Joe Cinderella

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Considering his surname, bandleaders could be excused for keeping an eye on the clock when performing with guitarist Joe Cinderella. After all, it would be quite something if the man's guitar amplifier…
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Considering his surname, bandleaders could be excused for keeping an eye on the clock when performing with guitarist Joe Cinderella. After all, it would be quite something if the man's guitar amplifier turned back into a box of kitchen matches at the stroke of midnight. The guitarist also had a bass-playing brother, Don Cinderella, doubling the possibility for inane jokes.

Fans of jazz guitar are quite serious about this man, however. He was a technically brilliant, original player who for long periods let his creative talents become obscured not by piles of soot and ash but by their musical equivalent, commercial studio jobs. Apparently quite patient about the unfolding of his career, guitarist Cinderella didn't get around to releasing material under his own name until 2002, following more than half a century in the music business.

Father Cinderella was both a banjo player and a music publisher and was responsible for interesting his sons in the instrumental arts. Joe Cinderella began playing guitar at the age of nine. During formal studies at the Essex Conservatory he already had something of a reputation as a hotshot. Serving in a special branch of the Army during the Second World War, Cinderella fell in with a group of players interested in progressive jazz, including tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh and trumpeter Conte Candoli. The guitarist's recording career began in the following decade accompanying bassist Vinnie Burke and the wonderful singer Chris Connor. Most famous of his recordings, however, are a series of sessions done with adventurous bandleader and saxophonist Gil Mellé for hip labels such as Blue Note and Prestige. Although his reputation as a modern axeman was ascending, Cinderella spent most of the '60s working as a studio guitarist, playing music for commercial recordings, radio, television, and film.

A sort of fairy godmother of studio musicians that stimulated crediting such artists for their work was still decades away from materializing, meaning that Cinderella's efforts on behalf of a range of performers including the Beach Boys, Billy Joel, and even John Cage went by strictly anonymously. In 1969 Cinderella began teaching guitar at a New Jersey college, helping to establish the entire idea of an academic curriculum for the instrument outside of classical music. As an adjunct to this activity he began writing a series of instruction techniques for jazz guitar. In 2002 he released the CD entitled Concept on his own label. Joe Cinderella died on October 27, 2012, at the age of 85.