextet was actually happy or not, considering a set list that included "Broken Toy," "Dumbell," and "I Lost You."

As a leader, Grosso seemed fond of switching combo monikers, in most cases allowing his own name as the only constant. There was Elmer Grosso & His Versatile Orchestra, Elmer Grosso's Mount Royal Orchestra, Elmer Grosso & His Greenwich Village Orchestra, and Elmer Grosso & His Crusaders -- a progression that suggests an evolving philosophy as well, touching on eclecticism, neighborhood advocacy, and world domination. Grosso's hands seemed to be on the popular Tin Pan Alley material of the day and, like most working dance bands, a balanced combination of instrumental and vocal pieces was presented. Singers working in Grosso's shifting ensembles included Carl Mathieu, featured on a foxtrot arrangement of "Constantinople." Yet another dance band that Grosso spearheaded was the Champion Dance Kings, which released material on Gennett such as "My Sweeter Than Sweet."